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September 23, 2016

Associated vs. CA

Facts:
  • The Province of Tarlac maintains a current account with the Philippine National Bank (PNB) Tarlac Branch where the provincial funds are deposited.
  • Checks issued by the Province are signed by the Provincial Treasurer and countersigned by the Provincial Auditor or the Secretary of the Sangguniang Bayan.
  • A portion of the funds of the province is allocated to the Concepcion Emergency Hospital. The allotment checks for said government hospital are drawn to the order of "Concepcion Emergency Hospital, Concepcion, Tarlac" or "The Chief, Concepcion Emergency Hospital, Concepcion, Tarlac." 
  • The checks are released by the Office of the Provincial Treasurer and received for the hospital by its administrative officer and cashier.
  • It was then discovered that the hospital did not receive several allotment checks drawn by the Province.
  • The Provincial Treasurer requested the manager of the PNB to return all of its cleared checks which were issued from 1977 to 1980 in order to verify the regularity of their encashment. 
  • After the checks were examined, the Provincial Treasurer learned that 30 checks amounting to P203,300.00 were encashed by one Fausto Pangilinan, with the Associated Bank acting as collecting bank.
  • It turned out that Fausto Pangilinan, who was the administrative officer and cashier of Concepcion hospital until his retirement, collected the questioned checks from the office of the Provincial Treasurer. He claimed to be assisting or helping the hospital follow up the release of the checks and had official receipts.
  • Pangilinan sought to encash the first check with Associated Bank. However, the manager of Associated Bank refused and suggested that Pangilinan deposit the check in his personal savings account with the same bank. Pangilinan was able to withdraw the money when the check was cleared and paid by the drawee bank, PNB.
  • After forging the signature of Dr. Adena Canlas who was chief of the payee hospital, Pangilinan followed the same procedure for the other checks.
  • All the checks bore the stamp of Associated Bank which reads "All prior endorsements guaranteed ASSOCIATED BANK."
  • Jesus David, the manager of Associated Bank testified that Pangilinan made it appear that the checks were paid to him for certain projects with the hospital. He did not find as irregular the fact that the checks were not payable to Pangilinan but to the Concepcion Emergency Hospital. While he admitted that his wife and Pangilinan's wife are first cousins, the manager denied having given Pangilinan preferential treatment on this account.
  • The Provincial Treasurer wrote the manager of the PNB seeking the restoration of the various amounts debited from the current account of the Province.
  • In turn, the PNB manager demanded reimbursement from the Associated Bank on May 15, 1981. 
  • As both banks resisted payment, the Province of Tarlac brought suit against PNB which, in turn, impleaded Associated Bank as third-party defendant. The latter then filed a fourth-party complaint against Adena Canlas and Fausto Pangilinan.
  • RTC ordered: PNB to pay the Province of Tarlac P203,000 with interest, ordered Associated Bank to reimburse PNB for P203,000, Canlas and Pangilinan were not held liable.
  • CA affirmed in toto RTC’s ruling.
  • Arguments of the parties:
    • PNB: Province of Tarlac was negligent since it delivered and released the checks to Pangilinan who was already retired from the hospital and that the CA should have directed Associated Bank to pay the liability to the Province of Tarlac to avoid circuity.
    • Associated Bank: PNB as drawee bank is estopped from asserting the defense of guarantee of prior indorsements against Associated Bank (collecting bank). 
    • Associated Bank claims that PNB was at fault and should solely bear the loss because it cleared and paid the forged checks.xxx


Issue: Where thirty checks bearing forged endorsements are paid, who bears the loss, the drawer, the drawee bank or the collecting bank?

Held: Shared liability (50%-50%) [depending on the contributory negligence of the party]

Discussion re: Section 23 of the NIL on forged signature
The case at bench concerns checks payable to the order of Concepcion Emergency Hospital or its Chief. They were properly issued and bear the genuine signatures of the drawer, the Province of Tarlac. The infirmity in the questioned checks lies in the payee's (Concepcion Emergency Hospital) indorsements which are forgeries. At the time of their indorsement, the checks were order instruments. Checks having forged indorsements should be differentiated from forged checks or checks bearing the forged signature of the drawer.

