[Syllabus]

THIRD DIVISION

[G.R. No. 117488. September 5, 1996]

SANTIAGO IBASCO, petitioner, vs. COURT OF APPEALS and PEOPLE OF THE PHILIPPINES, respondents.

D E C I S I O N

DAVIDE, JR., J.:

His motion to reconsider the decision[1]

of the Court of Appeals of 11 August 1994 in CA-G.R. CR No. 13300 affirming in toto the decision[2] of 20 November 1991 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Gumaca, Quezon, Branch 62, in Criminal Cases Nos. 2755-G, 2756-G, and 2757-G having been denied,[3] the petitioner filed this petition for review. The trial court found him guilty of the offense punished in B.P. Blg. 22 (Bouncing Checks Law).

The accusatory portion of the information in Criminal Case No. 2755-G dated 31 March 1987 reads as follows:

That on or about the 18th day of April 1984, at Barangay Camohaguin, Municipality of Gumaca, Province of Quezon, Philippines, and within the jurisdiction of this Honorable Court, the said accused, did then and there willfully, unlawfully and feloniously issue and make out Check No. DAT 41911, in the amount of EIGHTEEN THOUSAND NINETY PESOS and TEN CENTAVOS (P18,090.10), Philippine currency, drawn against the United Coconut Planters Bank, Daet Branch, and payable to Manuel Trivinio in payment for feeds purchased from the latter; that the accused knew fully well at the time of the issuance of said check that he did not have sufficient funds in or credit with the drawee bank for the payment of said check in full upon presentment; that upon presentation of said check to the bank for payment, the same was dishonored and refused payment for the reason that there was no sufficient funds to cover said check; and that despite notice to the accused by said Manuel Trivinio that said check was dishonored for lack of funds, said accused failed to deposit the necessary amount to cover said check, to the damage and prejudice of Manuel Trivinio, now represented by his heirs, in the aforesaid sum.

Contrary to law.[4]

The informations in Criminal Case No. 2757-G and Criminal Case No. 2-757-G are similarly worded as in Criminal Case No. 2755-G except as to the date of the violation of B.P. Blg. 22, the number of the checks, and the amounts thereof. In Criminal Case No. 2756-G, the violation was committed on 23 March 1984 and involved Check No. DAT 41910 in the amount of P17,900.00.[5] In Criminal Case No. 2757-G, the violation was committed on 24 February 1984 and involved Check No. 41909 in the amount of P15,576.30.[6]

The cases were consolidated and jointly tried. Upon arraignment, the petitioner pleaded not guilty to the charges.

The evidence for the prosecution is summarized in the challenged decision of the Court of Appeals as follows:

The facts are as follow [sic]: The complaining witness Maria Negro Trivinio and her late husband Manuel Trivinio operate an animal feed mill in Gumaca, Quezon while accused-appellant Santiago lbasco and his wife operate a piggery in Daet, Camarines Norte. On or about October 26, 1983, accused-appellant Santiago lbasco and his wife, came to the residence of the Trivinios at Sitio Seawall, Bgy. Camohaguin, Gumaca, Quezon and requested credit accommodation for the supply of ingredients in the manufacture of animal feeds (TSN, March 15, 1988, p. 7). In accordance with the agreed credit arrangement, the Trivinios made three deliveries of darak with a total value of P51,566.49 (Id., p. 9) and in payment, accused-appellant issued three (3) postdated checks, to wit: (1) Check No. 41909, postdated February 24, 1984, for P15,576.30 (Exh. A- Criminal Case No. 2757-G; Id., p. 9); (2) Check No. 41910, postdated March 23, 1984 for P17,900.00 (Exh. A-2756-G; Id., p. 5) and (3) Check No. 41911, postdated April 18, 1984 for P18,090.10 (Exh. A-Criminal Case No. 2755-G; Id., p. 10). All checks were drawn against United Coconut Planters Bank, Daet Branch. Upon presentment to the Bank for payment of their due dates, the checks bounced for being drawn against insufficient funds (Exhs. B-2755-G, B-2756-G and B-2757-G). The Trivinio spouses notified accused-appellant of the dishonor (TSN, March 13, 1988, p. 11). Accused-appellant replied by telegram offering his real property in Daet as security. Accused-appellant invited the Trivinios to come to Daet and inspect the property (Exh. C; Folder of Minutes and Exhibits, p. 13). When the Trivinios arrived in Daet, the accused told them that the property is across the sea, and, not wanting to cross the sea, the couple did not anymore inspect the property (TSN, March 15, 1988, p. 14). For failure of the accused to settle his account with the Trivinios, the instant case was filed.[7]

