BPI vs CA (G.R. No. 136202 January 25, 2007)

Bank of the Philippine Islands vs Court of Appeals
G.R. No. 136202 January 25, 2007

Facts: A.A. Salazar Construction and Engineering Services filed an action for a sum of money with damages against herein petitioner Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) on December 5, 1991 before Branch 156 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Pasig City. The complaint was later amended by substituting the name of Annabelle A. Salazar as the real party in interest in place of A.A. Salazar Construction and Engineering Services. Private respondent Salazar prayed for the recovery of the amount of Two Hundred Sixty-Seven Thousand, Seven Hundred Seven Pesos and Seventy Centavos (P267,707.70) debited by petitioner BPI from her account. She likewise prayed for damages and attorney’s fees. Petitioner BPI, in its answer, alleged that on August 31, 1991, Julio R. Templonuevo, third-party defendant and herein also a private respondent, demanded from the former payment of the amount of Two Hundred Sixty-Seven Thousand, Six Hundred Ninety-Two Pesos and Fifty Centavos (P 267,692.50) representing the aggregate value of three (3) checks, which were allegedly payable to him, but which were deposited with the petitioner bank to private respondent Salazar’s account (Account No. 0203-1187-67) without his knowledge and corresponding endorsement. Accepting that Templonuevo’s claim was a valid one, petitioner BPI froze Account No. 0201-0588-48 of A.A. Salazar and Construction and Engineering Services, instead of Account No. 0203-1187-67 where the checks were deposited, since this account was already closed by private respondent Salazar or had an insufficient balance.

Issue: Whether or not respondent is entitled to the proceeds of the checks even without prior indorsement.

Held: No. Section 49 of the Negotiable Instruments Law contemplates a situation whereby the payee or indorsee delivers a negotiable instrument for value without indorsing it, thus:  

Transfer without indorsement; effect of– Where the holder of an instrument payable to his order transfers it for value without indorsing it, the transfer vests in the transferee such title as the transferor had therein, and the transferee acquires in addition, the right to have the indorsement of the transferor. But for the purpose of determining whether the transferee is a holder in due course, the negotiation takes effect as of the time when the indorsement is actually made.

If instruments payable to named payees or to their order have not been indorsed in blank, only such payees or their indorsees can be holders and entitled to receive payment in their own right.

The presumption under Section 131(s) of the Rules of Court stating that a negotiable instrument was given for a sufficient consideration will not inure to the benefit of Salazar because the term “given” does not pertain merely to a transfer of physical possession of the instrument. The phrase “given or indorsed” in the context of a negotiable instrument refers to the manner in which such instrument may be negotiated. Negotiable instruments are negotiated by “transfer to one person or another in such a manner as to constitute the transferee the holder thereof. If payable to bearer it is negotiated by delivery. If payable to order it is negotiated by the indorsement completed by delivery.” The present case involves checks payable to order. Not being a payee or indorsee of the checks, private respondent Salazar could not be a holder thereof.

It is an exception to the general rule for a payee of an order instrument to transfer the instrument without indorsement. Precisely because the situation is abnormal, it is but fair to the maker and to prior holders to require possessors to prove without the aid of an initial presumption in their favor, that they came into possession by virtue of a legitimate transaction with the last holder.23 Salazar failed to discharge this burden, and the return of the check proceeds to Templonuevo was therefore warranted under the circumstances despite the fact that Templonuevo may not have clearly demonstrated that he never authorized Salazar to deposit the checks or to encash the same. Noteworthy also is the fact that petitioner stamped on the back of the checks the words: “All prior endorsements and/or lack of endorsements guaranteed,” thereby making the assurance that it had ascertained the genuineness of all prior endorsements. Having assumed the liability of a general indorser, petitioner’s liability to the designated payee cannot be denied.

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