Supreme Court clarifies B.P. 22 circular

Recently, the Supreme Court came out with Administrative Circular 12-2000 which, ostensibly, removed the penalty of imprisonment against those who are found guilty of violating B.P. 22 (The Bouncing Checks Law).  This circular caused a bit of confusion and put in jeopardy the acceptance of checks as a means of commercial payment. To ease the worries and concerns, the Supreme Court came out with a clarification in its official website. For the benefit of educating the general public, we now quote the said article verbatim:

“When SC Administrative Circular 12-2000 concerning the penalty for violation of B.P. 22 or the Bouncing Checks Law was issued last November 21, 2000, members of the Judiciary, as well as the general public, asked for its clarification. Some called the Circular a form of “judicial legislation” which amended B.P. 22 by “deleting” the penalty of subsidiary imprisonment for persons who violate this law. Administrative Circular 13-2001, issued today by Chief Justice Davide, clarifies Circular 12-2000, particularly the authority of judges to impose the penalty of imprisonment for B.P. 22 violations and impose subsidiary imprisonment once a person found guilty of violating the provisions of the said law is unable to pay the fine sentenced. The Circular said that the “clear tenor and intention of Administrative Circular 12-2000 is not to remove imprisonment as an alternative penalty, but to lay down a rule of preference in the application of the penalties provided for in B.P. 22.” 

This means that “where the circumstances of both the offense and the offender clearly indicate good faith or a clear mistake of fact without taint of negligence, the imposition of a fine alone should be considered as the more appropriate penalty.” The decision to impose only a fine, according to the Circular, rests solely on the Judge. The Court stressed that “should the Judge decide that imprisonment is the more appropriate penalty, Administrative Circular 12-2000 ought not be deemed a hindrance.” 

Thus, Administrative Circular 12-2000 does not remove imprisonment as an alternative penalty for violations of B.P. 22. The Court also stressed that “should only a fine be imposed and the accused be unable to pay the fine, there is no legal obstacle to the application of the Revised Penal Code provisions on subsidiary imprisonment.”