The original records of the aforementioned criminal cases show that after the presentation of the evidence for both parties had been concluded, the trial court required the parties to submit their respective memoranda. However, before submitting his memorandum, the petitioner's new counsel filed a motion to dismiss on the ground of lack of jurisdiction since, it is claimed, the checks were "prepared, issued and delivered to the payee ... at the office of the accused in Daet, Camarines Norte."[8]

In its order[9] of 14 November 1991, the trial court denied the motion to dismiss considering that the informations alleged that the violations were committed in Barangay Camohaguin, Gumaca, Quezon, and that pieces of evidence, viz., the affidavits[10] of Maria Negro, the surviving spouse of Manuel Trivinio who was presented by the defense as a hostile witness, established that the checks were issued in the said place.

On 17 December 1991, the trial court promulgated its decision[11] dated 20 November 1991 convicting the petitioner. The dispositive portion of the decision reads:

WHEREFORE, this Court firmly believes and so holds that the prosecution had equitably proved its case by the evidences [sic] presented, finds the accused guilty beyond reasonable doubt in Criminal Cases Nos. 2755-G, 2756-G and 2757-G, and imposes the penalty in each criminal cases [sic]:

In Criminal Case No. 2755-G, One (1) Year imprisonment and a fine of P36,180.20.

In Criminal Case No 2756-G, One (1) Year imprisonment and a fine of P35,800.00.

In Criminal Case No. 2757-G, One (1) Year imprisonment and a fine of P31,152.60. [12]

The trial court gave full faith and credit to the evidence offered by the prosecution and, disregarding the theory of the defense, it opined and ruled as follows:

Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 was purposely enacted to prevent the proliferation of worthless checks in the mainstream of daily business and to avert not only the undermining the Banking System of the country, but also the infliction of damage and injury upon trade and commerce occasioned by the indiscriminate issuance of such checks. By its very nature, the offenses defined BP 22 are against public interest while the crime of Estafa is against property.

Since the act and commission specified in BP Blg. 22 are not necessarily evil or wrongful from their nature and neither are they inherently illicit and immoral and considering that the law which penalize [sic] such act or commission is a special statutory law, the offenses are considered mala prohibita and considering the rule in cases of mala prohibita, the only inquiry is whether or not the law has been violated (People vs. KIBLER, 106, NY, 321, cited in U.S. vs. Go Chico, 14 Phil. 132) criminal intent is not necessary where the acts are prohibited for reasons of public policy (People vs. Conosa, C.A. 45, O.G. 3953). The defense of good faith and absence of criminal intent would not prosper in prosecution for violation (Res. No. 447, S.1980, Tomayo vs. Desederio, Dec. 8, 1980 & Res. No. 624, S.1981. ESCOBAR vs. SY, Sept. 1, 1981).

x x x

It is of no moment that by the evidence presented by the accused that a pre-existing obligation took place and that the products delivered by the deceased husband of complaining witness was [sic] below par; and that his piggery suffered losses. This situation can be a basis for a civil action which accused actually filed against complaining witness, but it cannot divest of the glaring fact that the checks he issued bounced and was [sic] dishonored.[13]

As to the issue of jurisdiction, the trial court held:

. . .The sworn statement of Maria Negro Trivinio which repudiated the allegation of the accused in questioning the jurisdiction of this Court; between the protestation of the accused that the place of issuance to be at [sic] Daet, Camarines Norte and the positive allegation of witness Maria Negro Trivinio that the checks were delivered at their residence in Gumaca, Quezon by the accused, this Court gives weight and credence to the testimony of said witness and accused is bound by his own evidence.[14]

The petitioner seasonably appealed[15] the decision to the Court of Appeals which docketed the case as CA-G.R. CR No. 13300.

