Debasement of one’s character amounts to oral defamation


Persida Acosta

Dear PAO,
While I was visiting my mother in their subdivision, I had an unfortunate encounter with the head of the subdivision guards that resulted in a heated exchange of words. The guards on duty embarrassed me in front of my family and our other visitors by calling me a thief and swindler. I was called a criminal and was told that I don’t deserve to enter their subdivision since I am cheap. A lot of people entering the subdivision heard and saw everything that happened. Out of embarrassment, I was forced to leave and postpone my visit to my mother that day. I am seriously considering filing a criminal complaint against the guards because of what happened. May I please know the kind of criminal case I can file against them and the penalty that comes with it? I shall wait for your advice.

Dear Nadia,
Being called a criminal and unworthy of entry in a subdivision, among others, is a clear debasement and insult to one’s character. Statements such as these are considered defamatory as they impute a crime and defect against a person. Oral defamation is defined as the “speaking of base and defamatory words which tend to prejudice another in his reputation, office, trade, business or means of livelihood” (33 Am. Jur. 39, cited in Victorio vs. Court of Appeals, G.R. Nos. L-32836-37, May 3, 1989; ponente: former Associate Justice Abdulwahid Bidin).

It is clear from the details you have given that defamatory statements were made against you by the subdivision guards since those statements involve serious imputations against your character. As such, you may file a criminal case for oral defamation against those who made those statements against you.

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


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