Daily Tribune (Philippines)

Bouncing checks and estafa

- ATTY. JOJI ALONSO & ASSOCIATES

Dear Atty. Angela,

I am a wholesaler of confection­ery products and one of my clients purchased huge bulks of candy items for local retail amounting to six (6) million pesos. Since this client has been our partner for several years, I trusted and delivered the products in exchange for the issued checks. After a month and upon deposit of payment checks, we were informed that the accounts have insufficie­nt funds/found to be closed accounts. All checks issued were dishonored for being drawn against insufficie­nt funds. What are our legal remedies? Please help. Jaime

Dear Jaime,

Under Philippine law, there are two criminal liabilitie­s for which said client may be indicted for the issuance of bouncing checks. The first is under Article 315 para. 2(d) of the Revised Penal Code which punishes estafa. The elements are the following: (1) the offender has postdated or issued a check in payment of an obligation contracted at the time of the postdating or issuance;

(2) at the time of postdating or issuance of said check, the offender has no funds in the bank or the funds deposited are not sufficient to cover the amount of the check; and (3) the payee has been defrauded.

The other law is Batas Pambansa 22 which punishes the acts of (1) issuing a check to apply an account or for value, knowing at the time of issue that he does not have sufficient funds in the bank, which check is subsequent­ly dishonored by the bank; or (2) having sufficient funds in the bank when he issues the check, by failing to keep sufficient funds to cover the check for which reason it is dishonored by the bank.

In Rimando v. Spouses Aldaba, G.R. 203583 (2014), the Supreme Court explained that a person may file a case for both estafa and BP 22 despite the same being founded on the same factual circumstan­ces:

“While the filing of the two sets of Informatio­n under the provisions of Batas Pambansa 22 and under the provisions of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, on estafa, may refer to identical acts committed by the petitioner, the prosecutio­n thereof cannot be limited to one offense, because a single criminal act may give rise to a multiplici­ty of offenses.

Under the latter law, the mere issuance of a check that is dishonored gives rise to the presumptio­n of knowledge on the part of the drawer that he issued the same without sufficient funds and hence punishable which is not so under the Penal Code. Other difference­s between the two also include the following: (1) a drawer of a dishonored check may be convicted under Batas Pambansa 22 even if he had issued the same for a preexistin­g obligation, while under Article 315 (2-d) of the Revised Penal Code, such circumstan­ce negates criminal liability; (2) specific and different penalties are imposed in each of the two offenses; (3) estafa is essentiall­y a crime against property, while violation of Batas Pambansa 22 is principall­y a crime against public interest as it does injury to the entire banking system; (4) violations of Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code are mala in se, while those of Batas Pambansa Bilang 22 are mala prohibita.”

Therefore, you may file both cases of BP 22 and estafa against your client for his issuance of checks with no funds and for his act of defrauding you, knowing that he will receive products with no correspond­ing payment for the same.

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