SC reiterates rules re 'bouncing' checks

[G.R. No. 203364, February 11, 2019] BENJAMIN T. MARTIN V. MARIETTA L. YTURRALDE.

This is a petition for review on certiorari[1] assailing the Decision[2] dated April 4, 2012 and Resolution[3] dated September 5, 2012 of the Court of Appeals (CA) in CA-G.R. SP No. 115236, which affirmed the Regional Trial Court (RTC) and Municipal Trial Court in Cities' (MTCC) Decisions convicting Benjamin T. Martin (petitioner) of 17 counts of violation of Batas Pambansa Bilang 22 (B.P. 22), otherwise known as The Bouncing Checks Law.

Petitioner was charged with 17 counts of violation of B.P. 22. The Informations, except as to the check numbers, the dates and amounts of the checks, similarly alleged:[4]
That on or about the 16th day of September 2002, in the City of Angeles, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously draw and issue to the complainant MARIETTA L.[ ]YTURRALDE, a Citibank (22 Missouri Street, Northeast Greenhills, San Juan Metro M. Branch) check bearing x x x Check No. 0003973 post-dated/dated September 16, 2002 in the amount of P750,000.00 well knowing that she/he has no sufficient funds in the bank, which check when presented for payment was dishonored for reason of 'INSUFFICIENT FUNDS,' and demand notwithstanding for more than five x x x days from notice of dishonor the accused failed and refused and still fails and refuses to redeem the said check to the damage and prejudice of said complainant, MARIETTA YTURRALDE in the aforementioned amount of SEVEN HUNDRED FIFTY THOUSAND PESOS (P750,000.00) Philippine Currency.

ALL CONTRARY TO LAW.[5] (Italics omitted.)
The pertinent details of the 16 other dishonored checks are respectively alleged as follows:

Criminal Case No.
Check No.

































September 12, 2002

September 10, 2002

September 8, 2002

September 10, 2002

September 6, 2002

September 4,2002

September 3, 2002

September 2, 2002

September 1,2002

September 1,2002

August 30, 2002

August 24, 2002

August 17, 2002

August 17, 2002

August 6,2002

August 5, 2002
















P1,500,000.00 [6]

Petitioner entered into a contract with Foz Construction Co., through Raymond Foz (Foz), Marietta L. Yturralde's (respondent) nephew, for the construction of Buyer Terminal Mall, owned by petitioner. As payment, pursuant to Foz Construction Co.'s progress billings, petitioner issued several postdated checks, all drawn against Citibank. Later, Foz brought the checks to respondent for rediscounting.[7]

In July 2002, respondent rediscounted six postdated checks issued by petitioner. However, when three of these checks were presented for payment, Citibank dishonored them for being drawn against insufficient funds. When confronted, petitioner assured respondent that the drawee bank will honor the checks.[8]

Later, petitioner again sought rediscounting for 11 additional checks. Contrary to petitioner's assurance, however, the checks, together with the remaining three checks, were again dishonored for having been "drawn against insufficient funds."[9]

Respondent, by counsel, sent petitioner a letter dated October 10, 2002 demanding payment of the aggregate amount of the dishonored checks. Petitioner replied and requested a period of 30 days within which to sort out the discrepancies in the billings of Foz Construction Co. Despite the expiration of the period, petitioner failed to make good the amount of the checks.[10]

In its Decision dated January 20, 2009,[11] Branch 1 of the MTCC of Angeles City found petitioner guilty beyond reasonable doubt of 17 counts of violation of Section 1, first paragraph, of B.P. 22 and directed him to pay a fine corresponding to the amount of each check. Petitioner was also ordered to pay respondent the total face value of the 17 checks in the sum of P13,500,000.00 with 12% legal interest per annum from the filing of the Informations until finality of the Decision, the sum of which, inclusive of interest, shall be subject to interest at 12% per annum until the due amount is paid.[12]

