G.R No. 236041. Apr 2, 2018

THIRD DIVISION  [ G.R No. 236041, April 02, 2018 ]  JEANELITA SANTUYO, PETITIONER V. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, RESPONDENT.

The Court:
(1)
GRANTS:
(a)
petitioner's motion for an extension of thirty (30) days within which to file a petition for review on certiorari, counted from the expiration of the reglementary period; and
(b)
the Motion to Admit Petition for Review on Certiorari dated January 3, 2018, filed by Atty. Leofred Ian T. Ledesma, collaborating counsel for petitioner, stating that petitioner's counsel is still recuperating from his surgery sometime in November 2017 and that due to extremely heavy workload and similar professional commitments, the fifteen-day period was insufficient for him to prepare, finish, and file said petition, hence, praying for the Court to admit the (attached) petition; and
(2)
NOTES private complainant Arlene L. Locsin's Motion for Leave of Court to Admit Manifestation dated January 11, 2018 stating that the said petition is insufficient in form and substance.
This petition seeks to reverse the conviction of petitioner Jeanelita Santuyo (Santuyo) by the Metropolitan Trial Court in Cities[1] (MTCC) of Iloilo City for violation of Batas Pambansa Bilang 22 (B.P. Blg. 22) which was affirmed in toto by the Regional Trial Court[2] (RTC) and subsequently affirmed by the Court of Appeals[3](CA).

Santuyo and her husband are the owners and operators of Southpoint Concrete Products (SPC), a construction lumber and hardware supply store in Oton, Iloilo City. They supplied construction and hardware supplies to WEN-F Marketing, owned by spouses Maria Fe and Owen Facto (spouses Facto). WEN-F Marketing, in turn, supplied SPC with coco lumber products.

To facilitate the payment for the sale and purchase transactions, Santuyo issued postdated checks in favor of spouses Facto upon her receipt of coconut lumber. The internal arrangement was for spouses Facto to receive the check and encash it on due date; or keep it and later offset it with construction and hardware supplies that petitioner would purchase from SPC and, thereafter, return the check.

In one of these transactions, Santuyo issued Allied Bank Check No.7297470, dated 25 August 2005, in favor of spouses Facto in the amount of P86,432.80. Without Santuyo's knowledge, spouses Facto endorsed and delivered the check to a certain Arlene Locsin (Locsin) for rediscounting. However, before the check became due and demandable, Santuyo thru SPC delivered various supplies and materials to spouses Facto, which worth was sufficient to offset the value of the coco lumber for which Allied Bank Check No. 7297470 was issued.

When Santuyo demanded the return of the check, spouses Facto informed her that they had already rediscounted the check with Locsin; but they assured Santuyo that they would redeem the check as soon as possible. Despite such promises, spouses Facto failed to redeem the check, and Locsin was able to present the check for payment which was dishonored for being "Drawn Against Insuffecient Funds."

Locsin initiated a criminal complaint and, subsequently, filed an Information against Santuyo for violation of B.P. Blg. 22.

The MTCC Ruling

On 30 July 2012, the MTCC, finding the presence of proof beyond reasonable doubt, rendered a guilty verdict as follows:
WHEREFORE, judgment is hereby rendered finding the accused Jeanelita Santuyo GUILTY beyond reasonable doubt of a violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22. She is hereby sentenced to PAY A FINE OF EIGHTY-SIX THOUSAND FOUR HUNDRED THIRTY-TWO PESOS & 80/100 (P86,432.80), and to submit proof of payment thereof within fifteen (15) days from finality of this decision.

Accused Jeanelita Santuyo is further directed to PAY Arlene Locsin:
  1. P86,432.80 with 12% legal interest per annum, reckoned from the filing of the information on March 12, 2007 until it is fully paid; and
  2. P20,000.00 as attorney's fees.
No pronouncement as to costs.[4]
The RTC RulingSantuyo appealed to the RTC, but the same was denied. The dispositive portion of its decision, dated 30 April 2013, reads:
Foregoing premises considered, the appeal is hereby Denied. The decision dated July 30, 2012 of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Branch 8, Iloilo is hereby affirmed in toto.[5]
The CA ruling

The CA likewise affirmed the verdict in toto, on 27 May 2017:
IN LIGHT OF ALL THE FOREGOING, the petition for review filed by Jeanelita Santuyo is DENIED. The Decision dated April 30, 2013, of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 22, Iloilo City, in Criminal Case No. 12-71621, affirming in toto the Decision dated July 30, 2012, of the Municipal Trial Court in Cities, Branch 89, Iloilo City, in Criminal Case No. 6311, convicting petitioner of the charge of violation of Batas Pambansa Bilang 22, and ordering her to pay a fine of Eighty Six Thousand Four Hundred Thirty Two Pesos and Eighty Centavos (Php 86,432.80), and to pay private complainant Arlene Locsin the amount of Eighty Six Thousand Four Hundred Thirty Two Pesos and Eighty Centavos (Php 86,432.80), with twelve percent (12%) legal interest per annum, and Twenty Thousand Pesos (P20,000.00) as attorney's fees, is AFFIRMED in toto[6]
In affirming the conviction, the CA found that the notice of dishonor was duly established. It pointed out that Santuyo judicially admitted such fact in the pre-trial order. It ruled that the categorical stipulation, taken together with the fact that Santuyo was duly assisted by her counsel during the pre-trial conference that yielded the stipulation, erases any vestige of palpable mistake, fraud, or undue influence in the admission of such proposed stipulation. The CA also found that the counter-affidavit of Santuyo, which was offered in evidence, declared that she received, on 27 July 2006, a demand letter and notice of dishonor. It further concluded that the lack of direct transaction between Santuyo and Locsin would not negate her liability, as the check is considered a negotiable instrument which can transfer from one person to another and can accumulate secondary contracts.

