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Bun Tiong vs. Balboa Case Digest


A separate proceeding for the recovery of civil liability in cases of violations of B.P. No. 22 is allowed when the civil case is filed ahead of the criminal case.

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Facts: 

Balboa filed two (2) cases against Sps. Benito Lo Bun Tiong and Caroline Siok Ching Teng:

(1) A CIVIL CASE for sum of money based on the three (3) post-dated checks issued by Caroline in the total amount of P5,175,250.00. The Regional Trial Court found the spouses liable and ordered them to pay the amount.

(2) A CRIMINAL CASE for violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 against Caroline covering the said three checks. The Municipal Trial Court acquitted Caroline but held her civilly liable. On appeal, the RTC modified the MTC Decision by deleting the award of civil damages.

The spouses now comes to court charging Balboa with forum-shopping.


Issue:

Whether or not the Balboa's act of filing civil and criminal cases constitute forum-shopping.


Held:

Forum shopping is the institution of two or more actions or proceedings grounded on the same cause, on the supposition that one or the other court would render a favorable disposition.  It is usually resorted to by a party against whom an adverse judgment or order has been issued in one forum, in an attempt to seek and possibly to get a favorable opinion in another forum, other than by an appeal or a special civil action for certiorari.

There is forum shopping when the following elements concur: (1) identity of the parties or, at least, of the parties who represent the same interest in both actions; (2) identity of the rights asserted and relief prayed for, as the latter is founded on the same set of facts; and (3) identity of the two preceding particulars, such that any judgment rendered in the other action will amount to res judicata in the action under consideration or will constitute litis pendentia.

In Hyatt Industrial Manufacturing Corp. v. Asia Dynamic Electrix Corp., the Court ruled that there is identity of parties and causes of action between a civil case for the recovery of sum of money as a result of the issuance of bouncing checks, and a criminal case for the prosecution of a B.P. No. 22 violation.  Thus, it ordered the dismissal of the civil action so as to prevent double payment of the claim.

In the said case, the Court applied Supreme Court Circular No. 57-97 effective September 16, 1997, which provides that "the criminal action for violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 shall be deemed to necessarily include the corresponding civil action, and no reservation to file such action separately shall be allowed or recognized."

This was later adopted as Rule 111(b) of the 2000 Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, to wit: (b) The criminal action for violation of Batas Pambansa Blg. 22 shall be deemed to include the corresponding civil action. No reservation to file such civil action separately shall be allowed.

The foregoing, however, is not applicable as the civil and criminal case were filed on February 24, 1997 and on July 21, 1997, respectively, prior to the adoption of Supreme Court Circular No. 57-97 on September 16, 1997.  At the time of filing of the cases, the governing rule is Section 1, Rule 111 of the 1985 Rules of Court, to wit:

SEC. 1.  Institution of criminal and civil actions. – When a criminal action is instituted, the civil action for the recovery of civil liability is impliedly instituted with the criminal action, unless the offended party waives the civil action, reserves his right to institute it separately, or institutes the civil action prior to the criminal action.

Since Balboa instituted the civil action prior to the criminal action, then the civil case may proceed independently of the criminal cases and there is no forum shopping to speak of. Even under the amended rules, a separate proceeding for the recovery of civil liability in cases of violations of B.P. No. 22 is allowed when the civil case is filed ahead of the criminal case. Even then, the Rules encourage the consolidation of the civil and criminal cases. (Bun Tiong vs. Balboa, G.R. No. 158177, January 28, 2008)

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