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2011 Recent Jurisprudence in Civil Law

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  RECENT JURISPRUDENCE IN CIVIL LAW (As of 2011) Compiled by: ATTY. MARIA LULU G. REYES I. PERSONS AN FAMILY RELATIONS EFFECTS OF LAWS Laws; retroactive application. A perusal of RA 9302 shows that nothing indeed therein authorizes its retroactive application. In fact, its effectivity clause indicates a clear legislative intent to the contrary: ―Section 28. Effectivity Clause. –  This Act shall take effect fifteen (15) days following the completion of its publication in the Official Gazette or in two (2) newspapers of general circulation.‖  Statutes are prospective and not retroactive in their operation, they being the formulation of rules for the future, not the past. Hence, the legal maxim lex de futuro, judex de praeterito —  the law provides for the future, the judge for the past, which is articulated in Article 4 of the Civil Code: ―Laws shall have no retroactive effect, unless the contrary is provided.‖ The rea son for the rule is the tendency of retroactive legislation to be unjust and oppressive on account of its liability to unsettle vested rights or disturb the legal effect of prior transactions. In Re: Petition for Assistance in the Liquidation of Intercity Savings and Loan Bank, Inc.,  Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation vs. Stockholders of Intercity Savings and Loan Bank, Inc.,   G.R. No. 181556, December 14, 2009.  HUMAN RELATIONS Persons; human relations . Firmly established in our civil law is the doctrine that: ―Every person must, in the exercise of his rights and in the performance of his duties, act with justice, give everyone his due, and observe honesty and g ood faith.‖ When a right is exercised in a manner that does not conform with such norms and results in damages to another, a legal wrong is thereby committed for which the wrong doer must be held responsible. Similarly, any person who willfully causes loss or injury to another in a manner that is contrary to morals, good customs or public policy shall compensate the latter for the damages caused. It is patent in this case that petitioners‘ alleged acts fall short of these established civil law standards.    P atronica Ravina and Wilfredo Ravina vs. Mary Ann P. Villa Abrille, for behalf of Ingrid D’Lyn P. Villa Abrille, et al.,  G.R. No. 160708, October 16,  2009. DIVORCE P.D. No. 1083; Muslim personal laws. If both parties are Muslims, there is a presumption that the Muslim Code or Muslim law is complied with. If together with it or in addition to it, the marriage is likewise solemnized in accordance with the Civil Code of the Philippines, in a so-called combined Muslim-Civil marriage rites whichever comes first is the validating rite and the second rite is merely ceremonial one. But, in this case, as long as both parties are Muslims, this Muslim Code will apply. In effect, two situations will arise, in the application of this Muslim Code or Muslim law, that is, when both parties are Muslims and when the male party is a Muslim and the marriage is solemnized in accordance with Muslim Code or Muslim law. A third situation occur[s] when the Civil Code of the Philippines will govern the marriage and divorce of the parties, if the male party is a Muslim and the marriage is solemnized in accordance with the Civil Code. Moreover, the two experts, in the same book, unequivocally state that one of the effects of irrevocable talaq , as well as other kinds of divorce, refers to severance of matrimonial bond, entitling one to remarry .  Page | 2 It stands to reason therefore that Zamoranos‘ divorce from De Guzman, as confirmed by an Ustadz   and Judge Jainul of the Shari‘a Circuit Court, and attested to by Judge Usman, was valid, and, thus, entitled her to remarry Pacasum in 1989. Consequently, the RTC, Branch 6, Iligan City, is without jurisdiction to try Zamoranos for the crime of Bigamy.  Atty. Marietta D. Zamoranos v. People of the Philippines and Samson R. Pacasum, Sr./Atty. Marietta D. Zamoranos v. Samson R. Pacasum, Sr./Samson R. Pacasum, Sr. v. Atty. Marietta D. Zamoranos, G.R. No. 193902/G.R. No. 193908 and G.R. No. 194075. June 1, 2011 Family relations; impact of foreign divorce. In seeking the enforceability of a joint custody agreement, the petitioner cannot prevent the application of Article 213 of the Family Code (to the matter of custody of a child of separated parents) by relying on the alleged invalidity of the divorce that the parents had obtained. The argument that foreigners in this jurisdiction are not bound by foreign divorce decrees is hardly novel. Van Dorn v. Romillo  settled the matter by holding that an alien spouse of a Filipino is bound by a divorce decree obtained abroad. There, we dismissed the alien divorcee‘s Philippine suit for accountin g of alleged post-divorce conjugal property and rejected his submission that the foreign divorce (obtained by the Filipino spouse) is not valid in this jurisdiction. In that case the court ruled that there can be no question as to the validity of that Nevada divorce in any of the States of the United States. The decree is binding on private respondent as an American citizen. It is true that owing to the nationality principle embodied in Article 15 of the Civil Code, only Philippine nationals are covered