• Criminal exoneration in BP 22 does not mean automatic civil extinction

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    Persida Acosta

    Dear PAO,
    Is it possible for a person who has been exonerated from accusations involving a violation of BP 22 to still be made to answer civilly? Please e nlighten me.
    Jowen

    Dear Jowen,
    Batas Pambansa Bilang 22 (BP 22) or the Anti-Bouncing Checks Law is a criminal decree. It essentially penalizes the act of making and issuing a worthless check. To be held criminally liable, the existence of the following elements must be proven: (1) The making, drawing, and issuance of any check to apply for account or for value; (2) The knowledge of the maker, drawer, or issuer that at the time of issue there were no sufficient funds in or credit with the drawee bank for the payment of such check in full upon its presentment; and (3) The dishonor of the check by the drawee bank for insufficiency of funds or credit or the dishonor for the same reason had not the drawer, without any valid cause, ordered the drawee bank to stop payment.

    A person accused of a criminal offense such as the violation of BP 22 may be exonerated from criminal responsibility if, after trial, it was clearly shown that he did not commit the offense charged or there is reasonable doubt to believe that he committed the same.

    Notwithstanding, he may still be held civilly liable such as when his criminal exoneration is only based on reasonable doubt and there was still sufficient evidence presented and appreciated by the court insofar as his civil responsibility is concerned. Our Supreme Court has clearly explained:|

    “x x x The rule is that every act or omission punishable by law has its accompanying civil liability. The civil aspect of every criminal case is based on the principle that every person criminally liable is also civilly liable. If the accused, however, is not found to be criminally liable, it does not necessarily mean that he will not likewise be held civilly liable because extinction of the penal action does not carry with it the extinction of the civil action. This rule more specifically applies when (a) the acquittal is based on reasonable doubt as only preponderance of evidence is required; (b) the court declares that the liability of the accused is only civil; and (c) the civil liability of the accused does not arise from or is not based upon the crime of which the accused was acquitted. x x x

    It can, therefore, be concluded that if the judgment is conviction of the accused, then the necessary penalties and civil liabilities arising from the offense or crime shall be imposed. On the contrary, if the judgment is of acquittal, then the imposition of the civil liability will depend on whether or not the act or omission from which it might arise exists.

    x x x

    A person acquitted of a criminal charge, however, is not necessarily civilly free because the quantum of proof required in criminal prosecution (proof beyond reasonable doubt) is greater than that required for civil liability (mere preponderance of evidence). In order to be completely free from civil liability, a person’s acquittal must be based on the fact he did not commit the offense. If the acquittal is based merely on reasonable doubt, the accused may still be held civilly liable since this does not mean he did not commit the act complained of. It may only be that the facts proved did not constitute the offense charged. x x x” (Nissan Gallery-Ortigas vs. Felipe, G.R. No. 199067, November 11, 2013, Ponente: Honorable Associate Justice Jose Catral Mendoza; emphasis supplied)

    We hope that we were able to answer your queries. Please be reminded that this advice is based solely on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. Our opinion may vary when other facts are changed or elaborated.

    Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to dearpao@manilatimes.net.

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