In a Decision dated July 20, 2009,[13] Branch 60 of the RTC of Angeles City affirmed the MTCC's Decision with modification. The RTC modified the amount of fine and directed petitioner to pay a fine of P200,000.00 for each of the 17 counts with subsidiary imprisonment not to exceed six months in case of insolvency. The RTC sustained the MTCC's disposition with respect to petitioner's payment of the total value of the checks and interest.[14] The RTC also denied petitioner's motion for reconsideration.[15]

In the assailed Decision, the CA denied the appeal and affirmed the RTC Decision. The CA held that all the elements of violation of B.P. 22 were duly proven.[16] It also rejected petitioner's argument that a prejudicial question exists in this case. It held that the civil case between Foz and petitioner does not constitute a prejudicial question which will justify suspension of the B.P. 22 cases against petitioner.[17]

Here, petitioner argues that the CA erred in failing to consider the following: (1) he did not personally receive the notice of dishonor and/or demand letter;[18] (2) he did not receive any consideration for the checks he issued;[19] (3) the existence of a prejudicial question;[20] and (4) payment of a fine as penalty runs counter to the constitutional provision against imprisonment for non-payment of debt.[21]

We deny the petition.

The MTCC, as the trial court, concluded that the prosecution was able to substantiate by its evidence all the essential elements for violation of B.P. 22 in each of the 17 cases. The RTC and the CA upheld these findings of the trial court. We affirm these findings as the trial court's assessment of the facts and the demeanor of witnesses is conclusive and binding. Our jurisdiction over cases elevated from the CA is limited to reviewing or revising errors of law ascribed to the CA, whose factual findings are conclusive. These findings carry even more weight when said court affirms the findings of the trial court absent any showing that the findings are totally devoid of support in the record or that they are so glaringly erroneous as to constitute serious abuse of discretion.[22] In this case, we find that these errors do not exist.

To be liable for violation of B.P. 22, the following essential elements must be present: (1) the making, drawing, and issuance of any check to apply for account or for value; (2) the knowledge of the maker, drawer, or issuer that at the time of issue he does not have sufficient funds in or credit with the drawee bank for the payment of the check in full upon its presentment; and (3) subsequent dishonor of the check by the drawee bank for insufficiency of funds or credit, or dishonor for the same reason had not the drawer, without any valid cause, ordered the bank to stop payment.[23]The presence of the first and third elements is undisputed. Petitioner advances, however, that his alleged failure to personally receive the notice of dishonor and/or demand letter is fatal to his prosecution. Petitioner argues that it is not enough for the prosecution to prove that a notice of dishonor was sent to the drawer. The prosecution must also show that the drawer received the notice because the fact of service provided for in the law is reckoned from receipt of such notice of dishonor by the issuer of the check. As a matter of fact, only a registry receipt and not a registry return card of the notice of dishonor was presented during trial.

True, We have held that the mere presentation of registry return receipts that cover registered mail was not sufficient to establish that written notices of dishonor had been sent to, or served on, issuers of checks. The authentication by affidavit of the mailers was necessary in order for service by registered mail to be regarded as clear proof of the giving of notices of dishonor and to predicate the existence of the second element of the offense.[24]

Be that as it may, in Campos v. People,[25] We held that the circumstances present in the case may establish that petitioner received the required notice of dishonor. In Campos, petitioner declared in her petition that she was in good faith and made arrangements for the payment of her obligations subsequently after the dishonor of the checks. Based on this declaration, We held that petitioner confirmed that she actually received the required notice of dishonor. Petitioner would not have entered into the alleged arrangements if she had not received a notice of dishonor from her creditor and had no knowledge of the insufficiency of her funds with the bank and the dishonor of her checks.

Similar with Campos, We hold that the circumstances present in this case confirm petitioner's receipt of the notice of dishonor. As the MTCC aptly explained:
xxx [T]he evidence likewise convincingly proved that the accused actually received a corresponding notice of dishonor despite the evasive answer of the accused to the query on whether he received the demand letter.