by the policy against absolute divorces the same being considered contrary to our concept of public policy and morality. However, aliens may obtain divorces abroad, which may be recognized in the Philippines, provided they are valid according to their national law. In this case, the divorce in Nevada released private respondent from the marriage from the standards of American law, under which divorce dissolves the marriage. Thus, pursuant to his national law, private respondent is no longer the husband of petitioner. He would have no standing to sue i n the case below as petitioner‘s husband entitled to exercise control over conjugal assets. As he is bound by the Decision of his own country‘s Court, which validly exercised jurisdiction over him, and whose decision he does not repudiate, he is estopped by his own representation before said Court from asserting his right over the alleged conjugal property. We reiterated Van Dorn  in  Pilapil v. Ibay-Somera  to dismiss criminal complaints for adultery filed by the alien divorcee (who obtained the foreign divorce decree) against his former Filipino spouse because he no longer qualified as ―offended spouse‖ entitled to file the complaints under Philippine procedur al rules. Thus, it should be clear by now that a foreign divorce decree carries as much validity against the alien divorcee in this  jurisdiction as it does in the jurisdiction of the alien‘s nationality, irrespective of who obtained the divorce.   Herald Black Dacasin vs. Sharon Del Mundo Dacasin, G.R. No. 168785, February 5, 2010.  VOID MARRIAGE Family Code; Application of Family Code . In the Decision dated September 29, 2009, the Court affirmed petitioner‘s conviction for bigamy. Petitioner moved for reconside ration of the Decision, arguing that since petitioner‘s marriages were entered into before the effectivity of the Family Code, then the applicable law is Section 29 of the Marriage Law (Act 3613), instead of Article 40 of the Family Code, which requires a final judgment declaring the previous marriage void before a person may contract a subsequent marriage. Petitioner‘s argument lacks merit. As far back as 1995, in  Atienza v. Brillantes, Jr  ., the Court already made the declaration that Article 40, which is a rule of procedure, should be applied retroactively because Article 256 of the Family Code itself provides that said ―Code shall have retroactive effect insofar as it does not prejudice or impair v ested or acquired rights.‖ The fact that procedural stat utes may somehow affect the litigants‘ rights may not preclude their retroactive application to pending actions. The retroactive application of procedural laws is not violative of any right of a person who may feel that he is adversely affected. The reason is that as a general rule, no vested right may attach to, nor arise from, procedural laws. Victoria S. Jarillo vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 164435, June 29, 2010 .  Family Code; presumption of death; summary judicial proceedings under the Family Code. Under Article 41 of the Family Code, the losing party in a summary proceeding for the declaration of presumptive death may file a petition for certiorari with the CA on the ground that, in rendering judgment thereon, the trial court committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack of jurisdiction. From the decision of the CA, the aggrieved party may elevate the matter to this Court via a petition for review on certiorari under Rule 45 of the Rules of Court. Republic of the Philippines vs. Yolanda Cadacio Granada ; G.R. No. 187512,  June 13, 2012. Marriage; presumption of death . A petition for judicial declaration that petitioner‘s husband is presumed to be dead cannot be entertained because it is not authorized by law. Under the Civil Code, the presumption of death is established by law and no court declaration is needed for the presumption to arise. Since death is presumed to have taken place by the seventh year of absence, Sofio is to be presumed dead starting October 1982. Consequently, at the time of petitioner‘s marriage to Virgilio, there existed no impediment to petitioner‘s capacity to marry, and the marriage is valid under paragraph 2 of Article 83 of the Civil Code. Further, considering that it is the Civil Code that applies, proof of ―well - founded belief‖ is not required. Petitioner could not have been expected to comply with this requirement since the Family Code was not yet in effect at the time of her marriage to Virgilio. The enactment of the Family Code in 1988 does not change this conclusion.  Angelita Valdez vs. Republic of the Philippines, G.R. No. 180863, September 8, 2009.    Page | 3 Marriage; annulment by reason of psychological incapacity. The Court held that the lower court did not commit grave abuse when it dismissed the petition for annulment of marriage, so the case really turned on a procedural issue. Danilo A. Aurelio vs. Vida Ma. Corazon P. Aurelio,  G.R. No. 175367. June 6, 2011 Marriage; annulment; psychological incapacity. Quarrels, financial difficulties, womanizing of petitioner –  sorry, no psychological incapacity. The Supreme Court found the testimony of the psychiatrist to be general, not in-depth, does not establish link between actions of party and his supposed psychological incapacity. No matter that the OSG did not present its own expert; it does not have the burden of proof in an annulment case. Rosalino L. Marable vs. Myrna F. Marable; G.R. No. 178741,  January 17, 2011 . Marriage; annulment; psychological incapacity. The Supreme Court reiterates its Santos and Molina rulings, backtracks on the Te case, and finds that persistent sexual infidelity (the wife cuckolds a military officer) and abandonment are not badges of psychological incapacity particularly in absence of proof that these can be traced to roots prior to the marriage. Read it for the treatment of the key cases of Santos, Molina and Te, and to see how another psychiatrist‘s testimony bites the dust.  