Wong v. Court of Appeals

G.R. No. 117857, 2 February 2001, 351 SCRA 100

FACTS:

Petitioner Wong was an agent of Limtong Press. Inc. (LPI), a manufacturer of calendars. LPI would print sample calendars, then give them to agents to present to customers. The agents would get the purchase orders of customers and forward them to LPI. After printing the calendars, LPI would ship the calendars directly to the customers.

Thereafter, the agents would come around to collect the payments. Petitioner, however, had a history of unremitted collections, which he duly acknowledged in a confirmation receipt he co-signed with his wife. Hence, petitioner’s customers were required to issue postdated checks before LPI would accept their purchase orders.

In early December 1985, Wong issued six (6) postdated checks totaling P18,025.00, all dated December 30, 1985 and drawn payable to the order of LPI. These checks were initially intended to guarantee the calendar orders of customers who failed to issue post-dated checks.

However, following company policy, LPI refused to accept the checks as guarantees. Instead, the parties agreed to apply the checks to the payment of petitioner’s unremitted collections for 1984 amounting to P18,077.07. LPI waived the P52.07 difference. Before the maturity of the checks, petitioner prevailed upon LPI not to deposit the checks and promised to replace them within 30 days. However, petitioner reneged on his promise.

Hence, on June 5, 1986, LPI deposited the checks with Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC). The checks were returned for the reason “account closed.” The dishonor of the checks was evidenced by the RCBC return slip.

On June 20, 1986, complainant through counsel notified the petitioner of the dishonor. Petitioner failed to make arrangements for payment within five (5) banking days.

On November 6, 1987, petitioner was charged with three (3) counts of violation of B.P. Blg. 224 under three separate Informations for the three checks amounting to P5,500.00, P3,375.00, and P6,410.00.

Petitioner was similarly charged in Criminal Case No. 12057 for ABC Check No. 660143463 in the amount of P3,375.00, and in Criminal Case No. 12058 for ABC Check No. 660143464 for P6,410.00. Both cases were raffled to the same trial court. The version of the defense is that petitioner issued the six (6) checks to guarantee the 1985 calendar bookings of his customers. According to petitioner, he issued the checks not as payment for any obligation, but to guarantee the orders of his customers. Petitioner appealed his conviction to the Court of Appeals.

On October 28, 1994, it affirmed the trial court’s decision in toto. Hence, the present petition.

ISSUE:

Whether or not the prosecution was able to establish beyond reasonable doubt all the elements of the offense penalized under B.P. Blg. 22.

RULING:

Yes.

As to the second element, B.P. Blg. 22 creates a presumption juris tantum that the second element prima facie exists when the first and third elements of the offense are present. Thus, the maker’s knowledge is presumed from the dishonor of the check for insufficiency of funds.

Petitioner contends that the first element does not exist because the checks were not issued to apply for account or for value. He attempts to distinguish his situation from the usual “cut-and-dried” B.P. 22 case by claiming that the checks were issued as guarantee and the obligations they were supposed to guarantee were already paid.

This flawed argument has no factual basis, the RTC and CA having both ruled that the checks were in payment for unremitted collections, and not as guarantee. Likewise, the argument has no legal basis, for what B.P. Blg. 22 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. As to the second element, B.P. Blg. 22 creates a presumption juris tantum that the second element prima facie exists when the first and third elements of the offense are present. Thus, the maker’s knowledge is presumed from the dishonor of the check for insufficiency of funds.

An essential element of the offense is “knowledge” on the part of the maker or drawer of the check of the insufficiency of his funds in or credit with the bank to cover the check upon its presentment. Since this involves a state of mind difficult to establish, the statute itself creates a prima facie presumption of such knowledge where payment of the check “is refused by the drawee because of insufficient funds in or credit with such bank when presented within ninety (90) days from the date of the check.”

To mitigate the harshness of the law in its application, the statute provides that such presumption shall not arise if within five (5) banking days from receipt of the notice of dishonor, the maker or drawer makes arrangements for payment of the check by the bank or pays the holder the amount of the check.

The clear import of the law is to establish a prima facie presumption of knowledge of such insufficiency of funds under the following conditions (1) presentment within 90 days from date of the check, and (2) the dishonor of the check and failure of the maker to make arrangements for payment in full within 5 banking days after notice thereof.

That the check must be deposited within ninety (90) days is simply one of the conditions for the prima facie presumption of knowledge of lack of funds to arise. It is not an element of the offense.

*Case digest by Mary Tweetie Antonette G. Semprun, JD-IV, Andres Bonifacio College, SY: 2019-2020

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