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Jose vs Suarez Case Digest


●The validity or invalidity of the interest rate is not determinative of the guilt of respondents in the criminal cases. The cause or reason for the issuance of a check is inconsequential in determining criminal culpability under B.P. Blg. 22. What the law punishes is the issuance of a bouncing check, which is a malum prohibitum, and not the purpose for which it was issued or the terms and conditions relating to its issuance.

● Filing a Motion for Writ of Preliminary Injunction with Temporary Restraining Order with the RTC after a Motion to Suspend Proceedings was denied by the MTC constitute forum shopping. Forum shopping is the act of one party against another, when an adverse judgment has been rendered in one forum, of seeking another and possibly favorable opinion in another forum other than by appeal or by special civil action of certiorari.

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Facts: 

Jose offered to lend money to Spouses Suarez at 1% to 2% interest daily. Spouses Suarez accepted the offer. Later, the interest rate was increased to 5% per day. Spouses Suarez would then issue checks in favor of Jose in payment of the amount borrowed from them with the agreed 5% daily interest.

In 2004, Sps. Suarez filed a Complaint against Jose seeking to nullify the 5% interest per day, alleging that same is iniquitous, contrary to morals, done under vitiated consent and imposed using undue influence by taking improper advantage of their financial distress.

Jose, on the other hand, filed several cases for violation of B.P. Blg. 22 against Sps. Suarez.

Sps. Suarez filed motions to suspend the criminal proceedings on the ground of prejudicial question. They claimed that if the 5% interest per month is nullified and loans are computed at 1% per month, it would mean that the checks subject of the B.P. Blg. 22 cases are not only fully paid but are also in fact overpaid.

The motion to suspend was denied. Hence, Sps. Suarez filed before the RTC a “Motion for Writ of Preliminary Injunction with Temporary Restraining Order” seeking to restrain the MTCCs from further proceeding with the B.P. Blg. 22 cases on the ground of prejudicial question. The RTC granted the motion. CA affirmed. Hence, petitioners appealed.


Issues:

1. Whether or not a prejudicial question exists such that the outcome of the validity of the interest rate is determinative of the guilt or innocence of the respondent spouses in the criminal case.

2. Whether or not respondent spouses are guilty of forum shopping.


Held:

1. No. There is none.

A prejudicial question has two essential elements:  (i) the civil action involves an issue similar or intimately related to the issue raised in the criminal action; and (ii) the resolution of such issue determines whether or not the criminal action may proceed.

The validity or invalidity of the interest rate is not determinative of the guilt of respondents in the criminal cases. The cause or reason for the issuance of a check is inconsequential in determining criminal culpability under B.P. Blg. 22. What the law punishes is the issuance of a bouncing check, which is a malum prohibitum, and not the purpose for which it was issued or the terms and conditions relating to its issuance.

Thus, whether or not the interest rate imposed by petitioners is eventually declared void for being contra bonos mores will not affect the outcome of the B.P. Blg. 22 cases because what will ultimately be penalized is the mere issuance of bouncing checks. The primordial question is whether the law has been breached, that is, if a bouncing check has been issued.


2. Yes. There is forum shopping when a party seeks to obtain remedies in an action in one court, which had already been solicited, and in other courts and other proceedings in other tribunals. Forum shopping is the act of one party against another, when an adverse judgment has been rendered in one forum, of seeking another and possibly favorable opinion in another forum other than by appeal or by special civil action of certiorari; or the institution of two or more acts or proceedings grounded on the same cause on the supposition that one or the other court would make a favorable disposition.

Respondents filed their motions to suspend proceedings in the MTCCs hearing the B.P. Blg. 22 cases but unfortunately, the same were denied. Failing to get the relief they wanted, respondents sought before the RTC, the suspension of the criminal proceedings which was granted. Respondents tried to extricate themselves from the charge of forum shopping by explaining that after the denial of their motions to suspend, their only remedy was the application for preliminary injunction in the civil case—a relief which they had already asked for in their complaint and which was also initially not granted to them. Any which way the situation is viewed, respondents’ acts constituted forum shopping since they sought a possibly favorable opinion  from one court after another had issued an order unfavorable to them. (Sps. Carolina and Reynaldo Jose vs. Sps. Laureano and Purita Suarez, G.R. No.  176795, June 30, 2008)

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