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BP 22 AND ESTAFA DISTINGUISHED

WELCOME TO THE BOUNCING CHECKS LAW RESOURCES!

 

Estafa by postdating a bad check and violation of the bouncing checks law distinguished

In the crime of Estafa by postdating or issuing a bad check, deceit and damage are essential elements of the offense (U.S. vs. Rivera, 23 Phil. 383-390) and have to be established with satisfactory proof to warrant conviction. For Violation of the Bouncing Checks Law, on the other hand, the elements of deceit and damage are not essential nor required. An essential element of that offense is knowledge on the part of the maker or drawer of the check of the insufficiency of his funds (Lozano vs. Hon. Martinez, Nos. L-63419, etc., December 18, 1986; 146 SCRA 323; Dingle vs. IAC, G.R. No. 75243, March 16, 1987, 148 SCRA 595). The Anti-Bouncing Checks Law makes the mere act of issuing a worthless check a special offense punishable thereunder (Cruz vs. IAC, No. L-66327, May 28, 1984, 129 SCRA 490. Malice and intent in issuing the worthless check are immaterial, the offense being malum prohibitum (Que vs. People of the Philippines, et. al., G.R. Nos. 75217-18, September 21, 1987). The gravamen of the offense is the issuance of a check, not the non-payment of an obligation (Lozano vs. Hon. Martinez, supra).

SAN MIGUEL CORPORATION, petitioners, vs. NATHANIEL M. GROSPE, Presiding Judge, Branch 44, Regional Trial Court of Pampanga and MANUEL PARULAN, respondents, [G.R. Nos. L-74053-54.  January 20, 1988.]

 

Distinguished from Art. 315 of the Revised Penal Code Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code defining the crime of estafa reads as follows: "Article 315. Swindling (estafa). - Any person who shall defraud another by any of the means mentioned herein below shall be punished by . . . 2. By means of any of the following false pretenses or fraudulent acts executed prior to or simultaneously with the commission of the fraud: (a) By using fictitious name, or falsely pretending to possess power, influence, qualifications, property, credit, agency, business or imaginary transactions, or by means of other similar deceits; . . . (d) By postdating a check, or issuing a check in payment of an obligation the offender knowing that at the time he had no funds in the bank, or the funds deposited by him were not sufficient to cover the amount of the check without informing the payee of such circumstances." The scope of paragraph 2 (d), however, was deemed to exclude checks issued in payment of pre-existing obligations. The rationale of this interpretation is that in estafa, the deceit causing the defraudation must be prior to or simultaneous with the commission of the fraud. In issuing a check as payment for a pre-existing debt, the drawer does not derive any material benefit in return or as consideration for its issuance. On the part of the payee, he had already parted with his money or property before the check is issued to him, hence,  he is not defrauded by means of any "prior" or "simultaneous" deceit perpetrated on him, by the drawer of the check.

Article 315 of the Revised Penal Code as amended by R.A. 4885;  Payment of Pre-existing obligations not covered Article 315, as amended by Republic Act 4885, does not cover checks issued in payment of pre-existing obligations, again relying on the concept  underlying the crime of estafa through false pretense or deceit - which is, that the deceit or false pretense must be prior to or simultaneous with the commission of the fraud.

EN BANC, Justice Yap, FLORENTINA A. LOZANO, petitioner, vs. THE HONORABLE ANTONIO M. MARTINEZ, in his capacity as Presiding Judge, Regional Trial Court, National Capital Judicial Region, Branch XX, Manila, and the HONORABLE JOSE B. FLAMINIANO, in his capacity as City Fiscal of Manila, respondents.[G.R. Nos. L-66839-42.  December 18, 1986.]

 

Petitioner now raises the following issues before us in this petition for review in certiorari: (a) whether the RTC of Manila acquired jurisdiction over the violations of the Bouncing Checks Law, and (b) whether the checks had been issued on account or for value.  [6 Id., pp. 19-22.]

As regards the first issue, petitioner contends that the trial court never acquired jurisdiction over the offenses under B.P. Blg. 22 and that assuming for the sake of argument that she raised the matter of jurisdiction only upon appeal to respondent appellate court, still she cannot be estopped from questioning the jurisdiction of the trial court.

