Criminal Law

Ty vs. People G.R. No. 149275, September 27, 2004 B.P. 22, Exempting Circumstance of Uncontrollable Fear, Justifying Circumstance of State of Necessity

FACTS:

Ty’s mother was confined in Manila Doctor’s Hospital to which a medical bill amounting to 600,000 pesos was made to be paid to TY, after signing a contract of responsibility with the hospital. Ty, issued 7 checks to cover the said expenses, all of which were dishonored for being drawn against a closed a account. Manila Doctors Hospital then instituted criminal actions against Ty for violation of BP22.

In her defense she alleged that she issued the checks involuntarily because her mother threatened to commit suicide due to the inhumane treatment she allegedly suffered while confined in the hospital. She further claimed that no consideration was obtained by her because all the checks were made as payment to the medical bills.

ISSUE:

Whether or not the defense of uncontrollable fear is tenable to warrant her exemption from criminal liability.

RULING:

For this exempting circumstance to be invoked successfully, the following requisites must concur: (1) existence of an uncontrollable fear; (2) the fear must be real and imminent; and (3) the fear of an injury is greater than or at least equal to that committed.

It must appear that the threat that caused the uncontrollable fear is of such gravity and imminence that the ordinary man would have succumbed to it. It should be based on a real, imminent or reasonable fear for ones life or limb. A mere threat of a future injury is not enough. It should not be speculative, fanciful, or remote. A person invoking uncontrollable fear must show therefore that the compulsion was such that it reduced him to a mere instrument acting not only without will but against his will as well. It must be of such character as to leave no opportunity to the accused for escape.

In this case, far from it, the fear, if any, harbored by Ty was not real and imminent. Ty claims that she was compelled to issue the checksa condition the hospital allegedly demanded of her before her mother could be discharged for fear that her mothers health might deteriorate further due to the inhumane treatment of the hospital or worse, her mother might commit suicide. This is speculative fear; it is not the uncontrollable fear contemplated by law.

To begin with, there was no showing that the mothers illness was so life-threatening such that her continued stay in the hospital suffering all its alleged unethical treatment would induce a well-grounded apprehension of her death. Secondly, it is not the law’s intent to say that any fear exempts one from criminal liability much less petitioners flimsy fear that her mother might commit suicide. In other words, the fear she invokes was not impending or insuperable as to deprive her of all volition and to make her a mere instrument without will, moved exclusively by the hospitals threats or demands.

Ty has also failed to convince the Court that she was left with no choice but to commit a crime. She did not take advantage of the many opportunities available to her to avoid committing one. By her very own words, she admitted that the collateral or security the hospital required prior to the discharge of her mother may be in the form of postdated checks or jewelry. And if indeed she was coerced to open an account with the bank and issue the checks, she had all the opportunity to leave the scene to avoid involvement.

Moreover, petitioner had sufficient knowledge that the issuance of checks without funds may result in a violation of B.P. 22.

At any rate, the law punishes the mere act of issuing a bouncing check, not the purpose for which it was issued nor the terms and conditions relating to its issuance. B.P. 22 does not make any distinction as to whether the checks within its contemplation are issued in payment of an obligation or to merely guarantee the obligation. The thrust of the law is to prohibit the making of worthless checks and putting them into circulation

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