I am writing to seek legal advice on a case filed against me for “Slander.” It all started with my former friend who borrowed P15,000 from me. According to her, she will repay me as soon as her OFW husband sends his monthly “padala.” Six months went by, and she still has not paid her debt to me. I texted her and even sent her messages on Facebook to remind her of her obligation. However, she simply ignored my messages. One day, I decided to go to her house to personally collect the amount. Upon reaching her house, I rang the doorbell, and saw her peep out from her window. When she saw me, she disappeared inside the house. I got frustrated and began raising my voice calling out her name. In my anger, I shouted, “Linda! Estapadora ka! Hindi ka nagbabayad ng utang!” After the incident, another two months went by with no word from her. Then, suddenly I received a Subpoena informing me that I am being charged with “Slander.” My question now is this, what is Slander? If I would be found guilty, will I be imprisoned? And lastly, how can I collect my P15,000?
Firstly, Slander is a Criminal Offense found in Article 358 of the Revised Penal Code. It states:
“Art 358. Slander. Oral defamation shall be punished by arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correctional in its minimum period if it is of a serious and insulting nature; otherwise, the penalty shall be arresto menor or a fine not exceeding P200.”
It is therefore up to the courts to determine whether or not the utterances that you made in front of your friend’s house could be considered Oral Defamation. In the event the court considers your words defamatory in nature, the court will decide if the words you used were serious and insulting. In such a case, the higher penalty would be imposed.
To answer your second query; if you are found guilty of Slander, there may be a corresponding penalty of imprisonment depending on the seriousness of the oral defamation. We cannot advise with accuracy the specific penalty that a court may impose so as not to pre-empt the presiding judge.
As for your last query, you may claim the P15,000 owed to you by your friend by filing a claim under the Small Claims Cases Rule (SC En Banc Resolution dated October 27, 2009 in A.M. No. 08-8-7-SC). Such is a more simple and convenient procedure for money claims not exceeding P100,000 wherein a plaintiff may directly file a claim in court without the assistance of a lawyer but upon guidance of the court.
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