It is a fundamental rule that for jurisdiction to be acquired by courts in criminal cases the offense should have been committed or any one of its essential ingredients took place within the territorial jurisdiction of the court. Territorial jurisdiction in criminal cases is the territory where the court has jurisdiction to take cognizance or to try the offense allegedly committed therein by the accused. Thus, it cannot take jurisdiction over a person charged with an offense allegedly committed outside of that limited territory.  [ 7 U.S. v. Cunanan, 26 Phil. 376-378 (1913)]. Furthermore, the jurisdiction of a court over the criminal case is determined by the allegations in the complaint or information. [8 Colmenares v. Villar, No. L-27124, 29 May 1970, 33 SCRA 186] And once it is so shown, the court may validly take cognizance of the case. However, if the evidence adduced during the trial show that the offense was committed somewhere else, the court should dismiss the action for want of jurisdiction.   [9 People v. Galano, No. L-42925, 31 January 1977, 75 SCRA 193.]

In the case at bar, the complaint for estafa and the various charges under B.P. Blg. 22 were jointly tried before the Regional Trial Court of Manila. Petitioner challenges the jurisdiction of the lower court stating that none of the essential elements constitutive of violation of B.P. Blg. 22 was shown to have been committed in the City of Manila. She maintains that the evidence presented established that (a) complainant was a resident of Makati; (b) petitioner was a resident of Caloocan City; (c) the place of business of the alleged partnership was located in Malabon; (d) the drawee bank was located in Malabon; and, (e) the checks were all deposited for collection in Makati. Taken altogether, petitioner concludes that the said evidence would only show that none of the essential elements of B.P. Blg. 22 occurred in Manila. Respondent People of the Philippines through the Solicitor General on the one hand argues that even if there is no showing of any evidence that the essential ingredients took place or the offense was committed in Manila, what is critical is the fact that the court acquired jurisdiction over the estafa case because the same is the principal or main case and that the cases for violations of Bouncing Checks Law are merely incidental to the estafa case.

We disagree with respondent. The crimes of estafa and violation of the Bouncing Checks Law are two (2) different offenses having different elements and, necessarily, for a court to acquire jurisdiction each of the essential ingredients of each crime has to be satisfied.

In the crime of estafa, deceit and damage are essential elements of the offense and have to be established with satisfactory proof to warrant conviction. 10 [People v. Gorospe, G.R. Nos. 74053-54, 20 January 1988, 157 SCRA 154]. For violation of the Bouncing Checks Law, on the other hand, the elements of deceit and damage are neither essential nor required. Rather, the elements of B.P. Blg. 22 are (a) the making, drawing and issuance of any check to apply to account or for value; (b) the maker, drawer or issuer knows at the time of issuance that he does not have sufficient funds in or credit with the drawee bank for the payment of such check in full upon its presentment; and, (c) the check is subsequently dishonored by the drawee bank for insufficiency of funds or credit or would have been dishonored for the same reason had not the drawer, without valid reason, ordered the bank to stop payment.[11Navarro v. Court of Appeals, G.R. Nos.  112389-90, 1 August 1994, 234 SCRA 639.] Hence, it is incorrect for respondent People to conclude that inasmuch as the Regional Trial Court of Manila acquired jurisdiction over the estafa case then it also acquired jurisdiction over the violations of B.P. Blg. 22. The crime of estafa and the violation of B.P. Blg. 22 have to be treated as separate offenses and therefore the essential ingredients of each offense have to be satisfied.

In this regard, the records clearly indicate that business dealings were conducted in a restaurant in Manila where sums of money were given to petitioner; hence, the acquisition of jurisdiction by the lower court over the estafa case. The various charges for violation of B.P. Blg. 22 however are on a different plain. There is no scintilla of evidence to show that jurisdiction over the violation of B.P. Blg. 22 had been acquired. On the contrary, all that the evidence shows is that complainant is a resident of Makati; that petitioner is a resident of Caloocan City; that the principal place of business of the alleged partnership is located in Malabon; that the drawee bank is likewise located in Malabon and that all the subject checks were deposited for collection in Makati. Verily, no proof has been offered that the checks were issued, delivered, dishonored or knowledge of insufficiency of funds occurred in Manila, which are essential elements necessary for the Manila Court to acquire jurisdiction over the offense.

Upon the contention of respondent that knowledge on the part of the maker or drawer of the check of the insufficiency of his funds is by itself a continuing eventuality whether the accused be within one territory or another, the same is still without merit. It may be true that B.P. Blg. 22 is a transitory or continuing offense and such being the case the theory is that a person indicted with a transitory offense may be validly tried in any jurisdiction where the offense was in part committed. We note however that knowledge by the maker or drawer of the fact that he has no sufficient funds to cover the check or of having sufficient funds is simultaneous to the issuance of the instrument. We again find no iota of proof on the records that at the time of issue, petitioner or complainant was in Manila. As such, there would be no basis in upholding the jurisdiction of the trial court over the offense.

In an attempt to salvage the issue that the RTC of Manila had jurisdiction over the violations of B.P. Blg. 22, respondent relies on the doctrine of jurisdiction by estoppel. Respondent posits that it took some five (5) years of trial before petitioner raised the issue of jurisdiction.

The Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure, under Rule 117, Sec. 3, provides that the accused may move to quash the complaint or information on any of the following grounds: . . . (b) that the court trying the case has no jurisdiction over the offense charge or over the person of the accused. Moreover, under Sec. 8 of the same Rule it is provided that the failure of the accused to assert any ground of a motion to quash before he pleads to the complaint or information, either because he did not file a motion to quash or failed to allege the same in said motion, shall be deemed a waiver of the grounds of a motion to quash, except the grounds of . . . lack of jurisdiction over the offense charged . . . as provided for in paragraph . . . (b) . . . of Section 3 of this Rule.[12 Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure.]

After a careful perusal of the records, it is crystal clear that petitioner timely questioned the jurisdiction of the court in a memorandum [13 Rollo. pp. 103-104] before the Regional Trial Court and thereafter in succeeding pleadings. On this finding alone, we cannot countenance the inadvertence committed by the court. Clearly, from the abovequoted law, we can see that even if a party fails to file a motion to quash, he may still question the jurisdiction of the court later on. Moreover, these objections may be raised or considered motu propio by the court at any stage of the proceedings or an appeal. [14 Suy Sui v. People, 49 O.G. 967]

Assuming arguendo that there was a belated attempt to question the jurisdiction of the court and hence, on the basis of the Tijam v. Sibonghanoy case [15 Tijam v. Sibonghanoy, No. L-21450, 15 April 1968, 23 SCRA 29] in which respondent seeks refuge, the petitioner should be estopped. We nonetheless find the jurisprudence of the Sibonghanoy case not in point.

In Calimlim v. Ramirez, [16.No. L-34362, 19 November 1982, 118 SCRA 399, Dy v. NLRC, G.R. No. 68544, 27 OCTOBER 1989, 145 SCRA 211]. the Court held that the ruling in the Sibonghanoy case is an exception to the general rule that the lack of jurisdiction of a court may be raised at any stage of the proceedings, even on appeal. The Court stated further that Tijam v. Sibonghanoy is an exceptional case because of the presence of laches. The Court said:

A rule that had been settled by unquestioned acceptance and upheld in decisions so numerous to cite is that the jurisdiction of a court over the subject matter of the action is a matter of law and may not be conferred by consent or agreement of the parties. The lack of jurisdiction of a court may be raised at any stage of the proceedings, even on appeal. This doctrine has been qualified by recent pronouncements which stemmed principally from the ruling in the cited case of Sibonghanoy. It is to be regretted, however, that the holding in said case had been applied to situations which were obviously not contemplated therein. The exceptional circumstance involved in Sibonghanoy which justified the departure from the accepted concept of non-waivability of objection to jurisdiction has been ignored and, instead a blanket doctrine had been repeatedly upheld that rendered the supposed ruling in Sibonghanoy not as the exception, but rather the general rule, virtually overthrowing altogether the time-honored principle that the issue of jurisdiction is not lost by waiver or by estoppel. [17 People v. Eduarte, G.R. No. 88232, 26 February 1990, 182 SCRA 750, citing Calimlim v. Ramirez, No. L-34362, 19 November 1982, 118 SCRA 399].

In Sibonghanoy, the defense of lack of jurisdiction of the court that rendered the questioned ruling was held to be barred by laches. It was ruled that the lack of jurisdiction having been raised for the first time in a motion to dismiss filed almost fifteen (15) years after the questioned ruling had been rendered, such a plea may no longer be raised for being barred by laches. As defined in said case, laches is failure or neglect for an unreasonable and unexplained length of time, to do that which, by exercising due diligence, could or should have been done earlier; it is the negligence or omission to assert a right within a reasonable time, warranting a presumption that the party entitled to assert has abandoned it or declined to assert it. 18 [ibid]

The circumstances of the present case are very different from Tijam v. Sibonghanoy. No judgment has yet been rendered by the trial court in this case. As a matter of fact, as soon as the accused discovered the jurisdictional defect, she did not fail or neglect to file the appropriate motion to dismiss. They questioned the jurisdiction of the trial court in a memorandum before the lower court. Hence, finding the pivotal element of laches to be absent, we hold that the ruling in Tijam v. Sibonghanoy does not control the present controversy. Instead, the general rule that the question of jurisdiction of a court may be raised at any stage of the proceedings must apply. Petitioner is therefore not estopped from questioning the jurisdiction of the trial court. 19 [ibid]

Justice Belosillo, First Division, Rosa Uy v. CA and People G.R. No. 119000.  July 28, 1997.

 

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