MANUEL NAGRAMPA vs. PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES
G.R. No. 146211
August 6, 2002
In this petition for review on certiorari, petitioner assails his conviction for estafa in Criminal Case No. Q-90-15797 and for 2 counts of violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 (Bouncing Checks Law) in Criminal Cases Nos. Q-90-15798 and Q-90-15799.
On July 28, 1989, Manuel Nagrampa purchased a Yutani Poclain Backhoe Excavator Equipment for P200,000 from FEDCOR & paid the down payment of P50,000 in cash. To cover the balance, he issued Check No. 473477 postdated August 31, 1989 and Check No. 473478 postdated September 30, 1989 in the amount of P75,000 each. The checks were drawn against the Security Bank and Trust Company. Upon the assurance of FEDCOR’s salesman that the checks were good, FEDCOR delivered the equipment to Nagrampa.
FEDCOR presented the checks for payment on February 22, 1990; however, they were dishonored on the ground that petitioner’s account had already been closed. FEDCOR demanded payment from petitioner in a letter dated March 19, 1990; but the latter failed to pay.
Hence, the above cases were filed against petitioner with the trial court. During his cross-examination, Santander denied that the equipment was returned to FEDCOR.
Felix Mirano testified that he had been a signature verifier of Security Bank for 12 years. He brought with him the signature card for petitioner’s account, the same account against which the subject checks were drawn. He identified the signatures appearing on Checks Nos. 473477 and 473478 to be those of the petitioner, and explained that petitioner’s account had been closed in May 1985.
For his part, petitioner testified that he had an agreement with Corseno Bote wherein he would replace the 2 checks with cash if the backhoe would be in good running condition. However, after 5-7 days of use, the backhoe broke down. Such fact was reported to Ronnie Bote, and the backhoe was thus repaired. After 1 day of using it, the backhoe broke down again. Petitioner again reported the matter to Ronnie Bote, who told him that the equipment should be brought to the latter’s office for repair. As evidence of the return of the equipment, petitioner presented a letter dated October 3, 1989 addressed to Electrobus Consolidated, Inc., requesting the release of the backhoe to Ronnie Bote for repair, with the latter’s alleged signature appearing at the bottom thereof. After a week, petitioner demanded from Ronnie Bote the return of the backhoe, the P50,000 cash and the 2 postdated checks, but to no avail. On cross-examination, he admitted that during the pendency of the case he paid, upon the advice of his counsel, the amount of P15,000, which he handed to FEDCOR’s counsel Atty. Orlando Paray.
On September 30, 1993, the trial court found petitioner guilty of 2 counts of violation of B.P. Blg. 22.
Petitioner appealed the decision to the CA. Upon noticing that the trial court did not resolve the issue of petitioner’s liability for estafa, the CA issued a resolution ordering the return of the entire records of the case to the trial court for the latter to decide the estafa case against petitioner.
On February 8, 1999, the trial court found petitioner guilty beyond reasonable doubt of estafa. Thus, petitioner also appealed said decision to the CA.
On July 21, 2000, the CA affirmed in toto the decision of the trial court finding petitioner guilty of estafa and violations of B.P. Blg. 22.
1. WON petitioner is guilty of violating B.P. Blg. 22.
2. If so, may the penalty be modified by retroactively applying Vaca v. CA and Lim v. People so that petitioner only need to pay a fine instead of serving imprisonment?
3. WON petitioner should be convicted for estafa.
1. Two distinct acts are punished under Sec.1 of B.P. Blg. 22:
(a)The making or drawing & issuance of any check to apply on account or for value, knowing at the time of issue that the drawer does not have sufficient funds in, or credit with, the drawee bank; and
(b)The failure to keep sufficient funds or to maintain a credit to cover the full amount of the check if presented within a period of 90 days from the date appearing thereon, for which reason it is dishonored by the drawee bank.
In the 1st situation, the drawer knows of the insufficiency of funds to cover the check at the time of its issuance. The check involved is worthless at the time of issuance, since the drawer has neither sufficient funds in, nor credit with, the drawee bank at the time.
While in the 2nd situation, the drawer has sufficient funds at the time of issuance but fails to keep sufficient funds or maintain credit within 90 days from the date appearing on the check. The check involved in the second offense is good when issued, as the drawer has sufficient funds in, or credit with, the drawee bank when issued.
In both instances, the offense is consummated by the dishonor of the check for insufficiency of funds or credit.
It is clear from the allegations in the information that petitioner is charged with the 1st type of offense under B.P. Blg. 22. Its elements are as follows:
(a) The making, drawing and issuance of any check to apply for account or for value;
(b) 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 such check in full upon its presentment; and
(c) The subsequent dishonor of the check by the drawee bank for insufficiency of funds or credit or dishonor for the same reason had not the drawer, without any valid cause, ordered the bank to stop payment.
