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.”


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.


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

  1. Avatarpagoda

    Thank you po for your advice.

    I understood (from the link you provided) that the estate is the only recourse of creditors against debtors that have passed away. If this is insufficient, could the creditors legally have basis to go after the children and demand payment?

  2. Avatarwellah

    hi..i am one of the credit card user i voluntarily stop payment them because i observed even though im paying minimum amount my debt to them has increasingly and in multiple times.I decided not to pay them for them to stop my credit card and im willing to pay them to the extend of my only debt without interest.its been a 3moths i ignore all their calls and text.But as of now i may not be able to pay them in full but in installment.May solution po ba sa gusto kung mangyari?sa tingin ko kasi bayad ko na talga ang utang ko sa kanila ang sinisingil na lang nila sa akin is yung mga finance charges at anuual fee nila.

    1. AvatarAshley

      hi wellah, i have the same issue. i am asking them to waive my late fees sana and make payment arrangement throguh installment.

    2. Avatarrhoni

      Hi! Creditcard issues din po ng asawa ko ang problem ko. Lumobo na sa P51k ang utang as of this writing coz that is what was stated on the letter from a law firm representing the credit card company. I cut his card na like 5months ago, as in literally ginunting ko into half dahil nasa 35k na ang utang without my knowledge. Sabi nya puro annual fees lang un, finances charges and some late charges. For how many years he managed to pay only the minimum amount due until i discovered his debts. Ang alam nya bayad na lahat ng utang nya without interest from the credit card. What will happen next after the demand letter from the law firm? Will they issue a subpoena to my husband? Please help.

  3. AvatarIloveLaw

    ask ko lang po. yung mom ko po kasi may utang na 18k. bale yung 13k po interest lang yung 5k po extra utang nya kaya yung sum 18k. kaso po umalis na yung mom ko pumunta ng qatar.ako po ang naiwan dito 19yrs old at yung dalawa kong lil sis. 17 yung isa yung isa naman 13 palang. then one day nagpakita yung inutangan ng mom ko naniningil, of course wala ako pambayad kaya I told her to contact my mom. I gave her my mom’s no. pero bumalik sya after 2 months papabarangay nya daw ako. I really don’t know what to do. I mean wala kasi dito sa pinas parents ko. what should I do if ever ganun nga agwin nya sakin?. please help

  4. Avatarjidhell

    i have a loan frm a lending compay for my placemet fee…unfortunately i was repatriated from wrk so i came back in the phils.i talked to the lending company about my situation n they give me restructured loan payment.. sometimes due to insufficient income i was not ble to pay my obligtion but i kip on inforing them…then recently i was surprised when they serves a warrant of arrest to 1 of my co borrower…police harrased her n send heto jail..she was ask for a bail….is this with justice? wala po ba kmi karapatan mgreklamo sa lending kung bt nla gnwa to? r they n position na iharas ng ganito ang issan co borrower? pls help po…salamat

  5. Avatarcsgarcia

    Greetings po, Gusto ko po sa sanang magtanong kung tama ba na ibawas sa aking ang inutang ng kasamahan ko bilang co-maker. Ginawa po akong co-maker last 2006 dahil kasamahan ko sya sa trabaho at tiwala naman kami na kaya nyang bayaran ay pumirma kaming dalawa ng isa ko pang kasamahan. Na terminate sa trabaho ang nangutang na kasamahan ko at kami ngayun ang pinanadalan ng sulat at ibabawas daw sa salary naming yung inutang ng kasamahan ko. Sana po matulungan nyo ako sa tanong ko. Salamat po.

  6. Avatarpink

    Hi! Iam also a ofw from uae i would like to know what will happened to me because i have still some unpaid credit cards and loans there. Would i be send to jail? They are still harassing me and threatened to sue in court here. Please advise me for they are also thousands of filipinos with the same fate as i. Thanks

  7. Avatarsaya_06

    hi im a student, i have a friend who borrowed money from my aunt worth of 10,000 pesos, i know its not a huge amount, but my aunt said that i should be the one who will pay the amount my friend borrowed, but im just i student i dont have that amount to pay. my friend promise to pay us in 6 months, but its been 4 months now but she never payed even once. i try to contact her but she’s not answering my phone calls.. i went to their house many times but her parents always says that she not home w/c is unbelievable… by the way the money she borrowed has an interest and its seems that she’s not worried to pay her debt bcoz she say’s that no one can be imprisoned for non- payment debt..what should i do? how can we get the money back? is there any way we could report her to the sheriff? pls help me,, i really need your help…pls pls pls pls….

