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

REASON FOR NON-IMPRISONMENT

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

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)

TRUST RECEIPTS

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)

CREDIT CARDS

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.

Atty.Fred

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

  1. AvatarLei

    May I consult through e-mail? I hope you can allow me to do this, since I am looking for some legal help on my issues. Thank you so much.

    Reply
  2. AvatarAnn

    My mother died almost 2 weeks ago. We don’t live together. After her death, her landlord is forcing us to pay her unpaid house rental and utility bills. He’s harassing us and saying bad things to us. I just want to check if we are liable to pay the debts of my late mom or not. Your reply/advice/comments will be much appreciated. Thank you.

    Reply
  3. AvatarAnn

    Hi,

    My mother died almost 2 weeks ago. We don’t live together. After her death, her landlord is forcing us to pay her unpaid house rental and utility bills. He’s harassing us and saying bad things to us. I just want to check if we are liable to pay the debts of my late mom or not. Your reply/advice/comments will be much appreciated. Thank you.

    Reply
  4. AvatarNica

    Hi ,
    I jusy want to ask and consuly my case.
    I applied for security bank salary loan and was approved for 10,000 to be paid in 3mos/6pay outs to be automatically debited in my payroll account. I was deducted 1834 three times and 1700 before I got laid out my job. Now, I am receiving text informing me that I will be penalized under R.A. 8484. Will I be punished and imprisoned because of this?

    Thanks.

    Reply
  5. AvatarRomeo

    I lent money to a friend, it’s been unpaid for 3 years and now she is denying that she loaned money from me. I just did some assistance to her needs and now she is ignoring the matter, can I have some advice please, thank you

    Reply
  6. AvatarMiriam

    My son is of Violation of BP 22 Bouncing Check…he has several hearing already since 2013..amount 80k… until now the court has no decision yet…my son promised to pay in 8 months but he did not make because his small farm land did not produce well..his business went down..i am now offering my pension to start on November 2018 ; that I am willing to help my son pay the amount due including interest in installment bases; that I m wiling to give 5k a month until the total amount be seteled..

    Reply
  7. AvatarLet

    i owe a lending company the amount of 36k, little by little nag dedeposit ako ng certain amount sa dragon pay account na binigay nila. I missed 2 months of payment but i am willing to pay parin naman po. Kaso they sent me a text message saying I will be arrested at my house at 12pm today, by some sheriff from crame. What can I do to challenge the case against me? I was asking for a promissory to continue paying on october pero sagot lang nila nasa legal na daw kasi ito at kailangan ko bayaran buong amount.

    Reply
  8. Avatarrama

    hi, i need an help/advice.
    i currently have a debt of amounting to almost 600k with my BPI credit card. i was actually paying the minimum until one day, narealize ko na lalo lang lumalaki yung utang ko, until hindi na ako nakabayad ng tuluyan. naforward na sa collection agency account ko. and yesterday, i got a text message about “Notice of Execution” by an attorney. wala po akong balak takbuhan ang utang ko, i am willing to pay monthly hangang sa ma-fully paid ko ang account ko. will they come to my house and get my personal belongings? i am currently renting na c fully furnished na bahay. so all the appliances are not mine. also, nag wowork ako sa call center ngauon, will my work be affected as well? what can i do about my scenario?

    Reply
  9. AvatarSHERILL LOU

    HI PO ASK KO LANG PI KUNG MASASAMPAHAN PO AKO NG ESTAPA.
    NAG APPLIANCE LOAN PO AKO SA AEON.
    WORTH 11,489. PERO IN 1 YR I SHOULD PAY 15,556.19999 AND 500 PROCESSING FEE. MONTHLY KO PO IS 1296.35. ISANG BESES PA LANG PO AKO NAKAPAGHULOG AT MAG 3MONTS NA PO AKO OVERDUE.
    SABI PO SA TXT NILA SAKIN MAG FILE NA DAW PO SILA NG ESTAFA CASE.
    PERO MAGHUHULOG NMN PO AKO NAGIPIT LANG PO TALAGA.
    EH SABI KO NMN PO SINCE MAY INTEREST ANG OVERDUE NILA BAKIT DI LANG PO INTERESAN UNG OVERDUE KO.
    KELANGAN PO BA TALAGA NILANG MAG FILE NG ESTAFA AGAINTS ME?
    NEED ADVICE BADLY.
    THANK YOU.

    Reply
  10. AvatarMarcus

    Can or How to sue PLDT?

    They wrongly installed the Home DSL i applied to some other people’s home. After multiple complaints, they transfer the unit from my address (in the application) to my current address, which is the SAME. Then they charge me for the wifi service that I didnt use from the period they wrongly installed. Complaints are made, and the issue still not yet solved. Every month I need to go to PLDT to explain the whole story over and over, and they just push the balance that they wanted me to pay to the next month.

    Can I cancel my services despite in the contract it bounds me for a year of service? They breached the contract when they provide bad services to me.

    Please advise.
    Thank you.

    Reply

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