Where the instrument is payable to order at the time of the forgery, such as the checks in this case, the signature of its rightful holder (here, the payee hospital) is essential to transfer title to the same instrument. When the holder's indorsement is forged, all parties prior to the forgery may raise the real defense of forgery against all parties subsequent thereto.

An indorser of an order instrument warrants "that the instrument is genuine and in all respects what it purports to be; that he has a good title to it; that all prior parties had capacity to contract; and that the instrument is at the time of his indorsement valid and subsisting." He cannot interpose the defense that signatures prior to him are forged.

The drawee bank has the liability to pay the check to the order of the payee; the risk of loss falls on the drawee bank
The bank on which a check is drawn, known as the drawee bank, is under strict liability to pay the check to the order of the payee. The drawer's instructions are reflected on the face and by the terms of the check. Payment under a forged indorsement is not to the drawer's order. 

When the drawee bank pays a person other than the payee, it does not comply with the terms of the check and violates its duty to charge its customer's (the drawer) account only for properly payable items. Since the drawee bank did not pay a holder or other person entitled to receive payment, it has no right to reimbursement from the drawer. The general rule then is that the drawee bank may not debit the drawer's account and is not entitled to indemnification from the drawer. The risk of loss must perforce fall on the drawee bank.

Associated Bank will necessarily be liable to PNB for the checks bearing forged indorsements
In cases involving a forged check, where the drawer's signature is forged, the drawer can recover from the drawee bank. No drawee bank has a right to pay a forged check. If it does, it shall have to recredit the amount of the check to the account of the drawer. The liability chain ends with the drawee bank whose responsibility it is to know the drawer's signature since the latter is its customer.

In this case, the checks were indorsed by the collecting bank (Associated Bank) to the drawee bank (PNB). The former will necessarily be liable to the latter for the checks bearing forged indorsements. If the forgery is that of the payee's or holder's indorsement, the collecting bank is held liable, without prejudice to the latter proceeding against the forger.Since a forged indorsement is inoperative, the collecting bank had no right to be paid by the drawee bank. The former must necessarily return the money paid by the latter because it was paid wrongfully.

Discussion on Section 66 of the NIL and liability of the collecting bank or last indorser
More importantly, by reason of the statutory warranty of a general indorser in section 66 of the Negotiable Instruments Law, a collecting bank which indorses a check bearing a forged indorsement and presents it to the drawee bank guarantees all prior indorsements, including the forged indorsement. It warrants that the instrument is genuine, and that it is valid and subsisting at the time of his indorsement. Because the indorsement is a forgery, the collecting bank commits a breach of this warranty and will be accountable to the drawee bank. This liability scheme operates without regard to fault on the part of the collecting/presenting bank. Even if the latter bank was not negligent, it would still be liable to the drawee bank because of its indorsement.

The Court has consistently ruled that "the collecting bank or last endorser generally suffers the loss because it has the duty to ascertain the genuineness of all prior endorsements considering that the act of presenting the check for payment to the drawee is an assertion that the party making the presentment has done its duty to ascertain the genuineness of the endorsements."

The drawee bank is not similarly situated as the collecting bank 
The drawee makes no warranty as to the genuineness. of any indorsement. The drawee bank's duty is but to verify the genuineness of the drawer's signature and not of the indorsement because the drawer is its client.

Moreover, the collecting bank is made liable because it is privy to the depositor who negotiated the check. The bank knows him, his address and history because he is a client. It has taken a risk on his deposit. The bank is also in a better position to detect forgery, fraud or irregularity in the indorsement.

The province of Tarlac was equally negligent and should therefore share the burden of loss from the checks bearing the forged instruments
The Province of Tarlac permitted Fausto Pangilinan to collect the checks when the latter, having already retired from government service, was no longer connected with the hospital. With the exception of the first check (dated January 17, 1978), all the checks were issued and released after Pangilinan's retirement on February 28, 1978. After nearly three years, the Treasurer's office was still releasing the checks to the retired cashier. In addition, some of the aid allotment checks were released to Pangilinan and the others to Elizabeth Juco, the new cashier. The fact that there were now two persons collecting the checks for the hospital is an unmistakable sign of an irregularity which should have alerted employees in the Treasurer's office of the fraud being committed. There is also evidence indicating that the provincial employees were aware of Pangilinan's retirement and consequent dissociation from the hospital.

