Our family has been the subject of rumor-mongering in our place. The rumor started when one of our neighbors started to gossip about my husband having an affair with another woman in our community. I talked to my husband and the woman alleged to be his mistress and they both denied that they have a relationship. This gossip causes us misery. Can I file a case against the gossipmongers?
Article 26 of the New Civil Code provides that:
“Every person shall respect the dignity, personality, privacy and peace of mind of his neighbors and other persons. The following and similar acts, though they may not constitute a criminal offense, shall produce a cause of action for damages, prevention and other relief:
1. Prying into the privacy of another’s residence;
2. Meddling with or disturbing the private life or family relations of another;
3. Intriguing to cause another to be alienated from his friends;
4. Vexing or humiliating another on account of his religious beliefs, lowly station in life, place of birth, physical defect, or other personal condition.”
From the foregoing, it is clear that any malicious act which tends to cause discredit and dishonor to disturb a person’s peace of mind shall produce a cause of action for damages and prevention and other relief. Even if the said act is not criminal in nature, if it tends to cause disrespect to the peace of mind of another person and his family, that person against whom the said act was done is entitled to damages.
From the facts that you stated, you may file an action for damages against the gossipers because they are meddling in the affairs of your family and they are causing intrigues that may alienate you from your husband and your family. Aside from an action for damages, you may also file a criminal case for oral defamation against the said gossipers. Oral defamation is a malicious imputation of a vice, defect, act, omission or circumstance tending to cause dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a person or the memory of one who is dead. The gossip that your husband is having an affair with one of your neighbors is a very serious imputation of a wrong which tends to cause discredit and dishonor not just to your husband but to your whole family as well.
You mentioned that your family’s life became miserable because of this gossip. This is one of the effects of the malicious stories invented against your husband and, thus, it gives rise to a right to file a complaint for violation of Article 358 of the Revised Penal Code, thus:
“Article 358: Slander.-Oral defamation shall be punished by arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period if it is of a serious nature; otherwise, the penalty shall be arresto menor or a fine not exceeding P200.00.”
You may file your criminal complaint with the Office of the City/Provincial Prosecutor, which has jurisdiction over the place where the said act of grave oral defamation was committed. You just have to be sure that you can prove that the said story has no truth in it.
We hope that we were able to address your query. Please be reminded that the above legal opinion is solely based on our appreciation of the problem that you have stated. The opinion may vary when other facts are included or elaborated.
Editor’s note: Dear PAO is a daily column of the Public Attorney’s Office. Questions for Chief Acosta may be sent to email@example.com