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. Avatarconfused2019A

    how can i file a case sa taong nangutang na di marunong magbayad? Formerly we had an illicit affair because this guy is already have a live in partner but they are not married around 17yrs, and then currrently i ask him about the payment her live in partner replied nung una mga foul words sinasabi, kesyu babayaran ako then it took lengthy conversation puros foul words na cnasabi which sakin cge ok lng importante bayaran ako kasi hiniram ko lng din po yung pera, meron din na pera na ng anak namin napahiram ko na my pera din sya hiniram sa sister ko using my name, Gusto ko lng po katarungan kasi inamin nman nya po my utang sya pero to nowhere hindi na sya nakipag usap….
    Please help me to find justice! He even abandone our child no appearance, no financial assitance.
    Confused 2019A

  2. AvatarJhon

    Paano po kapag ang utang ay sa mga online loan at sa online application? Ano ang mangyayari? Kapag hindi nakapagbayad, may mga online loan kasi na nangharaas, at ginagamit ang CIC para lang magbayad ka. Ano ba ang puwedeng ikaso sa mga ganoon? At puwede din bang mablacklisted ka sa NBI kapag hindi ka nagbayad ng utang?

  3. Avatardhing

    problema ko din ang homecredit di na ako nakakabayad,pero kalma lang ako kasi di naman ako makukulong sa utang,hindi ako magtatago bakit criminal ba ako?bayad ko na ang principal amount of 53,000 pesos bago ako mawalan ng income,benta man nila ang account ko sa law office wala akong paki,yung tubo na 53k sa principal amount supposedly 103k lahat babayaran ko sa kanila gaagwin ko nalang installment total tubo nalang yun,sampahan man nila ako ng kaso bahala sila tangapin nila 1k ko for 53 mos o hindi i dont care anymore kulong nila ako so gooo onnnn masaya nga libre ako pagkain sa correctional.ay sus wag po kayo matakot balikan nyo din sila sindakan lang yan.

  4. AvatarJANICE

    Ask q po? Pag Hindi ka po ba nakapag byad. Magkakarun na po ba ng record sa NBI or sa POLICE? natatakot po kc aqng kumuha eh kaya di aq nakapag work ung utang q po kc Kay home credit Nung 2015 pa po un… Nung time po na kumuha aq magkasama pa po Kami ng asawa q tapus ngaun po kc single mom na aq kaya need q po mag work natatakot po kc aqng kumuha eh… Bka po kc bigla nlng aqng damputin. Pa help nmn po qng naka record na po cxa sa NBI or POLICE? Slmat poh…

  5. AvatarFie

    Hello. Good day! Ask ko lang po. May utang po kasi ang sister ko sa isang lending company. Nakapagbayad naman po siya ng partial. Then, ngayon po hinaharass po siya ng agent ng lending company. Threatening her up to the point na kasali na family niya at mga anak idadamay. Tama po ba ginagawa nila? Nadelay lang ng bayad dahil nagipit. Hindi naman po tatakbuhan ng sister ko ang utang nila. Ano po ang dapat gawin? Kasi nagtext daw po na sabi ipopost nila sa facebook ang family ng sister ko. Damay pa ang mga anak nila. At marami na rin po reklamo pala sa lending company na ito, kasi mahilig pala sila mangharass ng client tuwing nadedelay ng bayad… Advise po kung ano dapat gawin ng sister ko? At ano po dapat sabihin niya doon sa nagtetext sa kanya. Hintayin ko po. Maraming salamat.

  6. AvatarMerly

    Magandang gabi po…tanong qu lang po nagloan po kc aqu kay robo cash pero wala po aqu nkuha na pera..ngaun qu lng po nlaman na my repayment due na po aqu….

  7. AvatarApril

    I have a loan to a loan mobile application in the internet amounting 5000 which is overdue , i said to the collector that im willing to pay my loan in partial including the penalties but the collector said that they will file a civil case against me in metropolitan trial court of small claims under OCA Circular no. 165-2018. For 5000 amount is there a possibility that they can file a case for me? Thank you for your answer and comments

  8. AvatarSyril

    Hi gd evening po may utang kasi ako sa sa app na nka post sa fb tapos hindi ako nka bayad ng due date so nag message ako sa kanila na ma delayed abg bayad ko kaso lahat ng contact sa phone ko nenendan na nila ng mga messages na nka file na daw cila ng case against me to the court pwede ba yun . At ano ba dapat kung gawin sa kanila pwede ko po ba cila maireport sa kinaukolan dahil sa mfa threatened nila da akin

  9. Avatarbevi

    hello. i am being hunted by a collection agency due to my past loan with a bank. The only mode of payment of that loan is issuance of check under the bank’s name. I wasnt able to fully pay my accountabilities and back then and now they have found me again, i am being forced to pay a. P300k in one year, b.P100k in one month or c. P80k before the end of the month. I’ve been meaning to pay this but the payment terms are quite unreasonable. Note that i only borrowed 50k and was able to pay at least half of that thru monthly amortization. They are now harassing me and telling me i will get imprisoned due to estafa (bouncing check law). Is this really possible? What if i would agree to settle but on more lenient payment terms, will i still be imprisoned? anyone please help.

  10. AvatarJene

    Hello po,
    Last June 18,2019 ng cash loan po ako sa CASHWAGON PHILIPINES ng 3,000 pesos kasi zero interest po within ten days.Ng avail po ako kasi kailangan ko  ng pera. Kinuha nila ang ATM account ko at doon nila inihulog.
        June 27,2019 ngbayad napo ako ng full payment sa LBC. Pero pagka June 30 may isang ahente na tumawag sa akin ng offer ng CAsh loan na Five thousand Pesos(5,000) payable siya within one month.Pero after 30 days seven thousand(7,000)daw yung babayaran ko. So sa laki ng interest at hindi ko naman kailangan ng pera non sinabihan ko ang ahente na tumawag sa akin na hindi ako mag aavail kasi hindi ko nmn kailangan ng pera. Pero kahapon po may na received akong text from CASHWAGON na mg file daw sila ng LEGAL DEMAND PAG hindi ko po nabayaran ang utang ko.Ng chinik ko po yung atm ko may nag sent nga po na 5,000 sa atm ko noon July 1.
         Ano ho po bang dapat kung gawin?hindi po ako ng cash loan sila po ang basta basta nlng ng pasok ng pera sa atm account ko ng hindi ko alam.Ngayon oobligahin nila ako na bayaran ang utang na hindi ko naman inutang.
        Please po tulungan niyo ako.Hindi ko napo alam kung ano ang gagawin ko.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.