Palana vs. People, G.R. No. 149995, September 28, 2007
After a careful review of the records, this Court sustains petitioner?s conviction for violation of B.P. Blg. 22. The elements of the offense penalized under B.P. Blg. 22 are as follows: (1) the accused makes, draws, or issues any check to apply on account or for value; (2) the accused knows at the time of issue that he does not have sufficient funds in or credit with the drawee bank for the payment of such check in full upon its presentment; and (3) the check is subsequently dishonored by the drawee bank for insufficiency of funds or credit or would have been dishonored for the same reason had not the drawer, without any valid reason, ordered the bank to stop payment.
Each element of the offense was duly proven by the prosecution. Petitioner admitted that at the time he issued the subject check, he knew that he does not have sufficient funds in or credit with the drawee bank for payment of such check. Consequently, when the check was presented for payment, it was dishonored by the drawee bank for insufficiency of funds.
Thereafter, he received demand letters to pay the amount of the check from private complainant but he did not comply with it.
In ruling that the amount of the check was for consideration or value, both the trial court and the Court of Appeals upheld private complainant?s claim that the check was issued as a guaranty for the loan and rejected petitioner?s ?investment theory?. The issue as to whether the amount of the subject check represents the amount of the money loaned by private complainant to petitioner or as an investment in the alleged partnership is a factual question involving the credibility of witnesses. Where the issue is one of credibility, the appellate court will not generally disturb the findings of the lower court considering that it is in a better position to settle that issue since it had the advantage of hearing the witnesses and observing their conduct during the trial, which circumstances carry great weight in assessing their credibility. In the present case, we see no reason to reverse the finding of the trial court as affirmed by the Court of Appeals that the amount of the subject check was a loan and not an investment.
Upon issuance of a check, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, it is presumed that the same was issued for valuable consideration, which may consist either in some right, interest, profit or benefit accruing to the party who makes the contract, or some forbearance, detriment, loss or some responsibility, to act, or labor, or service given, suffered or undertaken by the other side. Since it was established that petitioner received money from private complainant in various amounts, petitioner cannot now claim that the checks were not issued for value.
The allegation that the check was intended to be shown to potential suppliers is not a valid defense. In Cueme v. People, the Court held thus:
The allegation of petitioner that the checks were merely intended to be shown to prospective investors of her corporation is, to say the least, not a defense. The gravamen of the offense punished under B.P. Blg. 22 is the act of making or issuing a worthless check or a check that is dishonored upon its presentment for payment. The law has made the mere act of issuing a bad check malum prohibitum, an act proscribed by the legislature for being deemed pernicious and inimical to public welfare. Considering the rule in mala prohibita cases, the only inquiry is whether the law has been breached. Criminal intent becomes unnecessary where the acts are prohibited for reasons of public policy, and the defenses of good faith and absence of criminal intent are unavailing.
The checks issued, even assuming they were not intended to be encashed or deposited in a bank, produce the same effect as ordinary checks.
What the law punishes is the issuance of a rubber check itself and not the purpose for which the check was issued nor the terms and conditions relating to its issuance. This is not without good reasons. To determine the purpose as well as the terms and conditions for which checks are issued will greatly erode the faith the public reposes in the stability and commercial value of checks as currency substitutes, and bring about havoc in the trading and banking communities. Besides, the law does not make any distinction as to the kind of checks which are the subject of its provisions, hence, no such distinction can be made by means of interpretation or application. What is important is the fact that petitioner deliberately issued the checks in question and those checks were dishonored upon presentment for payment.
Hence, the agreement surrounding the issuance of a check is irrelevant to the prosecution and conviction of the petitioner.
The alleged inconsistency in the date of issuance of the subject check is likewise immaterial. Issuance, as defined under the Negotiable Instruments Law, is the first delivery of the check. In the case at bar, the Information alleged that the check was postdated February 15, 1988 although issued in or about September 1987. During trial, petitioner testified that the Checking Account was opened only on December 1, 1987 and that the check was issued sometime in February 1988.
The rule is that a variance between the allegation in the information and proof adduced during trial shall be fatal to the criminal case if it is material and prejudicial to the accused so much so that it affects his substantial rights. In a prosecution for violation of B.P. 22, the time of the issuance of the subject check is material since it forms part of the second element of the offense that at the time of its issuance, petitioner knew of the insufficiency of funds.
However, it cannot be said that petitioner was prejudiced by such variance nor was surprised by it. Records show that petitioner knew at the time he issued the check that he does not have sufficient funds in the bank to cover the amount of the check. Yet, he proceeded to issue the same claiming that the same would only be shown to prospective suppliers, a defense which is not valid.
Moreover, there is no merit in petitioner?s allegation that private complainant knew that the check is not funded. Both the trial court and the Court of Appeals found that the subject check was issued as guaranty for payment of the loan hence, was intended to apply for account or for value. As such, it was incumbent upon petitioner to see to it that the check is duly covered when presented for payment.
Pursuant to Supreme Court Administrative Circular No. 12-2000, as clarified by Administrative Circular No. 13-2001, the alternative penalty of fine may be imposed in lieu of imprisonment considering that the prosecution failed to prove or allege that petitioner is not a first-time offender. Hence, in lieu of imprisonment, a fine of P200,000.00 shall be imposed upon petitioner.