CASE DIGEST: NEGOTIABLE INSTRUMENTS LAW
PHILIPPINE NATIONAL BANK VS. COURT OF APPEALS
GR. NO. 107508 April 25, 1996
1st Division Kapunan
Ministry of Education Culture issued a check payable to Abante Marketing and drawn against Philippine National Bank (PNB). Abante Marketing, deposited the questioned check in its savings account with Capitol City Development Bank (CAPITOL). In turn, Capitol deposited the same in its account with the Philippine Bank of Communications (PBCom) which, in turn, sent the check to PNB for clearing. PNB cleared the check as good and thereafter, PBCom credited Capitol's account for the amount stated in the check. However, PNB returned the check to PBCom and debited PBCom's account for the amount covered by the check, the reason being that there was a "material alteration" of the check number. PBCom, as collecting agent of Capitol, then proceeded to debit the latter's account for the same amount, and subsequently, sent the check back to petitioner. PNB, however, returned the check to PBCom. On the other hand, Capitol could not in turn, debit Abante Marketing's account since the latter had already withdrawn the amount of the check. Capitol sought clarification from PBCom and demanded the re-crediting of the amount. PBCom followed suit by requesting an explanation and re-crediting from PNB. Since the demands of Capitol were not heeded, it filed a civil suit against PBCom which in turn, filed a third-party complaint against PNB for reimbursement/indemnity with respect to the claims of Capitol. PNB, on its part, filed a fourth-party complaint against Abante Marketing.
The Trial Court rendered its decision, ordering PBCom to re-credit or reimburse; PNB to reimburse and indemnify PBCom for whatever amount PBCom pays to Capitol; Abante Marketing to reimburse and indemnify PNB for whatever amount PNB pays to PBCom. The court dismissed the counterclaims of PBCom and PNB. The appellate court modified the appealed judgment by ordering PNB to honor the check. After the check shall have been honored by PNB, the court ordered PBCom to re-credit Capitol's account with it the amount. PNB filed the petition for review on certiorari averring that under Section 125 of the NIL, any change that alters the effect of the instrument is a material alteration.
WON an alteration of the serial number of a check is a material alteration under the NIL.
NO, alteration of a serial number of a check is not a material alteration contemplated under Sec. 125 of the NIL.
An alteration is said to be material if it alters the effect of the instrument. It means an unauthorized change in an instrument that purports to modify in any respect the obligation of a party or an unauthorized addition of words or numbers or other change to an incomplete instrument relating to the obligation of a party. In other words, a material alteration is one which changes the items which are required to be stated under Section 1 of the Negotiable Instruments Law.
In the present case what was altered is the serial number of the check in question, an item which is not an essential requisite for negotiability under Section 1 of the Negotiable Instruments Law. The aforementioned alteration did not change the relations between the parties. The name of the drawer and the drawee were not altered. The intended payee was the same. The sum of money due to the payee remained the same. The check's serial number is not the sole indication of its origin. The name of the government agency which issued the subject check was prominently printed therein. The check's issuer was therefore insufficiently identified, rendering the referral to the serial number redundant and inconsequential.