G.R. No. 99032 March 26, 1997
RICARDO A. LLAMADO, Petitioner, v. COURT OF APPEALS and PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondents.
TORRES, JR., J.:
Before us is a petition to review the decision 1 of the Court of Appeals which affirmed the decision of the Regional Trial Court of Manila in Criminal Case No. 85-38653 convicting petitioner of Violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22, otherwise known as the Bouncing Checks Law, and sentencing him to suffer imprisonment of one (1) year of prision correccional and to pay a fine of P200,000.00 with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency, and to reimburse Leon Gaw the amount of P186,500.00 plus the costs of suit.
The facts of the case, as found by the Court of Appeals, are as follows:
On the other hand, petitioner's version of the relevant facts, is as follows:
After trial on the merits, the trial court rendered judgment convicting the accused of violation of Batas Pambansa No. 22, the dispositive portion of which reads:
On appeal, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's decision.
In this petition, petitioner alleges that:
The petition is without merit.
For clarity, petitioner's second allegation shall be discussed first. Petitioner argues that respondent court erred in disregarding the pronouncement in Dingle vs. IAC, 4 that "absent knowledge by the maker or drawer of the issuance of a check much less of the transaction and the fact of dishonor, the accused should be acquitted."
The respondent court did not err. In Dingle vs. IAC, the petitioner was acquitted because: 1.) from the testimony of the sole prosecution witness, it was established that he dealt exclusively with petitioner's co-signatory; 2.) nowhere in the prosecution witness' testimony was the name of petitioner ever mentioned in connection with the transaction and the issuance of the check; and, 3.) the prosecution witness therein categorically stated that it was Nestor Dingle, petitioner's co-signatory who received his two letters of demand. These lent credence to the testimony of petitioner that she signed the questioned checks in blank together with her husband without any knowledge of its issuance, much less of the transaction and the fact of dishonor. Moreover, while Paz Dingle and her husband Nestor Dingle owned the business, the business was managed by Nestor, petitioner Paz's co-signatory.
The above circumstances in Dingle vs. IAC do not obtain in the case at bar. Here, the private complainant testified that upon delivery of the money, petitioner took it and placed it inside a deposit box; that Jacinto Pascual and petitioner Ricardo Llamado signed the questioned check, postdated November 4, 1983, in the amount of P186,500.00 in the presence of private complainant; notice of the fact of dishonor of the check was made on petitioner, who offered in writing 5 to pay private complainant a portion of the amount equivalent to 10% thereof on 14 or 15 November 1983, and the balance to be rolled over for a period of 90 days.
Petitioner denies knowledge of the issuance of the check without sufficient funds and involvement in the transaction with private complainant. However, knowledge involves a state of mind difficult to establish. Thus, the statute itself creates a prima facie presumption, i.e., that the drawer had knowledge of the insufficiency of his funds in or credit with the bank at the time of the issuance and on the check's presentment for payment. 6 Petitioner failed to rebut the presumption by paying the amount of the check within five (5) banking days from notice of the dishonor. 7 His claim that he signed the check in blank which allegedly is common business practice, is hardly a defense. If as he claims, he signed the check in blank, he made himself prone to being charged with violation of BP 22. It became incumbent upon him to prove his defenses. As Treasurer of the corporation who signed the check in his capacity as an officer of the corporation, lack of involvement in the negotiation for the transaction is not a defense.
Petitioner alleges that the respondent court erred when it convicted petitioner of violation of BP 22 when the check was only a contingent payment for investment which had not been proven to be successful, thus the check was not issued "to apply on account or for value" within the contemplation of the batas. This contention is untenable.
The check was issued for an actual valuable consideration of P180,000.00, which private complainant handed to Aida Tan, a secretary in petitioner's office. In fact, petitioner admits that private complainant made an investment in said amount with Pan-Asia Finance Corporation. Petitioner contends that the money which private complainant gave the corporation was intended for investment which they agreed will be returned to private complainant with interests, only if the project became successful. But then, if this were true, the check need not have been issued because a receipt and their written agreement would have sufficed.
True, it is common practice in commercial transactions to require debtors to issue checks on which creditors must rely as guarantee of payment, or as evidence of indebtedness, if not a mode of payment. But to determine the reason for which checks are issued, or the terms and conditions for their issuance, will greatly erode the faith the public reposes in the stability and commercial value of checks as currency substitutes, and bring about havoc in trade and in banking communities. 8 So, what the law punishes is the issuance of a bouncing check and not the purpose for which it was issued nor the terms and conditions relating to its issuance. The mere act of issuing a worthless check is malum prohibitum. 9
With regard to petitioner's third allegation, the "novation theory" recognized by this Court in certain cases, does not apply in the case at bar. While private complainant agreed to petitioner's offer to pay him 10% of the amount of the check on November 14 or 15, 1983 and the balance to be rolled over for 90 days, this turned out to be only an empty promise which effectively delayed private complainant's filing of a case for Violation of BP 22 against petitioner and his co-accused. As admitted by petitioner in his Memorandum, private complainant was never paid as agreed upon.
Petitioner's argument that he should not be held personally liable for the amount of the check because it was a check of the Pan Asia Finance Corporation and he signed the same in his capacity as Treasurer of the corporation, is also untenable. The third paragraph of Section 1 of BP Blg. 22 states:
Where the check is drawn by a corporation, company or entity, the person or persons who actually signed the check in behalf of such drawer shall be liable under this Act.
IN VIEW WHEREOF, the petition is hereby DENIED and the decision of respondent court AFFIRMED in toto.
Regalado, Romero, Puno and Mendoza, JJ., concur.
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