12 February 2021, The Daily Tribune

Valentine’s Day is just around the corner.

Because of this day, the month of February is considered either a joyful or a morose month, depending on whose perspective one takes.

As the day draws near, a legally curious mind may also ask: what does jurisprudence have to say about the law and human emotions?

In Cresencio Libi vs. Intermediate Appellate Court (G.R. No. 70890, September 18, 1992), the ponente eloquently and quite accurately said: “One of the ironic verities of life, it has been said, is that sorrow is sometimes a touchstone of love.”

The caseinvolved a tragic incident of two young lovers dying from a single gunshot wound inflicted with the same firearm, a revolver licensed in the name of petitioner. Positing that  petitioner’s son caused private respondents’ daughter’s death by shooting her with the firearm and turning the gun on himself to commit suicide, private respondents filed a case against petitioners, as parents of the minor son, to recover damages arising from the latter’s vicarious liability under Article 2180 of the Civil Code. In the end, the Supreme Court (SC) upheld the decision that petitioners should be held liable for the civil liability based on what appears was a crime committed by their minor son.

The much earlier case ofWassmer vs. Velez (G.R. No. L-20089, December 26, 1964) hits closer to home for most young people, when speaking of heartaches.  

In that case, plaintiff and defendant had applied for a license to contract marriage, which was subsequently issued. Their wedding had been set – invitations were printed and distributed to relatives, friends and acquaintances, plaintiff’s dress and apparel were purchased, dresses for the entourage were prepared, and bridal showers were given and gifts received. Only two days before the wedding, the groom-to-be sent a message to his fiancé, the plaintiff, to postpone the wedding. But the next day, he assured the plaintiff that the wedding would push through. Plaintiff never heard from him since then.

The SC ruled that, ordinarily, a mere breach of promise to marry is not an actionable wrong. Indeed, there is no provision of the Civil Code authorizing an action for breach of promise to marry.

There were even earlier decisions by the SC stating that mere breach of a promise to marry is not an actionable wrong.  However, such is not a license for abuse. Article 21 of the Civil Code provides that 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 damage.

Given such backdrop, the SC ruled that the case is not a mere breach of promise to marry. To formally set a wedding and go through all the above-described preparation and publicity, only to walk out of it, is contrary to good customs. Hence, when a breach of promise to marry is actionable under Article 21 of the Civil Code, moral damages may be awarded under Article 2219 (10) of the said Code. Exemplary damages may also be awarded under Article 2232 of said Code.

The court has also said that love is not the sole consideration for marriage.

As observed by the court in Republic of the Philippines v. Albios (G.R. No. 198780, October 16, 2013), love – although the ideal consideration in marriage – is not the only valid cause for marriage.

Other considerations, not precluded by law, may validly support a marriage, such as convenience, companionship, money, status, and title, provided that the marriage complies with all the legal requisites. The right to marital privacy allows married couples to structure their marriages in almost any way they see it fit, to live together or live apart, to have children or no children, to love one another or not, and so on.

In Rumbaua vs. Rumbaua (G.R. No. 166738,  August 14, 2009), the SC denied the nullification of the parties’ marriage, citing the testimony and report of the psychologist that “not a few married couples have likewise permanently separated simply because they have “fallen out of love,” or have outgrown the attraction that drew them together in their younger years.”

The court ruled that respondent’s unwillingness to discharge his marital obligations, particularly the obligation to live with one’s spouse, is not reason enough to presume a psychological defect sufficient to grant a petition for declaration of nullity of marriage on the ground of psychological incapacity under Article 36 of the Civil Code.

A word to the wise: the law may afford remedies in the proper circumstances, but the remedy may simply be, LOVE itself. Amor con amor se paga. May you find true love this Valentine. If you have it, may you keep it and to keep it, you have to repay love with love.

For comments and questions, please send an email to cabdo@divinalaw.com.