No One can be Imprisoned for Non-Payment of Debt

Perhaps you’ve heard someone making threats to file criminal cases against debtors who fail to pay. On the other hand, perhaps you’ve heard about the rule that no one can be imprisoned simply because of a debt in the Philippines. The prohibition against imprisonment for a debt is a basic right enshrined in no less than the Philippine Constitution. Article III of the Constitution reads:

“No person shall be imprisoned for debt or non-payment of a poll tax.”

No One can be Imprisoned for Debt in the Philippines


The Supreme Court explained the rationale for this prohibition in the case of Lozano vs. Martinez:

. . . Viewed in its historical context, the constitutional prohibition against imprisonment for debt is a safeguard that evolved gradually during the early part of the nineteenth century in the various states of the American Union as a result of the people’s revulsion at the cruel and inhumane practice, sanctioned by common law, which permitted creditors to cause the incarceration of debtors who could not pay their debts. At common law, money judgments arising from actions for the recovery of a debt or for damages from breach of a contract could be enforced against the person or body of the debtor by writ of capias ad satisfaciendum. By means of this writ, a debtor could be seized and imprisoned at the instance of the creditor until he makes the satisfaction awarded. As a consequence of the popular ground swell against such a barbarous practice, provisions forbidding imprisonment for debt came to be generally enshrined in the constitutions of various states of the Union.

This humanitarian provision was transported to our shores by the Americans at the turn of the century and embodied in our organic laws. Later, our fundamental law outlawed not only imprisonment for debt, but also the infamous practice, native to our shore, of throwing people in jail for non-payment of the cedula or poll tax.

In other words, no one can be compelled to pay a debt under pain of criminal sanctions (estafa is a different matter). No one can be imprisoned for non-payment of debt. The remedy of the creditor is civil in nature.

Let’s examine some laws that were questioned, albeit unsuccessfully, on the ground that these laws violate the constitutional prohibition against non-imprisonment for debt.


Bouncing Checks Law (BP 22) does not punish the non-payment of an obligation. The law is not designed to coerce a debtor to pay his debt. The thrust of the law is to prohibit, under pain of penal sanctions, the making of worthless checks and putting them in circulation. Checks have become widely accepted as a medium of payment in trade and commerce, and if the confidence in checks is shaken,  the usefulness of checks as currency substitutes would be greatly diminished. When the question was resolved in 1986, it had been reported that the approximate value of bouncing checks per day was close to 200 Million Pesos, thereafter averaging between P50 to P80 Million a day. (Lozano vs. Martinez)


The same argument was raised against the Trust Receipts Law (Presidential Decree No. 115). The passage of P.D. 115 is a declaration by the legislative authority that, as a matter of public policy, the failure of a person to turn over the proceeds of the sale of goods covered by a trust receipt (or to return said goods if not sold) is a public nuisance to be abated by the imposition of penal sanctions.

It punishes the dishonesty and abuse of confidence in the handling of money or goods to the prejudice of another. The law does not seek to enforce payment of a loan. (Tiomico vs. CA)


Under the Access Devices Regulation Act of 1998 (Republic Act No. 8484), anyone who obtains “money or anything of value through the use of an access device, with intent to defraud or with intent to gain and fleeing thereafter” is criminally liable.

R.A. 8484 provides for a presumption: a cardholder who abandons or surreptitiously leaves the place of employment, business or residence stated in his application or credit card, without informing the credit card company of the place where he could actually be found, if at the time of such abandonment or surreptitious leaving, the outstanding and unpaid balance is past due for at least 90 days and is more than P10,000, shall be prima facie presumed to have used his credit card with intent to defraud.” We are still waiting for the test case on this.


349 thoughts on “No One can be Imprisoned for Non-Payment of Debt

  1. pagoda

    Hi. My father is a businessman who contracted debts in his name instead of through the company. Should he pass away before the debts are paid, what happens to the obligation should his estate prove insufficient? Will his debts automatically be assigned to us (his children)? What legal steps/options could be taken? Thank you.

    1. Neliet

      Hello, would like to ask my mother passed away and still had debt with the bank. Before that she was ill and didnt pay the debt so the bank let her signed a compromise agreement. She died last January and now the bank was seeking payments with me as her daughter including with the co-makers. Am i reliable to pay and so the co-makers? Please reply i will appreciate it.


    2. FRED

      The co-maker may be forced/obliged to pay if he/she actually signed a legal documents but not you just being a daughter.

    3. Michael Louie MaƱago

      my father died in 2005 and one of his friend asked for a payment thru an annotation written below the tax declaration document. the annotation asking for payment has no document as evidence for a debt even he (friend) admitted that he has no document supporting such a debt. now we are being harassed with this guy. what will we do to put a stop and end of his foolishness?

