I once had a heated encounter with an officemate. During our altercation, we had some exchange of words in front of our officemates and while I tried to be civil about it I was surprised that my officemate consistently threw invectives against me and even accused me of being a mistress of our boss and that I was a known prostitute in our office. I was so frustrated and at the same time embarrassed as almost all of my officemates heard and saw this incident. I did not go to work several days after that because of the embarrassment I experienced and until now I feel uncomfortable since my reputation was already tainted. I want to know now if I can file a criminal case against my officemate for what she said about me and if she can be imprisoned for this. I hope you can advise me on this matter.
From your narration, you may file a criminal case for oral defamation against your officemate whom you had an altercation with. Oral defamation according to the Supreme Court is the act of speaking base and defamatory words which tend to prejudice another in his reputation, office, trade, business or means of livelihood (Victorio v. Court of Appeals G.R. Nos. L-32836-37 May 3, 1989.)
Furthermore, oral defamation can be classified as either grave or simple depending on several reasons including the word used and its grammatical meaning, the relationship between the offended party and the offender and even the social standing of the offended party (Leonor D. Boado, Notes and Cases on the Revised Penal Code citing Larobis vs Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 104189, March 30, 1993).
It is clear from the details you have given that words and accusations hurled by your officemate against you are covered by the law penalizing oral defamation since it involves serious imputations against your character that caused damage to your reputation as a decent person and as an employee in your workplace. Because of this, you may justly file a criminal case for oral defamation against your officemate.
Finally, with regard to the penalty involved in this crime, the law provides that the highest penalty that may be imposed to those who will be found guilty of oral defamation is arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correctional in its minimum period which is equivalent to four (4) months and one (1) day to two (2) years and four (4) months of imprisonment. (Article 358, Revised Penal Code).
Again, we find it necessary to mention that this opinion is solely based on the facts you have narrated and our appreciation of the same. The opinion may vary when the facts are changed or elaborated.
We hope that we were able to enlighten you on the matter.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org