Resterio vs People (G.R. No. 177438 September 24, 2012)

Resterio vs People of the Philippines
G.R. No. 177438 September 24, 2012

Facts: That on May, 2002, or thereabouts, in the City of Mandaue, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the above-named accused, with deliberate intent of gain, did there and then willfully, unlawfully and feloniously make, draw and issue China Bank Check bearing No. AO141332, dated June 3, 2002, in the amount of P 50,000.00 payable to the order of Bernardo T. Villadolid to apply on account or for value, the accused fully knowing well that at the time of the issuance of said check that she does not have sufficient funds in or credit with the drawee bank for the payment of such check in full upon its presentment; or the accused having sufficient funds in or credit with the drawee bank when she make/s or draw/s and issue/s a check but she failed to keep sufficient funds or maintain a credit to cover the full amount of the check, which check when presented for encashment was dishonored by the drawee bank for the reason “ACCT. CLOSED” or would have been dishonored for the same reason had not the drawer, without any valid reason ordered the bank to stop payment, and despite notice of dishonor and demands for payment, said accused failed and refused and still fails and refuses to redeem the check or to make arrangement for payment in full by the drawee of such check within five (5) banking days after receiving the notice of dishonor, to the damage and prejudice of the aforenamed private complainant, in the aforestated amount and other claims and charges allowed by civil law.

Issue: Whether or not petitioner can be held liable criminally for violation of BP 22.

Held: No. For a violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22, the Prosecution must prove the following essential elements, namely: (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 there were no sufficient funds in or credit with the drawee bank for the payment of such check in full upon its presentment; and (3) The dishonor of the check by the drawee bank for insufficiency of funds or credit or the dishonor for the same reason had not the drawer, without any valid cause, ordered the drawee bank to stop payment.

The gravamen of the offense is the act of making and issuing a worthless check or any check that is dishonored upon its presentment for payment and putting them in circulation. The law includes all checks drawn against banks. The law was designed to prohibit and altogether eliminate the deleterious and pernicious practice of issuing checks with insufficient or no credit or funds therefor. Such practice is deemed a public nuisance, a crime against public order to be abated. The mere act of issuing a worthless check, either as a deposit, as a guarantee, or even as an evidence of a pre-existing debt or as a mode of payment is covered by B.P. 22. It is a crime classified as malum prohibitum. The law is broad enough to include, within its coverage, the making and issuing of a check by one who has no account with a bank, or where such account was already closed when the check was presented for payment.

The effects of the issuance of a worthless check transcends the private interests of the parties directly involved in the transaction and touches the interests of the community at large. The mischief it creates is not only a wrong to the payee or holder, but also an injury to the public. The harmful practice of putting valueless commercial papers in circulation, multiplied a thousandfold, can very well pollute the channels of trade and commerce, injure the banking system and eventually hurt the welfare of society and the public interest.

To hold a person liable under B.P. Blg. 22, the prosecution must not only establish that a check was issued and that the same was subsequently dishonored, it must further be shown that accused knew at the time of the issuance of the check that he did not have sufficient funds or credit with the drawee bank for the payment of such check in full upon its presentment.

This knowledge of insufficiency of funds or credit at the time of the issuance of the check is the second element of the offense. Inasmuch as this element involves a state of mind of the person making, drawing or issuing the check which is difficult to prove, Section 2 of B.P. Blg. 22 creates a prima facie presumption of such knowledge.

For this presumption to arise, the prosecution must prove the following: (a) the check is presented within ninety (90) days from the date of the check; (b) the drawer or maker of the check receives notice that such check has not been paid by the drawee; and (c) the drawer or maker of the check fails to pay the holder of the check the amount due thereon, or make arrangements for payment in full within five (5) banking days after receiving notice that such check has not been paid by the drawee. In other words, the presumption is brought into existence only after it is proved that the issuer had received a notice of dishonor and that within five days from receipt thereof, he failed to pay the amount of the check or to make arrangements for its payment. The presumption or prima facie evidence as provided in this section cannot arise, if such notice of nonpayment by the drawee bank is not sent to the maker or drawer, or if there is no proof as to when such notice was received by the drawer, since there would simply be no way of reckoning the crucial 5-day period.

A notice of dishonor received by the maker or drawer of the check is thus indispensable before a conviction can ensue. The notice of dishonor may be sent by the offended party or the drawee bank. The notice must be in writing. A mere oral notice to pay a dishonored check will not suffice. The lack of a written notice is fatal for the prosecution.

While, indeed, Section 2 of B.P. Blg. 22 does not state that the notice of dishonor be in writing, taken in conjunction, however, with Section 3 of the law, i.e., “that where there are no sufficient funds in or credit with such drawee bank, such fact shall always be explicitly stated in the notice of dishonor or refusal,” a mere oral notice or demand to pay would appear to be insufficient for conviction under the law. The Court is convinced that both the spirit and letter of the Bouncing Checks Law would require for the act to be punished thereunder not only that the accused issued a check that is dishonored, but that likewise the accused has actually been notified in writing of the fact of dishonor. The consistent rule is that penal statutes have to be construed strictly against the State and liberally in favor of the accused.

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