Applicable Law and Jurisprudence on the Propriety of filing a separate civil action based on BP 22

The Supreme Court has settled the issue of whether or not a violation of BP 22 can give rise to civil liability in Banal v. Judge Tadeo, Jr.,[17] holding:

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         Article 20 of the New Civil Code provides:

   Every person who, contrary to law, wilfully or negligently causes damage to another, shall indemnify the latter for the same.

Regardless, therefore, of whether or not a special law so provides, indemnification of the offended party may be had on account of the damage, loss or injury directly suffered as a consequence of the wrongful act of another.  The indemnity which a person is sentenced to pay forms an integral part of the penalty imposed by law for the commission of a crime (Quemel v. Court of Appeals, 22 SCRA 44, citing Bagtas v. Director of Prisons, 84 Phil 692).  Every crime gives rise to a penal or criminal action for the punishment of the guilty party, and also to civil action for the restitution of the thing, repair of the damage, and indemnification for the losses (United States v. Bernardo, 19 Phil 265).

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         Civil liability to the offended party cannot thus be denied.  The payee of the check is entitled to receive the payment of money for which the worthless check was issued.   Having been caused the damage, she is entitled to recompense.

         Surely, it could not have been the intendment of the framers of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 to leave the offended private party defrauded and empty-handed by excluding the civil liability of the offender, giving her only the remedy, which in many cases results in a Pyrrhic victory, of having to file a separate civil suit. To do so may leave the offended party unable to recover even the face value of the check due her, thereby unjustly enriching the errant drawer at the expense of the payee.  The protection which the law seeks to provide would, therefore, be brought to naught.

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          However, there is no independent civil action to recover the value of a bouncing check issued in contravention of BP 22. This is clear from Rule 111 of the Rules of Court, effectiveDecember 1, 2000, which relevantly provides:

Section 1. Institution of criminal and civil actions. – (a) When a criminal action is instituted, the civil action for the recovery of civil liability arising from the offense charged shall be deemed instituted with the criminal action unless the offended party waives the civil action, reserves the right to institute it separately or institutes the civil action prior to the criminal action.

The reservation of the right to institute separately the civil action shall be made before the prosecution starts presenting its evidence and under circumstances affording the offended party a reasonable opportunity to make such reservation.

When the offended party seeks to enforce civil liability against the accused by way of moral, nominal, temperate, or exemplary damages without specifying the amount thereof in the complaint or information, the filing fees therefor shall constitute a first lien on the judgment awarding such damages.

Where the amount of damages, other than actual, is specified in the complaint or information, the corresponding filing fees shall be paid by the offended party upon the filing thereof in court.

Except as otherwise provided in these Rules, no filing fees shall be required for actual damages.

No counterclaim, cross-claim or third-party complaint may be filed by the accused in the criminal case, but any cause of action which could have been the subject thereof may be litigated in a separate civil action. (1a)

(b) The criminal action for violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 shall be deemed to include the corresponding civil action. No reservation to file such civil action separately shall be allowed.[18]

Upon filing of the aforesaid joint criminal and civil actions, the offended party shall pay in full the filing fees based on the amount of the check involved, which shall be considered as the actual damages claimed. Where the complaint or information also seeks to recover liquidated, moral, nominal, temperate or exemplary damages, the offended party shall pay the filing fees based on the amounts alleged therein. If the amounts are not so alleged but any of these damages are subsequently awarded by the court, the filing fees based on the amount awarded shall constitute a first lien on the judgment.

Where the civil action has been filed separately and trial thereof has not yet commenced, it may be consolidated with the criminal action upon application with the court trying the latter case.  If the application is granted, the trial of both actions shall proceed in accordance with section 2 of the Rule governing consolidation of the civil and criminal actions.

Section 3. When civil action may proceed independently. – In the cases provided in Articles 32, 33, 34 and 2176 of the Civil Code of thePhilippines, the independent civil action may be brought by the offended party. It shall proceed independently of the criminal action and shall require only a preponderance of evidence. In no case, however, may the offended party recover damages twice for the same act or omission charged in the criminal action.

The aforequoted provisions of the Rules of Court, even if not yet in effect when Chan commenced Civil Case No. 915-00 on August 3, 2000, are nonetheless applicable. It is axiomatic that the retroactive application of procedural laws does not violate any right of a person who may feel adversely affected, nor is it constitutionally objectionable. The reason is simply that, as a general rule, no vested right may attach to, or arise from, procedural laws.[19]Any new rules may validly be made to apply to cases pending at the time of their promulgation, considering that no party to an action has a vested right in the rules of procedure,[20] except that in criminal cases, the changes do not retroactively apply if they permit or require a lesser quantum of evidence to convict than what is required at the time of the commission of the offenses, because such retroactivity would be unconstitutional for being ex post facto under the Constitution.[21]

Moreover, the application of the rule would not be precluded by the violation of any assumed vested right, because the new rule was adopted from Supreme Court Circular 57-97 that took effect on November 1, 1997.

Supreme Court Circular 57-97 states:

Any provision of law or Rules of Court to the contrary notwithstanding, the following rules and guidelines shall henceforth be observed in the filing and prosecution of all criminal cases under Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 which penalizes the making or drawing and issuance of a check without funds or credit:

1. The criminal action for violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 shall be deemed to necessarily include the corresponding civil action, and no reservation to file such civil action separately shall be allowed or recognized.[22]

2. Upon the filing of the aforesaid joint criminal and civil actions, the offended party shall pay in full the filing fees based upon the amount of the check involved which shall be considered as the actual damages claimed, in accordance with the schedule of fees in Section 7 (a) and Section 8 (a), Rule 141 of the Rules of Court as last amended by Administrative Circular No. 11-94 effective August 1, 1994. Where the offended party further seeks to enforce against the accused civil liability by way of liquidated, moral, nominal, temperate or exemplary damages, he shall pay the corresponding filing fees therefor based on the amounts thereof as alleged either in the complaint or information. If not so alleged but any of these damages are subsequently awarded by the court, the amount of such fees shall constitute a first lien on the judgment.