The failure of the Province of Tarlac to exercise due care contributed to a significant degree to the loss tantamount to negligence. Hence, the Province of Tarlac should be liable for part of the total amount paid on the questioned checks.

PNB is liable for its failure to pay only according to the terms of the check
The drawee bank PNB also breached its duty to pay only according to the terms of the check. Hence, it cannot escape liability and should also bear part of the loss.

PNB can recover from the Associated Bank
The situation in the case at bench is analogous to the case of Associated Bank vs. CA, for it was not the payee who deposited the checks with the collecting bank. Here, the checks were all payable to Concepcion Emergency Hospital but it was Fausto Pangilinan who deposited the checks in his personal savings account.

Although Associated Bank claims that the guarantee stamped on the checks (All prior and/or lack of endorsements guaranteed) is merely a requirement forced upon it by clearing house rules, it cannot but remain liable. The stamp guaranteeing prior indorsements is not an empty rubric which a bank must fulfill for the sake of convenience. 

A bank is not required to accept all the checks negotiated to it
It is within the bank's discretion to receive a check for no banking institution would consciously or deliberately accept a check bearing a forged indorsement. When a check is deposited with the collecting bank, it takes a risk on its depositor. It is only logical that this bank be held accountable for checks deposited by its customers.A delay in informing the collecting bank (Associated Bank) of the forgery, which deprives it of the opportunity to go after the forger, signifies negligence on the part of the drawee bank (PNB) and will preclude it from claiming reimbursement.

Even if the rule mandates that the checks be returned within 24 hours, PNB did not commit negligent delay
The rule mandates that the checks be returned within twenty-four hours after discovery of the forgery but in no event beyond the period fixed by law for filing a legal action. The rationale of the rule is to give the collecting bank (which indorsed the check) adequate opportunity to proceed against the forger. If prompt notice is not given, the collecting bank maybe prejudiced and lose the opportunity to go after its depositor.

PNB gave prompt notice to Associated Bank and the latter bank was not prejudiced in going after Fausto Pangilinan. After the Province of Tarlac informed PNB of the forgeries, PNB necessarily had to inspect the checks and conduct its own investigation. Thereafter, it requested the Provincial Treasurer's office on March 31, 1981 to return the checks for verification. The Province of Tarlac returned the checks only on April 22, 1981. Two days later, Associated Bank received the checks from PNB.

PNB is not estopped from recovering even if it paid and cleared the checks
Even if PNB cleared and paid the checks, it can still recover from Associated Bank. This is true even if the payee's Chief Officer who was supposed to have indorsed the checks is also a customer of the drawee bank. 

PNB's duty was to verify the genuineness of the drawer's signature and not the genuineness of payee's indorsement. Associated Bank, as the collecting bank, is the entity with the duty to verify the genuineness of the payee's indorsement.

Ruling of the court:
The Court finds as reasonable, the proportionate sharing of fifty percent - fifty percent (50%-50%). Due to the negligence of the Province of Tarlac in releasing the checks to an unauthorized person (Fausto Pangilinan), in allowing the retired hospital cashier to receive the checks for the payee hospital for a period close to three years and in not properly ascertaining why the retired hospital cashier was collecting checks for the payee hospital in addition to the hospital's real cashier, respondent Province contributed to the loss amounting to P203,300.00 and shall be liable to the PNB for fifty (50%) percent thereof. In effect, the Province of Tarlac can only recover fifty percent (50%) of P203,300.00 from PNB.

The collecting bank, Associated Bank, shall be liable to PNB for fifty (50%) percent of P203,300.00. It is liable on its warranties as indorser of the checks which were deposited by Fausto Pangilinan, having guaranteed the genuineness of all prior indorsements, including that of the chief of the payee hospital, Dr. Adena Canlas. Associated Bank was also remiss in its duty to ascertain the genuineness of the payee's indorsement.

Citation:
  • G.R. No. 107382/G.R. No. 107612            
  •  January 31, 1996
  • ASSOCIATED BANK, petitioner, vs. HON. COURT OF APPEALS, PROVINCE OF TARLAC and PHILIPPINE NATIONAL BANK, respondents
  • x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x x
  • G.R. No. 107612             
  • January 31, 1996
  • PHILIPPINE NATIONAL BANK, petitioner, vs.HONORABLE COURT OF APPEALS, PROVINCE OF TARLAC, and ASSOCIATED BANK, respondents.

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