In his Brief in CA-G.R. CR No. 13300, the petitioner contended that the trial court erred: (a) in not dismissing the cases for lack of Jurisdiction; (b) in not dismissing the cases for failure of the prosecution to prove the guilt of the accused beyond reasonable doubt; (c) in not taking into consideration that the liability of the accused should have been civil in nature and not criminal; and (d) in not disregarding the testimony of Maria Negro vda. de Trivinio since it is not clear and convincing and is incredible.[16]

In its challenged decision[17] of 11 August 1994, the Court of Appeals rejected these claims of the petitioner and affirmed in toto the trial court's decision. As to the issue of lack of jurisdiction, the Court of Appeals ruled:

We agree with the lower court. The sworn statement, Exhibit 10, of Maria Trivinio who was presented by accused-appellant as his last witness, in the words of the lower court, "repudiated the allegation of the accused in questioning the jurisdiction of this Court; between the protestation of the accused that the place of issuance to be at [sic] Daet, Camarines Norte and the positive allegation of witness Maria Negro Trivinio that the checks were delivered at their residence in Gumaca, Quezon by the accused, this Court gives weight and credence to the testimony of said witness and accused is bound by his own evidence" (Decision, pp. 16-17; Rollo, pp. 96-98).

At any rate, as held in the case of People vs. Grospe, 157 SCRA 154, a violation of BP 22 is an offense that appears to be continuing in nature. The knowledge on the part of maker or drawer of the check of the insufficiency of his funds, which is an essential ingredient of the offense is by itself a continuing eventuality, whether the accused be within one territory or another. Said the Supreme Court:

In respect of the Bouncing checks case, the offense also appears to be continuing in nature. It is true that the offense is committed by the very fact of its performance (Colmenares vs. Villar, No. L-27126, May 29, 1970, 33 SCRA 186); and that the Bouncing Checks Law penalizes not only the fact of dishonor of a check but also the act of making or drawing and issuance of a bouncing check (People vs. Hon. Veridiano, II, No. L-62243, 132 SCRA 523). The case, therefore, could have been filed also in Bulacan. As held in Que vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. Nos. 75217-18, September 11, 1987 "the determinative factor (in determining venue) is the place of the issuance of the check". However, it is likewise true that, knowledge on the part of the maker or drawer of the check of the insufficiency of his funds, which is an essential ingredient of the offense is by itself a continuing eventuality, whether the accused be within one territory or another (People vs. Hon. Manzanilla, G.R. Nos. 66003-04, December 11, 1987). Accordingly, jurisdiction to take cognizance of the offense also lies in the Regional Trial Court of Pampanga.

And, as pointed out in the Manzanilla case, jurisdiction or venue is determined by the allegation in the Information, which are controlling (Arches vs. Bellosillo, 81 Phil. 190, 193, cited in Tuzon vs. Cruz, No. L-27410, August 28, 1975, 66 SCRA 235). The Information filed herein specifically alleges that the crime was committed in San Femando, Pampanga, and, therefore, within the jurisdiction of the Court below. (at page 164)

This ruling was reiterated in the case of Lim vs. Rodrigo, 167 SCRA 487, where it was held:

Besides, it was held in People v. Hon. Manzanilla, supra, that as "violation of the bad checks act is committed when one 'makes or draws and issues any checks [sic] to apply on account or for value, knowing at the time of issue that he does not have sufficient funds' or having sufficient funds in or credit with the drawee bank x x x shall fail to keep sufficient funds or to maintain a credit to cover the full amount of the check if presented within a period of ninety (90) days from the date appearing thereon, for which reason it is dishonored by the drawee bank," "knowledge" is an essential ingredient of the offense charged. As defined by the statute, knowledge, is, by itself, a continuing eventuality, whether the accused be within one territory or another. This being the case, the Regional Trial Court of Baguio City has jurisdiction to try Criminal Case No. 2089-R (688).

