Criminal Law

Josef vs. People G.R. No. 146424 November 18, 2005 Malum Prohibitum, Bouncing Checks, BP 22

FACTS:  

From June to August, 1991, petitioner, a Marikina-based manufacturer and seller of shoes, purchased materials from respondent Agustin Alarilla, a seller of leather products, for which the former issued a total of 26 postdated checks against his account with the Associated Bank and Far East Bank & Trust Company. When private respondent presented these checks for encashment, they were dishonored because the accounts against which they were drawn were closed. Private respondent informed petitioner of the dishonor and demanded payment of their value. After some negotiations, petitioner drew and delivered a new set of postdated checks in replacement of the dishonored ones.  Private respondent, in turn, returned to petitioner the originals of the dishonored postdated checks but retained photocopies thereof.  When private respondent deposited the replacement checks in his account with the Westmont Bank, these were also dishonored by the drawee bank.  As a result, the private respondent filed criminal complaints against petitioner for violation of BP 22. After preliminary investigation, the Provincial Prosecutor filed 26 Informations against petitioner with the RTC for violation of BP 22.  Petitioner admits having issued the 26 dishonored checks.  However, he claims the following defenses: 1) he has already paid private respondent the amount of the checks in cash; 2) the trial court was incorrect to accept as evidence photocopies of the original checks and 3) he acted in good faith.

ISSUES:     

a.)  Whether or not petitioner liable under the violation of BP 22?

b.) Whether or not the acceptance of photocopied original checks by the trail court correct?

c.) Whether petitioner is not liable since he acted in good faith?

RULING:

a) Petitioner is liable.

All three elements are present here.  The elements of violation of BP 22 are:

1)   Making, drawing and issuing any check to apply on account or for value;

2)   Knowledge of the maker, drawer or issuer that at the time of issue he does not have sufficient funds in or credit with the drawee bank for the payment of the check in full upon its presentment; and

3)  Subsequent dishonor of the check by the drawee bank for insufficiency of funds or credit, or dishonor of the check for the same reason had not the drawer, without any valid cause, ordered the bank to stop payment

b) By admitting that the originals were in his possession and even producing them in open court, petitioner cured whatever flaw might have existed in the prosecution’s evidence. The fact that these originals were all stamped “account closed” merely confirmed the allegations of the respondent that the checks were dishonored by reason of the account being closed. Because they were entirely consistent with its main theory, the prosecution correctly adopted these originals as its own evidence. In addition, by petitioner’s own admission, five of the original checks were lost, thus rendering the photocopies thereof admissible as exceptions to the Best Evidence Rule.

c) Regarding petitioner’s allegation of good faith, suffice it to say that such a claim is immaterial, the offense in question being malum prohibitum. The gravamen of the offense is the issuance of a bad check and therefore, whether or not malice and intent attended such issuance is unimportant.

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