The letter dated October 25, 2002 sent by Atty. Augusto Macam x x x in reply to the demand letter xxx sent by private complainant's lawyer, Atty. Ricardo Bermudo, to the accused offers more than sufficient circumstantial evidence that the latter actually received the notice of dishonor. For one, there is no issue that Atty. Macam is the lawyer of the accused as admitted by him during his testimony plus the fact that said lawyer served at one time as defense lawyer in these cases when he signed and filed on February 4, 2004 an Opposition (To Motion for Reconsideration) dated February 2, 2004. For another, the accused caused the demand letter addressed to himself to reach the hands of Atty. Macam. And lastly, in the reply-letter itself, Atty. Macam represented himself to be acting for the accused in relation to the matters indicated in the demand letter and that he conferred with the accused regarding the checks mentioned in the letter. These circumstances taken as a whole demonstrate beyond cavil that the accused actually received the demand letter, which, in return, he turned it over to his lawyer, Atty. Macam.[26]
To further evade criminal liability, petitioner advances the defenses that the checks were issued without consideration and there exists a civil case which posed a prejudicial question against these B.P. 22 cases. According to petitioner, the resolution of Civil Case No. Q-02-48119, entitled "Raymund L. Foz and Jose G. Foz, Jr. v. Sps. Benjamin T. Martin and Jennifer Martin and Dra. Marietta L. Yturralde as unwilling co-plaintiff" for sum of money and damages, determines his guilt for violation of B.P. 22. Petitioner argues that, should the trial court hold that there is no valid consideration for the checks' issuance, it follows that he could not be held liable for violation of B.P. 22.[27]

We reject these defenses. Well-settled is the rule that the agreement surrounding the issuance of dishonored checks is irrelevant to a prosecution for violation of B.P. 22.[28] What the law punishes is the mere act of issuing a bouncing check, not the purpose for which it was issued nor the terms and conditions relating to its issuance. The thrust of the law is to prohibit the making of worthless checks and putting them into circulation.[29] Thus, even if it is subsequently declared that there was no consideration for the checks' issuance, petitioner is not exempt from prosecution for violation of B.P. 22.

Similarly, the issue on whether the penalty of fine with subsidiary imprisonment violates the constitutional prohibition on imprisonment of a person for non-payment of debt does not have merit. Whether there is an unconstitutional application of the provisions of B.P. 22 in this case does not appear to Us an appropriate issue for consideration. A purported constitutional issue may only be resolved if essential to the decision of a case and controversy. Courts do not pass upon constitutional questions that are not the very lis mota of a case.[30] We find that this case can be resolved on other grounds.

Be that as it may, Supreme Court (SC) Administrative Circular No. 12-2000,[31] as clarified by SC Administrative Circular No. 13-2001,[32] affirmed the payment of fine as penalty for violation of B.P. 22. We further explained in Saguiguit v. People:[33]
Thus, Administrative Circular No. 12-2000 establishes a rule of preference in the application of the penal provisions of B.P. Blg. 22 such that where the circumstances of both the offense and the offender clearly indicate good faith or a clear mistake of fact without taint of negligence, the imposition of a fine alone should be considered as the more appropriate penalty. Needless to say, the determination of whether the circumstances warrant the imposition of a fine alone rests solely upon the Judge. Should the Judge decide that imprisonment is the more appropriate penalty, Administrative Circular 12-2000 ought not be deemed a hindrance.

It is, therefore, understood that:

1. Administrative Circular 12-2000 does not remove imprisonment as an alternative penalty for violations of B.P. Blg. 22;

2. The Judges concerned, may, in the exercise of sound discretion, and taking into consideration the peculiar circumstances of each case, determine whether the imposition of a fine alone would best serve the interests of justice or whether forbearing to impose imprisonment would depreciate the seriousness of the offense, work violence on the social order, or otherwise be contrary to the imperatives of justice;

3. Should only a fine be imposed and the accused be unable to pay the fine, there is no legal obstacle to the application of the Revised Penal Code provisions on subsidiary imprisonment.[34] (Citations omitted; italics in the original.)
In view, however, of our ruling in Nacar v. Gallery Frames,[35] We modify the rate of legal interest imposed. Pursuant to our ruling in Nacar, the sum of P13,500,000.00 due to respondent shall earn interest at the rate of 12% per annum from the filing of the Informations until June 30, 2013 and thereafter, at the rate of 6% per annum from July 1, 2013 until finality of this Resolution. The total amount owing to respondents as set forth in this Resolution shall further earn legal interest at the rate of 6% per annum from its finality until full payment.[36]

WHEREFORE, the petition is DENIED for lack of merit. The Decision of the Court of Appeals dated Decision dated April 4, 2012 and Resolution dated September 5, 2012 in CA-G.R. SP No. 115236 are AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION.