In the instant petition, Santuyo argues that the second element of the crime that involved the maker, drawer, or issuer knowing at the time of issue that she did not have sufficient funds, is lacking and is not proven beyond reasonable doubt. She insists that there was no proof of receipt of dishonor presented during trial and that she received the said notice only after the filing of the case. She likewise maintains that the face value of the check was already discharged by payment when she delivered to spouses Facto construction supplies worth more than the equivalent amount of the check.
ISSUE

Whether the presence of a notice of dishonor has been proven beyond reasonable doubt to support the verdict of conviction.
OUR RULING

We are not persuaded. We find no error in the findings and conclusion of the CA. The petition failed to sufficiently show that the appellate court committed any reversible error in the challenged decision and resolution as to warrant the exercise of our discretionary appellate jurisdiction.

B.P. Blg. 22 or the Bouncing Checks Law was enacted for the specific purpose of addressing the problem of the continued issuance and circulation of unfunded checks by irresponsible persons.[7] To stem the harm caused by such checks to the community, B.P. Blg. 22 considers the mere act of issuing an unfunded check as an offense not only against property but also against public order.[8] The purpose of B.P. Blg. 22 in declaring the mere issuance of a bouncing check as malum prohibitum is not only to punish the offender but to deter him and others from committing the offense; to isolate him from society; to reform and rehabilitate him; and to maintain social order.[9]

While we affirm the judgment of conviction, it is necessary to modify the imposition of the legal interest rate decreed by the MTCC.

In Nacar v. Gallery Frames,[10] we ruled:
Thus, from the foregoing, in the absence of an express stipulation as to the rate of interest that would govern the parties, the rate of legal interest for loans or forbearance of any money, goods or credits and the rate allowed in judgments shall no longer be twelve percent (12%) per annum - as reflected in the case of Eastern Shipping Lines and Subsection X305.1 of the Manual of Regulations for Banks and Sections 4305Q.1, 4305S.3 and 4303P.1 of the Manual of Regulations for Non-Bank Financial Institutions, before its amendment by BSP-MB Circular No. 799 - but will now be six percent (6%) per annum effective July 1, 2013. It should be noted, nonetheless, that the new rate could only be applied prospectively and not retroactively. Consequently, the twelve percent (12%) per annum legal interest shall apply only until June 30, 2013. Come July 1, 2013 the new rate of six percent (6%) per annum shall be the prevailing rate of interest when applicable.[11]

x x x x

When the judgment of the court awarding a sum of money becomes final and executory, the rate of legal interest, whether the case falls under paragraph 1 or paragraph 2, above, shall be 12% per annum from such finality until its satisfaction, this interim period being deemed to be by then an equivalent to a forbearance of credit.[12]
In Chua v. People,[13] we applied the foregoing legal rates. The accused was ordered to pay the value of the checks plus legal interest of twelve percent (12%) per annum from the time the said sum became due and demandable until 30 June 2013; and six percent (6%) per annum from 1 July 2013, until fully paid.

Applying the prevailing legal interest rates, the correct award of legal interest payment is at the rate of twelve percent (12%) per annum from the time the said sum became due and demandable or, in this case, from the receipt of the extrajudicial demand[14] or notice of dishonor on 27 July 2006, until 30 June 2013, and at the rate of six percent (6%) per annum from 1 July 2013 until fully paid.

WHEREFORE, the 25 May 2017 Decision of the Court of Appeals is AFFIRMED with MODIFICATION in that Jeanelita Santuyo is ordered to pay the value of the check with legal interest of twelve percent (12%) per annum from the time of the receipt of the extrajudicial demand or notice of dishonor on 27 July 2006, until 30 June 2013, and six percent (6%) per annum from 1 July 2013, until fully paid.

SO ORDERED."
Very truly yours,

(Sgd.) WILFREDO V. LAPITAN
Division Clerk of Court



[1] Rollo, pp. 54-79; Branch 8, Decision, dated 30 July 2012, penned by Ma. Theresa N. Enriquez-Gaspar.

[2] Id. at 46-53; Branch 22, Decision, dated 30 April 2013, penned by Presiding Juge Guilljie D. Delfin-Lim.

[3] Id. at 26-42; 12th Division, Decision, dated 25 May 2017, penned by Associate Justice Pamela Ann Abella Maxino, concurred by Associate Justices Pablito A. Perez and Gabriel T. Robeniol. Id. at 43-45; Resolution, dated 30 October 2017.

[4] Rollo, pp. 78-79.

[5] Id. at 53.

[6] Id. at 41.

[7] Mitra v. People, 637 Phil. 645, 651 (2010).

[8] Lozano v. Martinez, 230 Phil. 406, 421 (1986).

[9] Rosario v. Co, 585 Phil. 236, 248 (2008).

[10] 716 Phil. 267 (2013).

[11] Id. at 280-281.

[12] Id. at 279.

[13] 763 Phil. 644 (2015).

[14] See Ongson v. People, 504 Phil. 214, 237 (2005), and Eastern Shipping Lines, Inc. v. Court of Appeals, 304 Phil. 236, 253(1994).

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