People are swayed into thinking that violations of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 otherwise known as Bouncing Checks Law merely involves transactions that go above private interest and nothing more. This is not true. This transgression creates not only a wrongful act to the holder or the payee of the check but it injures the interest of the public at large. Bouncing Checks Law has been enacted to address the harmful practice of issuing bouncing checks as payment for pre-existing obligation and which will adversely affect and pollute the channels of trade and commerce. Allowing valueless commercial papers to circulate is really pernicious and inimical to the welfare of the society and the public interest.
What is punished by the B.P. 22 is the mere making and issuing worthless checks or commercial papers without regard to the purpose or the criminal intent of the person who issued it. The Court is consistent with its decisions that the cause or reason why a person issued the check is not important in the determination of accused culpability. So even if the person issued the check without the slightest thought of doing any harm or crime or even if he issued the check in behalf of the corporation to which is employed, he is still liable under the law. The mere act of his having issued the check is malum prohibitum provided that the next preceding elements are present and properly proved.
To reiterate the elements of a violation of BP 22 as contained in the above-quoted provision, a violation exists where:
1. a person makes or draws and issues a check to apply on account or for value;
2. the person who makes or draws and issues the check knows at the time of issue that he does not have sufficient funds in or credit with the drawee bank for the full payment of the check upon its presentment; and
3. 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 any valid reason, ordered the bank to stop payment. (Rigor v. People, 485 Phil. 125, 139 (2004)
What most people fear with violation of B.P. 22 is the issuance of a warrant of arrest after the case is filed. This is something that should not be worried about because as long as the person accused of having transgressed the law appears to the court whenever the latter requires it, warrant for the arrest of the accused will not be ordered. It is also worth mentioning that cases involving its violations are filed only with the Municipal or Metropolitan Trial Courts regardless of the amount involved. As such the court is not authorized to issue hold departure orders even at the strong request of the petitioner. It should be remembered that violations of B.P. 22 is under the exclusive jurisdiction of first level courts and not among the criminal cases covered by Circular No. 39-97 dated June 19, 1997 of this Court where hold departure orders may be issued.
It is also worth pointing out that while payment of filing fees is not generally required before an action is commenced, these fees must be filed for B.P. 22 cases. Significantly, under the present Rules of Court, complainants in B.P. 22 cases have to pay filing fees upon the commencement of such cases in court to protect their interest. This rule was enacted to help declog court dockets which are filled with [BP] 22 cases as creditors actually use the courts as collectors. Because ordinarily no filing fee is charged in 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 (Hyatt Industrial Manufacturing Corp. v. Asia Dynamic Electric Corp., G.R. No. 163597, July 29, 2005, 465 SCRA 454, 460-461).
Another important feature that needs discussion is the rule of preference in the application of the penalties provided for in B.P. 22. Supreme Court Administrative Circular No. 12-2000, as clarified by Administrative Circular No. 13-2001, established the following alternative penalties for its violation, to wit: (a) imprisonment of not less than 30 days but not more than one year; or (b) a fine of not less than but not more than double the amount of the check which fine shall in no case exceedP200,000; or (c) both such fine and imprisonment at the discretion of the court. As clarified by Administrative Circular 13-2001, 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 here the circumstances of the case, for instance, clearly indicate good faith or a clear mistake of fact without taint of negligence, the imposition of a fine alone may be considered as the more appropriate penalty. This rule of preference does not foreclose the possibility of imprisonment for violators of B.P. 22. Neither does it defeat the legislative intent behind the law. 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, Administrative Circular No. 12-2000 ought not to be deemed a hindrance.( Administrative Circular No. 13-2001, cited in Alberto Lim vs. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 143231, October 26, 2001, pp. 7-8.)