G. R. No. 132552 - July 14, 2004
CLARO E. NARTE and WINSTON TOMAS L. CADHIT, Petitioners, vs. COURT OF APPEALS, FIRST DIVISION and PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, Respondents.
D E C I S I O N
This is a petition for review assailing the Decision1 of the Court of Appeals dated January 28, 1998 which dismissed the petition filed by Claro E. Narte and Winston Tomas L. Cadhit (hereinafter, the petitioners) and affirmed the decision of the Regional Trial Court (RTC)2 convicting the petitioners of nine (9) counts of violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 (B.P. 22) with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency in each case.3
The facts are not disputed. As summarized by the MeTC and adopted by the RTC and the Court of Appeals, they are as follows:4
The MeTC found that the prosecution was able to establish the elements of the offense, namely: that a person makes or draws and issues any check; that the check is made or drawn and issued to apply on account or for value; that the person who makes or draws and issues the check knows at the time of issuance 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 that 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.5
According to the MeTC, "the accused issued and signed the subject checks as payment for the three (3) buses sold to Norphil Transport Corporation and knew that at the time of issuance they did not have sufficient funds in or credit with the drawee bank for the payment in full upon presentment."6 Consequently, the MeTC convicted the petitioners of ten (10) counts of violation of B.P. 22 and imposed the penalty of fine for each count with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency. However, only nine (9) of the ten (10) convictions were appealed to the RTC. Correspondingly, only nine (9) convictions were affirmed.7
The petitioners then appealed to the Court of Appeals by way of a petition for review8 raising the following issues: (a) that the trial court erred in convicting them despite the fact that the complainant is not the intended payee of the checks; (b) that the trial court erred in finding that all the elements of the offense have been established; and (c) that the trial court erred in ordering subsidiary imprisonment in case of non-payment of fine.
The appellate court dismissed the petition, ruling that all the elements of the offense have been established by the prosecution. Citing the RTC's decision favorably, the Court of Appeals also held that, pursuant to the Revised Penal Code (RPC), there may be subsidiary imprisonment when the only penalty imposed is fine.
Thus, the petitioners filed the instant Petition9 dated March 27, 1998 which is essentially a replica of the petition they earlier filed with the Court of Appeals. In fact, except for pages 1, 2, 7, 13 and 14 which were purposely amended to reflect the pertinent dates, the instant petition merely reproduced the allegations and assignment of errors already raised before and passed upon by the RTC and the appellate court.
The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) filed its Comment10 dated September 15, 1998, arguing that the mere issuance of a check which is subsequently dishonored is prohibited. Countering the petitioners' claim that there was no valid consideration for the issuance of the checks, the OSG points out that the petitioners themselves admitted that the checks were issued in payment of the buses purchased from Delia and Emilio Cabrera. Finally, the OSG avers that the RPC has supplementary application to special laws such as B.P. 22. Hence, as the RPC provides for subsidiary imprisonment in case of non-payment of fine, subsidiary imprisonment may be imposed in the instant case.
The petitioners filed a Reply11 dated August 27, 1999 reiterating the arguments in their Petition. Thereupon, the Court gave due course to the petition and required the parties to submit their respective memoranda.12 In compliance with the Court's directive, the petitioners filed their Memorandum13 dated December 27, 1999 on December 28, 1999, while the OSG submitted its Memorandum14 dated December 18, 1999 on December 24, 1999. Thereafter, the case was considered submitted for decision.
As previously intimated, the instant petition presents exactly the same arguments raised by the petitioners in their petition for review with the Court of Appeals. The same issues were raised before and exhaustively passed upon by the RTC and the Court of Appeals, which resulted in the affirmance of the MeTC's decision finding that all the elements of a violation of B.P. 22 have been established and that subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency may be imposed in accordance with the RPC.
These issues need no longer be belabored. Well-settled is the rule that the findings of fact and conclusions of the trial court are binding on this Court when supported by substantial evidence on record and carries more weight when affirmed by the Court of Appeals. 15 There are no matters of weight or significance presented in this petition that would impair the correctness and validity of the decision of the MeTC affirmed, as it is, by both the RTC and the Court of Appeals.16
At any rate, we have pronounced that the clear intention of the framers of B.P. 22 is to make the mere act of issuing a worthless check malum prohibitum. The agreement surrounding the issuance of the checks need not be first looked into since the law itself provides that regardless of the intent of the parties, the mere issuance of any kind of check which is subsequently dishonored makes the person who issued the check liable.17
Finally, this Court clarified in Administrative Circular No. 13-2001 dated February 14, 2001 that there is no legal obstacle to the application of the RPC provisions on subsidiary imprisonment should only a fine be imposed and the accused be unable to pay the fine. This should finally dispel the petitioners' importunate claim that the imposition of subsidiary imprisonment in this case is improper.
WHEREFORE, finding no reversible error in the Decision of the Court of Appeals dated January 28, 1998, the instant petition for review is DENIED. Costs against petitioners.
Puno, (Chairman), Quisumbing, Austria-Martinez, and Callejo, Sr., JJ., concur.
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