Evidence required as per Tan-Andal

While it may be true that nullity cases are civil in nature, to provide a higher standard of evidence in other cases that are not otherwise constitutionally protected is to disregard the sui generis of marriages vis-a-vis other civil cases

In a number of my articles, I have written about the landmark Tan-Andal v. Andal case. I discussed that Tan-Andal radically changed the concept of psychological incapacity and how it has become the benchmark after Molina v. CA.

I pointed out its new guidelines — the elements that need to be proven as required by the said case. I have also cited recent jurisprudence to which Tan-Andal has been applied. But I have not discussed the quantum of evidence required by Tan-Andal. The answer is found in Raphy Valdez de Silva vs Donald de Silva and the Republic of the Philippines (G.R. 247985 promulgated on 13 October 2021).

Petitioner-wife and respondent-husband married, against the hopes of the petitioner’s mother. Based on the evidence presented by the petitioner, the respondent was already unfaithful and engaged in heavy gambling before marriage. After marriage, the respondent did not shed his old ways. He squandered the monetary gifts they received for their wedding on cockfighting. He maintained extramarital affairs and was unemployed.

What devastated the petitioner, even more, was that respondent would constantly ask for money from her for his vices, despite her meager income. When she refused, she would be abused verbally and physically. He even threatened to burn down the house of the petitioner’s mother. Naturally, the petitioner gave in for fear that something tragic might happen to her mother.

The respondent incurred huge loans which the petitioner was forced to settle. She was the one being harassed and threatened by the respondent’s creditors. When she could not take it anymore, she separated from the respondent. This did not deter the respondent from harassing her through text messages. This led her to apply for a barangay protection order and eventually file for the declaration of nullity of their marriage.

The trial court believed the petitioner.

“In finding their marriage void ab initio, the RTC found petitioner and her witnesses to be credible and their respective testimonies entitled to full faith and credit. The lower court was likewise convinced that the parties’ marriage was not founded on mutual love, respect, support and especially fidelity. Lending credence to Dr. Tayag’s psychological assessment and her findings that the respondent suffers from Antisocial Personality Disorder, the nullification of their marriage was proper under the premises. Moreover, it appears that reconciliation would be highly improbable, as the parties have been separated in fact since 2012.”

On appeal by the respondent, the Court of Appeals had a different view.

“In finding the appeal meritorious, the CA held that the totality of (the) evidence presented by petitioner was insufficient to show that respondent is psychologically incapacitated. Stated differently, (the) petitioner failed to show that respondent was suffering from a psychological incapacity so severe that he was unaware of his obligations to his wife and family. On the contrary, (the) respondent’s efforts to provide for his family and reconcile with his wife showed genuine awareness of his marital obligations. With regard to Dr. Tayag’s report, the CA found that the same was highly suspect and skewed, as the information was obtained mainly from (the) petitioner and her mother, Rosalina. While (the) respondent was interviewed by Dr. Tayag, the phone conversation was too brief to be considered a thorough and conclusive evaluation.”

There being two contradictory rulings, the petitioner-wife elevated the issue to the Highest Court.

“With Tan-Andal serving as a guidepost, this Court finds that (the) respondent is psychologically unfit to discharge the duties expected of him as a husband. To recapitulate, the standard of proof in nullity cases is now clear and convincing evidence. In Riguer v. Mateo, the standard of proof is derived from American common law. It is less than proof beyond reasonable doubt (for criminal cases) but greater than (the) preponderance of evidence (for civil cases). The degree of believability is higher than that of an ordinary civil case.”

As opined by the ponente is his concurring opinion in Tan-Andal, while it may be true that nullity cases are civil in nature, to provide a higher standard of evidence in other cases that are not otherwise constitutionally protected is to disregard the sui generis of marriages vis-a-vis other civil cases. Here, the petitioner has sufficiently overcome the onus probandi to prove the nullity of her marriage with the respondent via clear and convincing evidence.

The facts and quotations are taken from the case cited above.

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