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ESTAFA FOR ISSUANCE OF BUM JOINT CHECKS THAT WERE REPLACED BY SOLO PERSONAL CHECKS OF THE CO-SIGNATORY

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Cel De Castro


Arresto Menor
Dear Litigators!

I think I posted this in the wrong forum previously... Anyway, I would very much appreciate your expert evaluation.

My father had a joint checking account with a colleague, which they opened for convenience and expediency, since his colleague is tasked to find an investor to finance their participation in the bidding for 2 projects. My father is the authorized officer of the company that is qualified to bid for these projects. Considering that it's a joint checking account and they were pressed for time in complying with the financial requirements in bidding for the projects, my father entrusted to his co-signatory signed blank joint account checks.

The co-signatory timely found an Investor who released P500,000 (to the co-signatory) for the purchase of bidding documents, bonds, etc. for the 2 projects.

Months thereafter, my father discovered that his co-signatory issued their joint account checks to this Investor. To his surprise, it was for the total sum of almost P4M and for a specific date, both of which he did not authorize.

In view of this, my father met with the Investor and his co-signatory to object to the issuance of the checks, the amount, and the maturity date of the checks. After some discussion, co-signatory and the Investor convinced and assured my father that the checks were issued (and received by the Investor) merely as guarantee that should the company my father represented win the contract for the 2 projects and the mobilization fund is released to the company, the Investor will be given the sum represented by the checks which shall be substantially deductible from the co-signatory's share (the service fee for finding a financier), the rest as a return of her P500,000 INVESTMENT (no agreement that this sum is refundable in case they do not win the bidding), and she will be entitled to sub-contract the projects for a percentage of the contract price for work accomplished.

Unfortunately, out of the 2 contracts, the company my father represented was awarded with only 1. The Investor, however, told them that she is not interested if she will be sub-contracting only 1 instead of 2 projects. So their relationship ended (no animosity as far as my father was concerned; there was just no reason to communicate further).

Years thereafter, when my father attempted to get his NBI clearance, he found out that he and his co-signatory were sued by the Investor for BP 22 and Estafa by issuing bum checks. Upon finding out, he voluntarily submitted himself to the jurisdiction of the court (home town of the Investor) and pleaded not guilty.

Per Investor's testimony in open court (BP 22 and Estafa), my father found out that his co-signatory replaced their joint account checks with personal checks (of the co-signatory only) the same day the Investor went to the co-signatory's house to notify her that the joint account checks bounced. These replacements checks also bounced and 2 years thereafter, Investor sued my father and the co-signatory as conspirators for the joint account checks AND for the replacement personal checks of the co-signatory.

With the foregoing, may I seek your opinion on: 1) Whether my father can be convicted with some semblance of regularity and basis for estafa under Art 315, par. 2(d) of the RPC even though the Investor testified in open court, more than once, that she released the money (or at least P1M out of the almost P4M) MONTHS BEFORE she received the checks and that she released a total of almost P4M because my father looked like good person and she knew they were awarded a contract for a DIFFERENT project (the contract for this other project existed and is not being contested). 2) Despite of the LACK of written notice of dishonor to my father, can the court rule that there was deceit because of the allegations in the complaint-affidavit and the assumption/analysis that being a businesswoman, Investor would not have parted with her money if not deceived by my father. 3) What possible strong legal defenses can my father invoke for the civil liability? 4) Is replacement of the joint account checks by the co-signatory, which complainant accepted, with her personal checks have any relevance to my father's possible civil liability? Investor was asked by the judge during cross examination if she understood, being a businesswoman, that the replacement of the joint account checks and her acceptance of the personal checks of one of the signatories of the joint account checks meant that she can only go after the issuing co-signatory and cannot anymore hold my father liable for the sum in question to which she categorically responded "Yes" in open court.

WOULD APPRECIATE YOUR EXPERT ASSESSMENT OF THE POSSIBILITY OF MY FATHER BEING CONVICTED FOR ESTAFA UNDER ART. 315, PAR. 2(D), OF THE RPC BASED ON THE ABOVE.

I am concerned because (please note that my father was acquitted in the BP 22 case because of lack of notice of dishonor) the Judge denied our Demurrer in the Estafa case on the ground that:
1) there is "probably" deceit because the Investor, being a businesswoman, would not have parted with her money if not deceived by the accused.
2) Judge also ignored the testimony on different trial dates of the Investor herself that she released the money months before she received the checks and ruled that the complaint-affidavit states that Investor parted with her money because of the checks.

Incidentally, the Information filed by the prosecutor's office alleged "encashment" of the checks that bounced but the complaint-affidavit which alleges that Investor received postdated checks. The dates mentioned in both documents are MONTHS AFTER the date (she invoked and identified a receipt/voucher in open court that is not signed by my father) mentioned by the Investor as the date when she allegedly released the initial P1M+.

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