3. Where the civil action has heretofore been filed separately and trial thereof has not yet commenced, it may be consolidated with the criminal action upon application with the court trying the latter case. If the application is granted, the trial of both actions shall proceed in accordance with the pertinent procedure outlined in Section 2 (a) of Rule 111 governing the proceedings in the actions as thus consolidated.

4. This Circular shall be published in two (2) newspapers of general circulation and shall take effect onNovember 1, 1997.

The reasons for issuing Circular 57-97 were amply explained in Hyatt Industrial Manufacturing Corporation v. Asia Dynamic Electrix Corporation,[23] thus:

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We agree with the ruling of the Court of Appeals that upon filing of the criminal cases for violation of B.P. 22, the civil action for the recovery of the amount of the checks was also impliedly instituted under Section 1(b) of Rule 111 of the 2000 Rules on Criminal Procedure. Under the present revised Rules, the criminal action for violation of B.P. 22 shall be deemed to include the corresponding civil action.  The reservation to file a separate civil action is no longer needed. The Rules provide:

Section 1.  Institution of criminal and civil actions. —

(a)     x x x

(b)    The criminal action for violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 shall be deemed to include the corresponding civil action.  No reservation to file such civil action separately shall be allowed.

Upon filing of the aforesaid joint criminal and civil actions, the offended party shall pay in full the filing fees based on the amount of the check involved, which shall be considered as the actual damages claimed.  Where the complaint or information also seeks to recover liquidated, moral, nominal, temperate or exemplary damages, the offended party shall pay additional filing fees based on the amounts alleged therein.  If the amounts are not so alleged but any of these damages are subsequently awarded by the court, the filing fees based on the amount awarded shall constitute a first lien on the judgment.

Where the civil action has been filed separately and trial thereof has not yet commenced, it may be consolidated with the criminal action upon application with the court trying the latter case.  If the application is granted, the trial of both actions shall proceed in accordance with section 2 of this Rule governing consolidation of the civil and criminal actions.

The foregoing rule was adopted from Circular No. 57-97 of this Court. It specifically states that the criminal action for violation of B.P. 22 shall be deemed to include the corresponding civil action.  It also requires the complainant to pay in full the filing fees based on the amount of the check involved. Generally, no filing fees are required for criminal cases, but because of the inclusion of the civil action in complaints for violation of B.P. 22, the Rules require the payment of docket fees upon the filing of the complaint.  This rule was enacted to help declog court dockets which are filled with B.P. 22 cases as creditors actually use the courts as collectors.  Because ordinarily no filing fee is charged in criminal cases for actual damages, the payee uses the intimidating effect of a criminal charge to collect his credit gratis and sometimes, upon being paid, the trial court is not even informed thereof. The inclusion of the civil action in the criminal case is expected to significantly lower the number of cases filed before the courts for collection based on dishonored checks.  It is also expected to expedite the disposition of these cases.  Instead of instituting two separate cases, one for criminal and another for civil, only a single suit shall be filed and tried.  It should be stressed that the policy laid down by the Rules is to discourage the separate filing of the civil action. The Rules even prohibit the reservation of a separate civil action, which means that one can no longer file a separate civil case after the criminal complaint is filed in court.  The only instance when separate proceedings are allowed is when the civil action is filed ahead of the criminal case.  Even then, the Rules encourage the consolidation of the civil and criminal cases.  We have previously observed that a separate civil action for the purpose of recovering the amount of the dishonored checks would only prove to be costly, burdensome and time-consuming for both parties and would further delay the final disposition of the case.  This multiplicity of suits must be avoided.  Where petitioners’ rights may be fully adjudicated in the proceedings before the trial court, resort to a separate action to recover civil liability is clearly unwarranted. In view of this special rule governing actions for violation of B.P. 22, Article 31 of the Civil Code cited by the trial court will not apply to the case at bar.[24]

The CA’s reliance on DMPI Employees Credit Association v. Velez[25] to give due course to the civil action of Chan independently and separately of Criminal Case No. 275381 was unwarranted. DMPI Employees, which involved a prosecution for estafa, is not on all fours with this case, which is a prosecution for a violation of BP 22. Although the Court has ruled that the issuance of a bouncing check may result in two separate and distinct crimes of estafa and violation of BP 22,[26] the procedures for the recovery of the civil liabilities arising from these two distinct crimes are different and non-interchangeable. In prosecutions of estafa, the offended party may opt to reserve his right to file a separate civil action, or may institute an independent action based on fraud pursuant to Article 33 of the Civil Code,[27] as DMPI Employees has allowed. In prosecutions of violations of BP 22, however, the Court has adopted a policy to prohibit the reservation or institution of a separate civil action to claim the civil liability arising from the issuance of the bouncing check upon the reasons delineated in Hyatt Industrial Manufacturing Corporation, supra.

          To repeat, Chan’s separate civil action to recover the amount of the check involved in the prosecution for the violation of BP 22 could not be independently maintained under both Supreme Court Circular 57-97 and the aforequoted provisions of Rule 111 of the Rules of Court, notwithstanding the allegations of fraud and deceit.

http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence/2011/february2011/157547.htm

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About Erineus

Born on December 28, 1965, Surallah, South Cotabato, Southern Mindanao, Philippines.
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