Philippine National Bank v. Court of Appeals

G.R. No. 107508, 25 April 1996, 256 SCRA 491

FACTS:

DECS issued a check in favor of Abante Marketing containing a specific serial number, drawn against PNB. The check was deposited by Abante in its account with Capitol and the latter consequently deposited the same with its account with PBCOM which later deposited it with petitioner for clearing. The check was thereafter cleared. However, on a relevant date, petitioner PNB returned the check on account that there had been a material alteration on it.

Subsequent debits were made but Capitol cannot debit the account of Abante any longer for the latter had withdrawn all the money already from the account. This prompted Capitol to seek reclarification from PBCOM and demanded the recrediting of its account. PBCOM followed suit by doing the same against PNB. Demands unheeded, it filed an action against PBCOM and the latter filed a 3rd party complaint against petitioner.

ISSUE:

Whether the alteration is material.

RULING:

We do not agree.

An alteration is said to be material if it alters the effect of the instrument. It means an unauthorized change in an instrument that purports to modify in any respect the obligation of a party or an unauthorized addition of words or numbers or other change to an incomplete instrument relating to the obligation of a party. In other words, a material alteration is one which changes the items which are required to be stated under Section 1 of the Negotiable Instruments Law.

If the purpose of the serial number is merely to identify the issuing government office or agency, its alteration in this case had no material effect whatsoever on the integrity of the check. The identity of the issuing government office or agency was not changed thereby and the amount of the check was not charged against the account of another government office or agency which had no liability under the check. The owner and issuer of the check is boldly and clearly printed on its face, second line from the top: “MINISTRY OF EDUCATION AND CULTURE,” and below the name of the payee are the rubber-stamped words: “Ministry of Educ. & Culture.” These words are not alleged to have been falsely or fraudulently intercalated into the check. The ownership of the check is established without the necessity of recourse to the serial number. Neither is there any proof that the amount of the check was erroneously charged against the account of a government office or agency other than the Ministry of Education and Culture. Hence, the alteration in the number of the check did not affect or change the liability of the Ministry of Education and Culture under the check and, therefore, is immaterial. The genuineness of the amount and the signatures therein of then Deputy Minister of Education Hermenegildo C. Dumlao and of the resident Auditor, Penomio C. Alvarez are not challenged. Neither is the authenticity of the different codes appearing therein questioned . . .13 (Emphasis ours.)

Petitioner, thus cannot refuse to accept the check in question on the ground that the serial number was altered, the same being an immaterial or innocent one.

*Case digest by Jhazeel Zhan T. Jebone, JD-4, Andres Bonifacio Law School, SY 2019-2020

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