Jose Reynaldo B. Ochosa vs. Bona J. Alano and Republic of the Philippines; G.R. No. 167459, January 26, 2011.  Marriage; annulment; psychological incapacity. For psychological incapacity of a spouse to serve as ground for annulling a marriage, the incapacity must consist of the following: (a) a true inability to commit oneself to the essentials of marriage; (b) this inability to commit oneself must refer to the essential obligations of marriage: the conjugal act, the community of life and love, the rendering of mutual help, the procreation and education of offspring; and (c) the inability must be tantamount to a psychological abnormality. It is not enough to prove that a spouse failed to meet his responsibility and duty as a married person; it is essential that he must be shown to be incapable of doing so due to some psychological illness. That respondent, according to petitioner, ―lack[ed] effective sense of rational judgment and responsibility‖ does not mean he  is incapable to meet his marital obligations. His refusal to help care for the children, his neglect for his business ventures, and his alleged unbearable jealousy may indicate some emotional turmoil or mental difficulty, but none have been shown to amount to a ps ychological abnormality. Moreover, even assuming that respondent‘s faults amount to psychological incapacity, it has not been established that the same existed at the time of the celebration of the marriage. In his psychological report, the psychologist me rely said, ―[b]ecause one‘s personality or character is formed early in life, it has a clear ANTECEDENT and it has an enduring pattern of inner experience that deviates from the expectations of the individual‘s culture,‖ without explaining this antecedent.  Even petitioner, in her allegations, never explained how the alleged psychological incapacity manifested itself prior to or at the time of the celebration of their marriage. Likewise militating against petitioner‘s cause is the finding of the trial court,  and the same was affirmed by the CA, that respondent never committed infidelity or physically abused petitioner or their children. In fact, considering that the children lived with both parents, it is safe to assume that both made an impact in the childre n‘s upbringing. And still, as found by the RTC and the CA, the parties were able to raise three children into adulthood ―without any major parenting problems.‖ Such fact could hardly support a proposition that the parties‘ marriage is a nullity. Cynthia E. Yambao vs. Republic of the Philippines and  Patricio E. Yambao; G.R. No. 184063, January 24, 2011 . Marriage; annulment; psychological incapacity. This case reiterates the previous rulings of Santos  and Molina , and presents another example of the Supreme Court‘s not being too taken with the testimony of the psychiatrist or therapist retained to prove the psychological incapacity of one of the parties. Lawyers representing a spouse in a potential annulment case should study the issues which have been raised by the court in respect of such testimonies. In this case, the Supreme Court observed that what should not be lost in reading and applying its established rulings is the intent of the law to confine the application of Article 36 of the Family Code to the most serious cases of personality disorders —  these are the disorders that result in the utter insensitivity or inability of the afflicted party to give meaning and significance to the marriage he or she contracted. Furthermore, the psychological illness and its root cause must have been there from the inception of the marriage. From these requirements arise the concept that Article 36 of the Family Code does not really dissolve a marriage; it simply recognizes that there never was any marriage in the first place  because the affliction –  already then existing –  was so grave and permanent as to deprive the afflicted party of awareness of the duties and responsibilities of the matrimonial bond he or she was to assume or had assumed. In this regard, the court noted that mere ―difficulty,‖ ―refusal, or ―neglect‖ in the performance of marital obligations or ―ill will‖ on the part of the spouse is different from ―incapacity‖ rooted on some debilitating psychological condition or illness, and in this case ruled that the following is not a reason to set aside the marital bonds :  Page | 4 - Failure to manage the family‘s finances resulting in the loss of the house and lot intended   to be their family residence? According to the Supreme Court: this merely constituted difficulty, refusal or neglect, during the marriage , in the handling of funds intended for the family‘s financial support.  - Infidelity? According to the Supreme Court : for sexual infidelity to constitute as psychological incapacity, the respondent‘s unfaithfulness must be established as a manifestation of a disordered personality, completely preventing the respondent from discharging the essential obligations of the marital state; there must be proof of a natal or supervening disabling factor that effectively incapacitated spouse from complying with the obligation to be faithful to his or her spouse. Here are what may be considered guidelines on the kind of evidence or testimony that should be presented, based on this case: (i) In So v. Valera , the Court considered the psychologist‘s testimony and conclusions to be insufficiently in -depth and comprehensive to warrant the finding of respondent‘s psychological inc apacity because the facts, on which the conclusions were based, were all derived from the petitioner‘s statements whose bias in favor of his cause cannot be discounted.  (ii) In another case,  Padilla-Rumbaua v. Rumbaua , the Court declared that while the various tests administered on the petitioner-wife could have been used as a fair gauge to assess her own psychological condition, this same statement could not be made with respect to the respondent- husband‘s psychological condition.  Conclusions and generalizations about a spouse‘s psychological condition, based solely  on information fed by the other spouse, are not any different in kind from admitting hearsay evidence as proof of the truthfulness of the content of such evidence. (iii) To be sure, the law does not require that the allegedly incapacitated spouse be personally examined by a physician or by a psychologist as a condition sine qua non  for the declaration of nullity of marriage under Article 36 of the Family Code. This recognition, however, does not signify that the evidence should be any less than the evidence that an Article 36 case, by its nature, requires. (iv) It is still essential –  although from sources other than the respondent spouse –  to show his or her personality profile, or its approximation, at the time of marriage; the root cause of the inability to appreciate the essential obligations of marriage; and the gravity, permanence and incurability of the condition. Other than from the spouses, such evidence can come from persons intimately related to them, such as relatives, close friends or even family doctors or lawyers who could testify on the allegedly incapacitated spouse‘s condition at or about the time of marriage, or to subsequent occurring events that trace the ir roots to the incapacity already present at the time of marriage. (In the present case, the only other party outside of the spouses who was ever asked to give statements for purposes of the spouse‘s psychological evaluation was the spouses‘ eldest son who  would not have been very reliable as a witness in an Article 36 case because he could not have been there when the spouses were married and could not have been expected to know what was happening between his parents until long after his birth.) (v) The Supreme Court did not consider isolated instances of the spouses fighting over the foreclosure of their house, the husband‘s alleged womanizing, and their differences in religion, as indicative of any basic psychological disorder existing a t the time of marriage. For one, these points of dispute are not uncommon in a marriage and relate essentially to the usual roots of marital problems –  finances, fidelity and religion. (vi) If a psychologist‘s testimony will be submitted, the  psychological evaluation should fully explain the details –   i.e.,  the what, how, when, where and since when –   of the spouse‘s alleged personality disorder. It should also explain the incapacitating nature of the disorder, how it related to the essential marital obligations that the spouse failed to assume, and how grave and incurable it was. Ricardo P. Toring vs. Teresita M. Toring and Republic of the Philippines, G.R. No. 165321, August 3, 2010.  Marriage; annulment; psychological incapacity ; Here, testimonies of two clinical psychologists and a psychiatrist had been presented to show the incapacity of the husband. The Court of Appeals in reversing the RTC decision to annul the marriage, ―rejected, wholesale, the testimonies of Doctors Magno and Villegas for being hearsay since they never personally examined and interviewed the respondent.‖  The Supreme Court disagreed with the CA observing that the lack of personal examination and interview of the respondent, or any other person diagnosed with personality disorder, does not  per se  invalidate the testimonies of the doctors. Neither do their findings automatically constitute hearsay that would result in their exclusion as evidence. For one, marriage, by its very definition, necessarily involves only two persons. The totality of the behavior of one spouse during the cohabitation and marriage is generally and genuinely witnessed mainly by the other. In this case, the experts testified on their individual assessment of the present state of the parties‘ marriage from the perception of one of the parties, herein petitioner. Certai nly, petitioner, during their marriage, had occasion to interact with, and experience, respondent‘s pattern of   behavior which she could then validly relay to the clinical psychologists and the psychiatrist.
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