Moreover, we ruled in the same case of People v. Hon. Manzanilla, reiterated in People vs. Grospe, supra, that jurisdiction or venue is determined by the allegations in the information. The allegation in the information under consideration that the offense was committed in Baguio City is therefore controlling and sufficient to vest jurisdiction upon the Regional Trial Court of Baguio City. (at pages 492-493).

In the case at bench it appears that the three (3) checks were deposited in Lucena City.[18]

As to the second error wherein the petitioner asserted that the checks were issued "as a guarantee only for the feeds delivered to him" and that there is no estafa if a check is issued in payment of a pre-existing obligation, the Court of Appeals pointed out that the petitioner obviously failed to distinguish a violation of B.P. Blg. 22 from estafa under Article 315 (2) [d] of the Revised Penal Code.[19] It further stressed that B.P. Blg. 22 applies even in cases where dishonored checks were issued as a guarantee or for deposit only, for it makes no distinction as to whether the checks within its contemplation are issued in payment of an obligation or merely to guarantee the said obligation and the history of its enactment evinces the definite legislative intent to make the prohibition all-embracing.[20]

As to the contention that the prosecution failed to prove that at the time of the drawing and issuance of the checks the petitioner had insufficient funds at the drawee bank to cover the face value of the checks, the Court of Appeals held that the mere issuance of a dishonored check gives rise to the presumption of knowledge on the part of the drawer that he issued the check without sufficient funds.[21]

The Court of Appeals also saw no reason to disregard the testimony of Maria Negro.

Still unsatisfied with the decision, the petitioner filed this petition for review. In addition to reiterating the arguments he raised before the Court of Appeals, the petitioner asserts that the Court of Appeals erred in applying the doctrine that the mere issuance of a bad check is a crime in itself.

The petitioner admits that the checks he issued were dishonored. His main defense as to the dishonored checks is that they were issued not for value but for accommodation or guarantee and invokes our ruling in Magno vs. Court of Appeals,[22] where we held that there was no violation of B.P. Blg. 22 where the bounced check was issued to cover a required warranty deposit. He also cites Ministry Circular No. 4 issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on 15 December 1981, the pertinent portion of which reads:

2.3.4. Where issuance of bouncing check is neither estafa nor violation of B.P. Blg. 22.

Where the check is issued as part of an arrangement to guarantee or secure the payment of the obligation, whether pre-existing or not, the drawer is not criminally liable for either estafa or violation of B.P. Blg. 22.

It was subsequently reversed by Ministry Circular No. 12 issued on 8 August 1984, which admitted its misinterpretation of B.P. Blg. 22. The pertinent portion of the latter reads:

Henceforth, conforming with the rule that an administrative agency having interpreting authority may reverse its administrative interpretation of a statute, but that its new interpretation applies only prospectively (Waterbury Savings Bank vs. Danaher, 128 Conn. 476; 20 a2d 455 (1941), in all cases involving violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 where the check in question is issued after this date, the claim that the check is issued as a guarantee or part of an arrangement to secure an obligation or to facilitate collection will no longer be considered as a valid defense.

The petitioner also urges us to apply our ruling in Co vs. Court of Appeals,[23] where we held that dishonored checks issued prior to 8 August 1984 to guarantee or secure payment of an obligation, whether pre-existing or not, are governed by Circular No. 4 of 15 December 1981 of the DOJ and the drawer thereof cannot be liable for the violation of B.P. Blg. 22.

