Some people still have confidence, which confidence may be regarded as misplaced by others, in the deterrent effect of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22, also known as the “Bouncing Checks Law” (full text here). Here are some things a layman should know:
1. Filing fees are generally not required for criminal cases. For B.P. 22 cases, however, the complainant is required to pay the filing fee (based on the value of the check/s and the damages claimed, just like in civil cases) upon filing of the case in court.
2. One major deterrent against the issuance of bouncing checks is the threat of a warrant of arrest being issued once the criminal case is filed in court. This is no longer true. No warrant of arrest is issued unless the accused fails to appear when required by the court.
3. Even if a criminal case under B.P. 22 is filed, the court cannot issue a hold-departure order. All violations of the Bouncing Checks Law, regardless of the amount involved, are filed only with the municipal/metropolitan trial courts. These courts cannot issue a hold-departure order.
4. Courts have the discretion of imposing: (a) imprisonment only; (b) fine only; OR (c) both. It is entirely possible that only a fine, without imprisonment, will be imposed.
5. The issuer is not automatically liable simply because the check â€œbouncedâ€. A check generally â€œbouncesâ€ when dishonored upon presentment (reasons include: account closed, drawn against insufficient funds or DAIF). However, it is indispensable that the issuer must be notified in WRITING about the fact of dishonor, and he has five (5) days from receipt of the written notice within which to pay the value of the check or make arrangements for the payment thereof. This is based on the 1999 decision of the Supreme Court in King vs. People of the Philippines (G.R. No. 131540).
Recently, the SC “appears” to have relaxed this ruling in the 2005 case of Yulo vs. People of the Philippines (G.R. 142762). In this case, the SC reiterated the elements or requisites of the offense penalized by BP 22:
(1) the making, drawing, and issuance of any check to apply for account or for value;
(2) the 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) the subsequent dishonor of the check by the drawee bank for insufficient funds or credit or dishonor for the same reason had not the drawer, without any valid cause, ordered the bank to stop payment.
It is immediately clear that the “written notice” is not an element of the crime. In fact, in the Yulo case, the High Tribunal rejected the argument of the accused regarding the absence of a written notice, thus:
We likewise find no reason to sustain petitionerâ€™s contention that she was not given any notice of dishonor. Myrna had no reason to be suspicious of petitioner. It will be recalled that Josefina Dimalanta assured Myrna that petitioner is her â€œbest friendâ€ and â€œa good payer.â€ Consequently, when the checks bounced, Myrna would naturally turn to Josefina for help. We note that Josefina refused to give Myrna petitionerâ€™s address but promised to inform petitioner about the dishonored checks.
This ruling, however, did not categorically overturn the doctrine enunciated in the earlier King case. In other words, at this stage, both sides could logically argue either way.
(See also: Basic Reminders in Preventing Check Fraud)