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Tagbilaran City, Bohol, Philippines
February 27, 2011 issue

Neighbor raps rival of estafa



A prominent city businesswoman was sued by a rival- neighbor for a string of estafa cases. The two neighbors are in the business of selling hardware, construction supplies, paint mixing, among others. Except for the paint mixing product line, both stores are in the same line of business. As neighbors, their hardware stores are located across each other along busy CPG Avenue, this city. Sonia Lim, one of the owners of E. Butalid Store was sued for a string of estafa cases by no less than her neighbor Corazon Lim-Omandam. of Occidental Enterprises fame. Having the same family names, the neighbors must be cousins. As a consequence, Lim found herself in the defensive when the Office of the City Prosecutor finds probable cause for violations of the Bouncing Checks Law.

According to sources close to the hardware store on the dock for estafa, the establishment must have fallen to bad times resulting in the owner becoming a victim of bouncing checks due to insufficient fund back up. E. Butalid Store used to be the favorite outlet of choice among mayors when it comes to cash advances during official trips to Manila. There were even reports that even casino money the store owner was more than willing to accommodate. Known for his long pockets then, one of the owners, Pedoy Lim, was one guy who cannot afford not to frustrate the representations of mayors and other public officials who are in need of cash. Provided, however, that the town executives have a credible explanation as to why they were in need of cash. Relying on the mayors word of honor, the collateral came in the form of municipal budgets already up for release.

In fact, the same reports said that many mayors who were no longer in the mayoralty saddle have pending cash advances that settling the same is no longer an option since they have been out of office after suffering defeat in the last polls. Behind the string of probable violations of Batas Pambansa Bilang 22, it was learned that the lady Lim may also face two more counts of complex crime of estafa through falsification of commercial documents. In her complaint affidavit, Omandam, through counsel lawyer Lord Marapao IV, alleged that Lim issued to her six Queen Bank Tagbilaran checks that the latter paid for construction materials she bought at Occidental Enterprises on different occasions. Upon due date, Omandam said that when the two checks Lim issued were presented for payment with the bank, it was dishonored.

The bank found out that the signature on the Lim issued checks were not on file with the bank. The bank also found out that the checks Lim used were on account of his brother, Timoteo Butalid. As to the four more checks issued by Lim, when these were presented for payments on their due dates, the bank had it dishonored as the account has been closed. Omandam, according to the prosecutors, alleged that Lim repeatedly assured her that the checks would be good. She also said, had she known that Lim was acting on false pretense, she could have stopped the release of the materials. After repeated attempts to demand payments from Lim failed, Omandam decided to file the case. At the prosecution stage, Lim, in her counter affidavit denied the charges claiming that the checks were postdated as security to her store's pre-existing obligation for orders and deliveries made prior to the dates when the checks were actually handed to Omandam.

On the two checks which she issued and were not on her account, Lim said it was pure inadvertence, mistake and simple negligence or oversight. The checks were in the account of Lim's brother and that the checks were not issued to deceive Omandam, Lim argued. After evaluating the evidences presented in court, deputy City Prosecutor Romeo Chatto resolved that the checks were indeed issued to pay for certain preexisting obligations in an Omnibus Resolution dated February 10, 2011. Prosecutor Chatto, citing Supreme Court decisions, said that checks that were issued for security have no legal legs to stand in. He said that “Batas Pambansa 22 does not make any distinction as to whether the bad check is issued in payment of an obligation or to guarantee an obligation,” Arguing further that the drawer of the check has knowledge of the insufficiency of funds and still the checks were issued, the deputy prosecutor added that “the gravamen of the offense is the issuance of the bad check, not the non-payment of the obligation, Chatto said citing Lozano vs Hon Martinez. (146 SCRA 325)

On the respondent's issuance of two checks not under her account, the prosecutor also finds her liable for two counts of complex estafa through falsification of commercial documents. Chatto noted that the two elements of complex estafa: deceit and damage to another are present. Respondent, with the intent to defraud the complainant ordered certain construction supplies on the pretense that she has sufficient funds to pay the value by issuing on two different occasions two checks under the account of another person and later on refused payment, thus the pretense was actually false, is liable of estafa, he stated in the three-page resolution. There is also falsification considering that in affixing her signatures on the two checks which are not under her account, respondent made it appear that a person has participated in the act of issuing the checks when such a person did not, in fact, do so. Upon Lim's claims that it was inadvertence and simple negligence or oversight claiming that it was done in good faith when she issued the checks to be drawn on an account belonging to her brother, the court also find it legally unavailing.

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