SC rules in favor of woman who called off wedding

By: Marlon Ramos - Philippine Daily Inquirer | May 22,2022 - 08:43 AM
Closeup wedding rings with gavel. STORY: SC rules in favor of woman who called off wedding stock photo

MANILA, Philippines — Ghosting, however painful to the party who got jilted, is not something for the court to rule on.

The Supreme Court maintained this view as it dismissed an attempt by a German national to hold his former Filipino fiancée legally liable after she backed out of their wedding.

“An individual has the autonomy to choose whom to marry or whether to marry at all. They must be free to make that choice without any fear of legal retribution or liability,” the high court’s Third Division said.

The tribunal granted the petition for certiorari filed by Jhonna Guevarra, who challenged a 2007 Court of Appeals (CA) order for her to return the money that her former boyfriend, Jan Banach, had sent her to buy a piece a property supposedly for their conjugal home.

“A mere breach of a promise to marry is not an actionable wrong as long as it is not of such extent as would palpably and unjustifiably contradict good customs,” the Supreme Court ruling said. “For this reason, litigation to the sorrows caused by a broken heart and a broken promise must be discouraged.”

The ruling, promulgated on Nov. 24, 2021 but was made public by the high court only on Thursday, was written by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, who on his personal Twitter account shares his views about love and relationships in lighthearted #LabGuru posts, sometimes in the form of short poems.

Late discoveries

Leonen also penned the court’s landmark May 2021 decision that declared psychological incapacity, one of the most common grounds cited in annulment cases, as “not a medical, but a legal concept.”

In the Guevarra case, the CA’s January 2007 resolution upheld an earlier ruling of a lower court in Cebu that directed Guevarra and her parents to return the P500,000 sent by Banach after she decided to end their relationship and cancel their wedding.

Guevarra challenged separate rulings that found her liable for actual damages and “unjust enrichment.”

She argued that she called off their wedding after finding out that Banach was still married to his third wife in Germany. Guevarra also told the court that Banach introduced himself to her and her family using another name—Roger Brawner—and that they discovered his real name much later.

Not in good faith

In reversing the CA ruling, the Supreme Court agreed with Guevarra that Banach was not entitled to damages under the New Civil Code since he “did not act in good faith.”

As argued by Guevarra, it said, Banach’s money was given to her as a “gift” that she was not bound legally to return.

The Supreme Court reiterated that a person’s right to marry is a basic human right and that the decision to enter the married life “must be made, as much as possible, completely free from external pressures.”

Judicial bodies, it said, should “refrain from meddling in these personal affairs.”

“Courts, through litigation, should not dictate on or even pressure a person into accepting a life of marriage with a person they reject,” the tribunal said. “The decision on whether to marry is one that should be freely chosen, without the pressures of a possible civil suit should a person realize that their intended partner is not right for them.”


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TAGS: Cebu Daily News, Court of Appeals, German national, Jhonna Guevarra, Roger Brawner, SC, women who called off wedding

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