In the resolution of 3l May l995,[24] we denied the petition for failure of the petitioner to show any reversible error committed by the Court of Appeals. The petitioner sought a reconsideration primarily on the basis of Co vs. Court of Appeals.[25] In our resolution of 7 August 1995,[26] we granted the motion for reconsideration, reinstated the petition and required the respondents to comment on the petition.

In its comment, the Office of the Solicitor General countered that the trial court had jurisdiction over the cases in as much as the questioned checks were delivered to Manuel Trivinio in Gumaca, Quezon, and cited in support thereof People vs. Yabut.[27] It further argued that all the elements of B.P. Blg. 22 are present in these cases. The petitioner's knowledge of insufficient funds is legally presumed from the fact of dishonor; and the defense that the dishonored checks were issued as guarantee to secure a pre-existing obligation is without merit pursuant to the rule laid down in Que vs. People.[28]

We sustain the petitioner's conviction.

Violation of B.P. Blg. 22 is in the nature of a continuing crime. Venue is determined by the place where the elements of making, issuing, or drawing of the check and delivery thereof are committed. Thus, as explained in People vs. Yabut,[29] "[t]he theory is that a person indicted with a transitory offense may be validly tried in any Jurisdiction where the offense was in part committed. x x x The place where the bills were written, signed, or dated does not necessarily fix or determine the place where they were executed. What is of decisive importance is the delivery thereof. The delivery of the instrument is the final act essential to its consummation as an obligation."

In her testimony, Maria Negro categorically stated that the three checks were delivered by the petitioner to their residence in Gumaca, Quezon.

It is well-settled in criminal jurisprudence that where the issue is one of credibility of witnesses, the appellate court will generally not disturb the findings of the trial court considering it was in a better position to settle such issue. Indeed, the trial court has the advantage of hearing the witness and observing his conduct during trial, circumstances which carry a great weight in appreciating his credibility.[30] We, see no oversight on the part of the trial court in giving credence to the testimony of Maria Negro. Besides, we have repeatedly ruled that the testimony of a lone witness, when credible and trustworthy, is sufficient to convict.[31]

Besides, it is not without convincing reason to believe that delivery of the checks was in fact made at Gumaca, Quezon, it being the place of business of the late Manuel Trivinio and from where the animal feeds were delivered. Consequently, payment should be considered effected at Gumaca, Quezon.[32]

The petitioner's defense of accommodation cannot exculpate him from his wrongdoing. The case of Magno is inapplicable to him. The material operative facts therein obtaining are different from those established in the instant petition. In Magno, the bounced checks were issued to cover a "warranty deposit" in a lease contract, where the lessor-supplier was also the financier of the deposit. It was a modus operandi whereby the supplier of the goods is also able to sell or lease the same goods at the same time privately financing those in desperate need so they may be accommodated. The maker of the check thus becomes an unwilling victim of a lease agreement under the guise of a lease-purchase agreement. The maker did not benefit at all from the deposit, since the checks were used as collateral for an accommodation and not to cover the receipt of an actual account or credit for value. Also, in Magno, the payee in the former was made aware of the insufficiency of the funds prior to the issuance of the checks.

Equally untenable is the petitioner's argument that since he issued the checks prior to 8 August 1984 as accommodation or security, he is similarly situated with Co in the Co case. In Co, we held that the rubber checks issued prior to 8 August 1984 as a guarantee or as part of an arrangement to secure an obligation or to facilitate collection was a valid defense in view of Ministry Circular No. 4 of the Ministry of Justice. In the case of the petitioner, although he issued the checks prior to such date, they were issued in payment of his indebtedness, and not for the accommodation of the Trivinios nor security of their indebtedness.

