On counterfeit money and fake people

By Atty. Eduardo T. Reyes III

Entering the brand new year, many resolutions were again “claimed”, “declared”, “owned”, or, as the millennials would call it: “manifesting”; which were verbalized to the universe.

Every new year is met with a resolve to “turn a new leaf.” Wittingly or unwittingly, we synchronize this “change for the better” mantra with the logging in of another year in our lives.

But how true is this resolve? Or is it but mere lip service? Or worse, people just get carried away with the holidays and to highlight the festivities, they look at the stars and promise to become better persons this year without really checking their conscience.

This column, to a fault, has always adhered to the rule on presumption of good faith in people.

But as one recent case has shown, there are some people who would want to get ahead in life by using means which are foul or not fair.

This case involves the use of counterfeit P1,000 denomination bills. It is of interest because the Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has recently issued a “polymer banknote obverse” 1,000 bill. Its centerpiece is the Philippine Eagle which according to the BSP’s website: “exemplifies the Filipino’s uniqueness, strength, power, love for freedom, as well as a sharp vision for the country’s future.”

In Allan Gacasan y Langamin v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 261670, which was handed down on August 23, 2023, but uploaded on the Supreme Court website only on January 11, 2024, the elements of the crime of illegal possession and use of counterfeit bills as defined and punished under Article 168 of the Revised Penal Code, were laid down as follows:

“The elements of the crime charged for violation of Article 168 of the Revised Penal Code, are: 1) that any treasury or bank note or certificate or other obligation and security payable to bearer, or any instrument payable to order or other document of credit not payable to bearer is forged or falsified by another person; 2) that the offender knows that any of the said instruments is forged or falsified; and 3) that he either used or possessed with intent to use any of such forged or falsified instruments.”

The first element of the crime states that the one who falsified the bank note may be another person. This means that even if one does not know who committed the fraud or falsification, but he or she is in possession and/or is using a fake bill, that in itself could amount to a crime.

Article 168 of the Revised Penal Code that criminalizes and penalizes the act of mere “possession” and/or “use” of fake bills has an underlying purpose. It serves to deter people from either knowingly or unknowingly distribute to the community, fake money or bills as it could cause havoc in the banking system and the national economy in the long run.

The proliferation of fake people is no less destructive.  They may look “original” on the surface but a closer look will reveal their rotten fiber and cheap material.

Being in the company of fake people is akin to possessing a counterfeit bill. The ones purveying them are equally guilty of causing havoc to society.

“Knock offs” or imitations should also be despised. There are people whose business in life is to imitate what others have originally conceptualized. These “imitators” must be taken to task too. They pass their “fashion” off as if they created it when in reality, they merely copied it from the original.

Everyone must be mindful that what is essential is what is real.

And it must be original.    

                (The author is the senior partner of ET Reyes III & Associates– a law firm based in Iloilo City. He is a litigation attorney, a law professor, MCLE lecturer, bar reviewer and a book author. His website is etriiilaw.com).