  2. dxtrdaquarius

    Good day!

    I have a walk-in client who used to have GLOBE text PLAN. He was not able to settle his account which reached to the point his plan is cut. He has a total bill of Php 9,000.00 for 4 months + Php 10,000.00 breaching of contract fee.

    Any advise for him?

    Thank you…

    1. Maria

      Hi sir.. Good morning… Ask ko LNG point sana… Hope you can advise me on this. My mom borrowed money from a cooperative under my name.. I thought wala na utang since it was offseted as investment. Only to find out name lomobo name as interest since 2008. Wala ng capacity to pay for it. May utang then akong binayaran as ibang pang credit union nya. Please help

    2. Alejandro

      hi my sister makes me a co maker of her debt on a capital before she goes on hongkong for her work what is the best to do to clean my name on that debt?my sister have gone and we dont know where she goes or where is tha address of her?any advise please? thanks!

    3. Richard

      My connection po ba ang mga network providers sa mga bank? Say if I have pending obligation sa Network will it reflect in my banking transactions?

    4. Tina

      Good day . Can you advise me what to do . Cause my husband got a loan on a company name homw credit and apparently his job was ended and now ee habe no money to pay . And the company were calling and texting us that he is blakclisted to any clearance . Is this possible ? Tia

  3. jc32569

    Is their a law which stipulates that a permanent instructor in a State Colleges and Universities who have not finished their masteral degree will be downgraded to a temporary or probationary instructor?

    1. mariestelle

      we had a small business early this year but due to my husbands health condition we stopped and so a friend took over letting her use the entire place and all the things inside. after her three months of operation we decided to pull out our things so we asked for clearance from the lessor if can pull out our things. the lessor approved and so we moved out. this friend sued us for a month ” accrued rental” when in fact we were already cleared by the lessor. she filed a case at the barangay level. does she has the basis for doing so?
      are we forced to pay the sum of money we dont even owe?

  4. HowardChan

    Right. I guess that constitutional provision is one of the most misunderstood provision. But on the other hand, The loan business industry in the country is a loose one. So in reality, a lot of people do not go to court to settle their debt. Most loans are incurred via the “5-6” system anyway.

    For more discussion on Philippine Jurisprudence, feel free to visit

  5. arion778

    Good day!

    i just want to know what would be the sanction of breaching of contract of lessor vs. lesse?

    a lesse has almost php75,000 of debt to lessor and they transfer to another house without noticing the lessor..


  6. inpain

    Hi Sir,

    I am an ofw in uae and since i lost my job i left the country at umuwi dito sa pinas kasi makukulong ka sa uae if 2 monthly di ka nakapay ng due mo. my question is makakasuhan o makukulong po ba ako dito sa pinas since yung debt ko nasa uae? all applications for credit cards and loans doon ay pinapaissue kami ng check, makukulong po ba ako nila d2?please i need your advice.

  7. inpain

    Please give us advice since there are thousands of OFWs from UAE having the same problem and being threatened and harrased by these collecting agencies. We know we have obligation but we dont have a choice since we lost our jobs and now it we have only budget for our families and other basic needs. please help us

    1. Cristy

      Same thing happened to me. My husband borrowed P35,000 from a Lending Company to pay for his placement and processing fee to the recruitment agency. Unfortunately, the company was not able to give salaries on time since he was deployed there last April 30, 2015. Now, the Lending Company personnel and their legal staff whose names are just nicknames and they dont give e their full name when I ask them who they are. They are threatening me that they will file a BP 22 estafa case against me since I am the co-borrower and co-signatory for the account. I know that I have to pay and willing to pay but I am requesting them to give me consideration to restructure my account and pay it in 6 months term. They are forcing me to pay P10,000 on or before March 31, 2016. But I pleaded to make the payment on April 15, 2016 because I still need to look fot the P10,000.00. I am so much bothered now, cant sleep and cant eat well because of what they are doing. They are also calling and texting my reference contact persons and giving me shame in this situation telling them they are not able to contact me. Please help me and any advise in my case. Thanks a lot.

    2. jo

      ako din po eh posible ba na makulong tayo ako ngbbgay kahit l malaki kita 3000-5000 a month pero la cla konsiderasyon dahil maliit bgay ko lalo nalaki

    3. ruel

      same din nian s husband ko kahit ngbabayd kmi..ung 75000 nging 220k sobrang tubo..kinompyut nmin ang interest rate 109%yearly n dpt 8% lng..mgfile daw po cl ng estafa case..laban s amin ano b dpt gawin iisang..please advise ngpdl n cl ng dishonor en final demand letter..tanx

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