by Atty. Karissa Tolentino

The law that punishes bounced checks is Batas Pambansa Bldg. 22 (BP 22) or the Bouncing Checks Law. The full title of BP 22 is: “An Act Penalizing the Making or Drawing and Issuance of a Check Without Sufficient Funds or Credit and for Other Purposes.” This is a special penal law that governs the criminal liability arising from the issuance of bounced checks.

The reason or rationale for BP 22:

It is not the nonpayment of an obligation that the law punishes but the making or issuing of worthless or bum checks and putting them in circulation. Congress enacted BP 22 in order to maintain public confidence in commercial transactions. The law punishes the act not as offense against property, but an offense against public order.

Things you should know about BP22:

The maker or issuer is not automatically liable simply because the check “bounced”. A check generally “bounces” when dishonored upon presentment because the account closed, or drawn against insufficient funds. When this happens, the holder must first send a written Notice of Dishonor to the maker or issuer. The Notice of Dishonor notifies the maker or issuer of the fact of dishonor, and he has 5 days from receipt to pay the value of the check or make arrangements for the payment thereof.

As a rule, filling fees are not required for criminal cases. However, for B.P. 22 cases, just like in civil cases, upon filing of the case in court, the complainant is required to pay the filing fees based on the value of the check and the damages claimed.

The “scare” factor of BP22 is now diminished. The court of jurisdiction cannot issue a warrant of arrest unless the accused fails to appear in court. All violations of the Bouncing Checks Law, regardless of the amount involved, are filed only with the municipal/ metropolitan trial courts (MTC) and this court has no power to issue hold-departure order (HDO).

Courts now have the discretion of imposing: (a) imprisonment only; (b) fine only; OR (c) both. It is possible that only a fine, without imprisonment, is imposed. But should the Judge decide that imprisonment is the more appropriate penalty, the Supreme court clarified that the said circular should not be deemed a hindrance to the imposition of imprisonment. (Supreme Court Administrative Circular 12- 2000)xs

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