  8. Avatarjopie

    Hi. My father has been dead for 5 years now. He died last 2006. Just recently, we received a letter, addressed to my father, from a bank informing us that my dad has unsettled loan from the bank. The bank even sent a representative to personally deliver the letter to us. We were surprised about this as we are unaware of the said loan. Will this debt be automatically assigned to us? As far as I know, the loan can be paid through the estate left by my dad. We received an insurance claim from his death but it’s been long since we were made aware by this loan. Can the bank still get the payment for this estate?

  9. Avataranne0223

    hi.. Naaaboso din po kasi kami dahil sa contrata.. I assignd a 1yr contract sa isang internet company.. Unfortunately my computer po naga hang at times di magamit. So nag request ako sa kanila na kung pwdi itigil nalang ang billing total di ko na magamit.. Na delayed ako bayad for 1 month.. Di nisconect nila ang linya pero cge parin po cla singil.. I had payed 2 months of not using the line..Pano po ba ito? Naa aboso na rin po kasi subscribers nila.. Parang di napo tama.. Sabi nila naka contrata daw kasi. Eh kung ganon naman pala bat nila gicut ang line.. Eh obligado naman pala kaming magbayad kahit di cla nag seserbisyo.. Ano po ba pwdi ko gawin

  10. Avatarmissie

    My father has a big debt to one store. He got couples of truck wheels in the store but not able to pay them. And his other wife was the one who signed all the receipts and documents. But now, my father can’t pay the said store, and they can’t get any from his other wife, they went to us. They are looking for our father and threatening us. They said they will file a case against our father and we might not know what will happen to our father if we are not going to show him. And they will sheriff our assets if our father can’t pay them. Our reason was we don’t care about my father’s debt and though my father was the one who used the wheels, it was his other wife named on all the documents. They keep on pestering us and our family is being laughing stock to our community because of them. In terms with our father, we can’t push him to pay since he doesn’t care if we are being disturbed by his collectors. What legal process can we do against his collectors to stop them from threatening and pestering us.

  11. Avatargal_pretty25


    I was given few days couple days to settle a required amount before they file case against my bounce checks that I wrote.. If in case I can only settle for a partial amount not in full on the required deadline.. what will happen next? will my case still be forwarded to litigation and precedings despite the payment attempt ?

  12. Avatardiesel


    paano ko po ba hahabulin ang dati kung co employee na may loan and ako po ang co-maker. yung loan nya po ay na deduct sa akin noong ako po ay nagresign sa kumpanya.

    ang total na amount po ay 93k , halos isang taon na po pero puro lang pangako ang sinasabi nya sa akin.

    ano po kaya mga steps na dapat kung gawin.

    maraming salamat po

  13. Avataretsapiandante

    Magandang araw po.

    May kasalukuyang suliranin po ako na isasangguni sa inyo. Ako po ay nakatanggap ng subpoena, ang violation ko po ay BP Blg. 22. Ang istorya po ay ganito – nagtayo po ang boss ko ng isang pabrika na pamamahalaan ng kanyang nakatatandang kapatid, na kanya pong ipinangalan sa akin, na ako naman po ay isang empleyado sa isa niyang kumpanya. Kadalasan po, pinapipirma lang ako ng kanyang kapatid sa blank cheque kaya hindi ko po alam kung para saan po iyon. Sa pagkakaalam ko, ang nasabi pong pabrika, single prop. po, ay sarado na noon pa pong 2010. Sa kasamaang palad, marami pong naiwan na pagkakautang at ang naibayad nga po ay yun pong mga cheque na may pirma ko po. Ako po ba ay makukulong sanhi nito?

    Maraming salamat po.

  14. Avatarrichard_adolf

    Good day. Inquire ko po, may business po ako since 2005 until now. Noong 2008 nag isssue po ako ng check pero nag closed account “Daif” kasi nagkaroon po ng problema ang business ko until dumating ang undoy na 2009 totally nahirapan na po ako sa business ko pero unti-unti naman na inaahon ko ang business. Mula noon na daif ang check ko.. and kakaiwas ko sa pagbayad sa naissue na check, eh un collector parang napagud na kakakulit sa akin. Lumipas ang ilang taon, now pang 4years na bumalik un collector ng fill daw sila ng bp22 and estafa.. valid pa po ba yun fill nila na complain kahit 2008 pa un date ng check… may validity po ba ang checke. gusto ko sana bayaran unti-unti pero ayaw naman ng creditor. P300,000.00 po ang value. Anu po gagawin ko? salamat po


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