Imprisonment by uttering “putang-ina mo?”

We have recently observed Davao Mayor, Rudy Duterte, the strongest candidate in the upcoming May 09 election, use the expression “putang-ina (mo)” consistently as if it is part of his natural repertoire. Many people have questioned whether or not the aforementioned expression he consistently uses is immoral or even defamatory against persons.

In the contemplation of the law, “Putang-ina mo,” per se is not immoral. Interestingly, at least in more than one instance, our Supreme Court elucidated the issue as regards the said local expression. Read further…

Is “Putang-ina mo” defamatory? Can you be held criminally liable, imprisoned, by uttering “putang-ina mo?”

As a general rule, No. (Of course not!)

In order to prove slander, there must be an oral defamatory imputation, malice, and an identified or identifiable victim.

The Supreme Court opined in Reyes vs. People, 1969 (cited in Pader vs. People, 2000):

“The charge of oral defamation stemmed from the utterance of the words, “Agustin, putang ina mo”. This is a common enough expression in the dialect that is often employed, not really to slander but rather to express anger or displeasure.” (id.)

Therefore, it is understood that the mere utterance or expression of “putang ina mo,” does not constitute any crime. The expressionPutang ina mo” had become a common expression in the local parlance that it is really not intended to demean any mother (or persons) but simply to express anger, displeasure or disgust (or in many cases, pleasure!).

When does the use of “putang-ina mo” become a crime?

When you have mens rea, or a “guilty mind” (malice) wherein you, without a doubt, intentionally use that expression to demean a person. Couple it with having the said expression directed towards a specific person or an identifiable, then you have the danger of a criminal liability.

What is the punishment for oral defamation anyway?

Arresto mayor in its maximum period (6 months) to prison correccional in its minimum period (6 months and 1 day up to 2 years and four months) for serious and insulting nature; if not, the the penalty shall be arresto menor (1 to 30 days) or a fine not exceeding 200 pesos.

Note: As a criminal case under the Revised Penal Code (Art. 358), it is up to the offended person/s to prove that there was malice on your part when you said it, that you directed the insult towards him, and not not merely expressing or voicing your anger, disgust or displeasure (or pleasure) as a matter simply ventilating your anger without intending to defame anybody, or you were not using it with friendly humor. – it is difficult to prove so.

My two cents…

Don’t take life too rigidly, don’t be too sensitive, these are just words. Still, at the end of the day, you know who you are, you know the truth about yourself. Don’t be peevish (pikon).  Don’t stress yourself over mundane things. Try to look at the positive side of things; the funny side even! I assure you, if you try to relax and see the bigger picture, you will realize, most people, really mean no harm.



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