Accommodation pertains to an arrangement made as a favor to another, not upon a consideration received. On the other hand, guarantee refers to a promise to answer the debt of another, in case the latter should fail to do so.[33] Neither occurred in this case.

The petitioner's theory of accommodation is debunked by the following circumstances: (1) The checks were issued after all deliveries were made at such time when the petitioner's obligation was already in existence; (2) The sum of the checks equalled the petitioner's total obligation in the amount of P51,566.40; (3) The petitioner prepared a statement of account,[34] where the checks issued were applied to his accounts due to Manuel Trivinio; (4) The act of the petitioner in issuing three checks of different dates is inconsistent to his claim[35] that Manuel Trivinio requested a post-dated check to show to his creditors; and (5) After the checks bounced, the petitioner offered a property for its replacement.[36] All these incidents verily indicate that the checks were issued as payment and for value and not for accommodation. Needless to state, the checks failed to bear any statement "for accommodation" or "for guarantee" to show the petitioner's intent.

The fact that the object of the contract, the animal feeds, was not of good quality is irrelevant in the prosecution of a case involving B.P. Blg. 22, for the said law was enacted to prohibit, under pain of penal sanctions, the making of worthless checks and putting them in circulation. It is not the non-payment of an obligation which the law punishes, but the act of making and issuing a check that is dishonored upon presentment for payment.[37]

WHEREFORE, the instant petition is DENIED, and the challenged decision of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 62, Gumaca, Quezon, in Criminal Cases Nos. 2755-G, 2756-G, and 2757-G is hereby AFFIRMED.

Costs against the petitioner.

SO ORDERED.

Narvasa C.J. (Chairman), Melo, Francisco, and Panganiban, JJ., concur.



[1] Rollo, 8-20. Per Montenegro, J., with Gonzaga-Reyes and Vasquez, Jr., JJ., concurring.

[2] Original Records (OR), Criminal Case No. 2755-G, 541-554.

[3] Id., 22.

[4] OR, Criminal Case No. 2755-G, 2.

[5] Id., Criminal Case No. 2756-G, 2

[6] Id., Criminal Case No.2757-G, 2.

[7] Rollo, 9-10

[8] OR, Criminal Case No. 2755-G, 503.

[9] Id., 532-533

[10] Exhibits "10," "10-B" and "10-C."

[11] OR, Criminal Case No.2755-G, 541-544

[12] Id., 554.

[13] OR, Criminal Case No. 2755-G, 552-553

[14] Id., 553

[15] Id., 570

[16] Rollo, 12-13.

[17] See note no. 1

[18] Rollo, 13-15

[19] Citing Nierras vs. Dacuycuy, 181 SCRA 1 [1990]

[20] Citing Que vs. People, 154 SCRA 160 [1987]

[21] Citing Nierras vs. Dacuycuy, supra note 19; and People vs. Veridiano, 132 SCRA 523 [1984]

[22] 210 SCRA 471[1992].

[23] 227 SCRA 444 [1993]

[24] Rollo, 166.

[25] Supra note 23.

[26] Rollo, 175.

[27] 76 SCRA 624 [1977].

[28] 154 SCRA 160 [1987].

[29] Supra, note 27

[30] People vs. Tranca, 235 SCRA 455 [1994].

[31] People vs. De Paz, 224 SCRA 468 [1993]; People vs. Hangad, 227 SCRA 244 [1993].

[32] Supra note 27, citing Article 1251 of the Civil Code of the Philippines: "[I]f the undertaking is to deliver a determinate thing, the payment shall be made whenever the thing might be at the moment the obligation was constituted."

[33] FEDIRICO B. MORENO, Philippine Law Dictionary, 16 421[1988 ed.]; see Town Savings and Loan Bank Inc. vs. Court of Appeals, 223 SCRA 459 [1993].

[34] Exhibit "3".

[35] TSN, 31 March 1989, 23.

[36] Exhibit "C."

[37] Caram vs. Contreras, 237 SCRA 724 [1994].