Petitioner is sentenced to pay a fine of P200,000.00 in each of the 17 criminal cases with subsidiary imprisonment not to exceed six months in case of insolvency.

The amount of P13,500,000.00 due to respondent shall earn interest at the rate of 12% per annum from the filing of the Informations until June 30, 2013 and thereafter, at the rate of 6% per annum from July 1, 2013 until finality of this Resolution. The total amount owing to respondents as set forth in this Resolution shall further earn legal interest at the rate of 6% per annum from its finality until full payment.

The compliance (Re: Notice of Death) of Atty. Jose Benjamin M. Panganiban, informing the Court that respondent Marietta L. Yturralde passed away on November 6, 2018 and that she left two (2) children, Mr. Jose L. Yturralde and Dr. Elizabeth Anne Yturralde Medina, is NOTED.


[1]Rollo, pp. 8-26.

[2]Id. at 159-170. Penned by Associate Justice Manuel M. Barrios with Associate Justices Juan Q. Enriquez, Jr. and Apolinario D. Bruselas, Jr. concurring.

[3]Id. at 181-182. Penned by Associate Justice Mauel M. Barrios with Associate Justices Apolinario D. Bruselas, Jr. and Florito S. Macalino concurring.

[4]Id. at 160.

[5]Id. at 160-161.

[6]Id. at 161.

[7]Id. at 14, 161-162.

[8]Id. at 14-15, 201.

[9]Id. at 15, 201-202.

[10]Id. at 15,202.

[11]Id. at 74-82. Penned by Judge Irineo Pineda Pangilinan, Jr.

[12]Id. at 80-82.

[13]Id. at 47-55. Penned by Presiding Judge Ofelia Tuazon Pinto.

[14]Id. at 54-55.

[15]Id at 56.

[16]Id. at 167-168.

[17]Id. at 168-169.

[18]Id. at 16-19.

[19]Id. at 19-20.

[20]Id. at 20-22.

[21]Id. at 22-23.

[22]Ty v. People, G.R. No. 149275, September 27, 2004, 439 SCRA 220,228-229.

[23]Rigor v. People, G.R. No. 144887, November 17, 2004, 442 SCRA 450, 457-458. Citation omitted.

[24]Resterio v. People, G.R. No. 177438, September 24, 2012, 681 SCRA 592, 602.

[25]G.R. No. 187401, September 17, 2014, 735 SCRA 373.

[26]Rollo, pp. 79-80.

[27]Id. at21.

[28]Land Bank of the Philippines v. Jacinto, G.R. No. 154622, August 3, 2010, 626 SCRA 315, 325, citing Dreamwork Construction, Inc. v. Janiola, G.R. No. 184861, June 30, 2009, 591 SCRA 466, 478.

[29]Ong v. People, G.R. No. 139006, November 27, 2000, 346 SCRA 117, 123, citing Lozano v. Martinez, G.R. No. L-63419, December 18, 1986, 146 SCRA 323.

[30]Griffith v. Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 129764, March 12, 2002, 379 SCRA 94, 103. Citation omitted.

[31]Re: Penalty for Violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22.

[32]Clarification of Administrative Circular No. 12-2000 on the Penalty for Violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22, otherwise known as the Bouncing Checks Law.

[33]G.R. No. 144054, June 30, 2006, 494 SCRA 128.

[34]Id. at 138-139.

[35]G.R. No. 189871, August 13, 2013,703 SCRA439.

[36]See United Alloy Philippines Corporation v. United Coconut Planters Bank, G.R. No. 175949, January 30, 2017, 816 SCRA 70.

Popular Posts