The fact that the checks were presented beyond the 90-day period provided in Sec. 2, B.P. Blg. 22 is of no moment. It was held in Wong vs CA that the 90-day period is not an element of the offense but merely a condition for the prima facie presumption of knowledge of the insufficiency of funds:
Neither does it discharge petitioner from his duty to maintain sufficient funds in the account within a reasonable time thereof. Under Sec.186 of the Negotiable Instruments Law, “a check must be presented for payment within a reasonable time after its issue or the drawer will be discharged from liability thereon to the extent of the loss caused by the delay.” By current banking practice, a check becomes stale after more than 6 months (180 days).
In Bautista v. Court of Appeals, it was ruled that such prima facie presumption is intended to facilitate proof of knowledge, and not to foreclose admissibility of other evidence that may also prove such knowledge; thus, the only consequence of the failure to present the check for payment within the 90-day period is that there arises no prima facie presumption of knowledge of insufficiency of funds. The prosecution may still prove such knowledge through other evidence.
In this case, FEDCOR presented the checks for encashment within the 6-month period from the date of issuance of the checks, and would not therefore have been considered stale had petitioner’s account been existing. Although the presumption of knowledge of insufficiency of funds did not arise, such knowledge was sufficiently proved by the unrebutted testimony of Mirano to the effect that petitioner’s account with the Security Bank was closed for more than 4 years prior to the issuance of the 2 checks in question.
Thus, the CA did not err in its affirmation of the trial court’s decision convicting petitioner of violations of B.P. Blg.22.
According to Administrative Circular No. 13-2001 clarifying AC No. 12-2000; thus:
The clear tenor and intention of Administrative Circular No. 12-2000 is not to remove imprisonment as an alternative penalty, but to lay down a rule of preference in the application of the penalties provided for in B.P. Blg. 22.
The pursuit of this purpose does not foreclose the possibility of imprisonment for violators of B.P. Blg. 22.
AC No. 12-2000 establishes a rule of preference in the application of the penal provisions of B.P. Blg. 22 such that where the circumstances of both the offense and the offender clearly indicate good faith or a clear mistake of fact without taint of negligence, the imposition of a fine alone should be considered as the more appropriate penalty. Needless to say, the determination of whether the circumstances warrant the imposition of a fine alone rests solely upon the Judge. Should the Judge decide that imprisonment is the more appropriate penalty, AC No. 12-2000 ought not be deemed a hindrance.
In this case, petitioner manifested utter lack of good faith or wanton bad faith when he issued the subject postdated checks even though he had no more account with the drawee bank, having closed it more than 4 years before he drew and delivered the checks. Hence, he cannot avail himself of the benefits under AC No. 12-2000.
The crime of estafa under paragraph 2(d) of Art. 315 of the RPC, as amended, has the following elements:
(a) postdating or issuance of a check in payment of an obligation contracted at the time the check was issued;
(b) lack or insufficiency of funds to cover the check; and
(c) damage to the payee thereof.
Settled is the rule that, to constitute estafa, the act of postdating or issuing a check in payment of an obligation must be the efficient cause of defraudation and it should be either prior to, or simultaneous with, the act of fraud. The offender must be able to obtain money or property from the offended party because of the issuance of the check, or the person to whom the check was delivered would not have parted with his money or property had there been no check issued to him.
The existence of the first two elements in the case at bar is not disputed.
Damage as an element of estafa may consist in (1) the offended party being deprived of his money or property as a result of the defraudation; (2) disturbance in property right; or (3) temporary prejudice.
In this case, the deprivation of the property of FEDCOR is apparent. Undoubtedly, the reason why FEDCOR delivered the backhoe to petitioner was that the latter paid the P50,000 down payment and issued 2 postdated checks in the amount of P75,000 each.
Petitioner’s claim that he returned the equipment was not duly proved; he never presented as witness the agent who allegedly received the equipment from him. Moreover, he admitted that he never wrote FEDCOR about the return of the allegedly defective backhoe to Ronnie Bote; neither did he go to FEDCOR to claim the return of the equipment or of the cash down payment and the two checks. Such admissions belie his allegation that he returned the equipment to FEDCOR. Besides, on cross-examination he admitted that during the pendency of the case, he paid Santander, through FEDCOR’s lawyer, on two separate occasions in the total amount of P15,000 upon the advice of his own lawyer that he had to pay because he was guilty.
Such payment to FEDCOR negates his claim that he returned the backhoe; it may even be tantamount to an offer of compromise. Under Sec. 27 of Rule 130 of the Rules on Evidence, an offer of compromise in criminal cases is an implied admission of guilt.