Oral defamation: How a heated argument can get you jailed in the Philippines

The Law of Oral Defamation in the Philippines

Oral defamation is an issue in the Philippines that is unlike many other countries in the world. Here, defamation is a big issue that can see you fined or even jailed for the offence.

Oral defamation is the act of speaking “base and defamatory words which tend to prejudice another or his reputation”. This also covers businesses, trades, offices or any type of livelihood. This stems from the Supreme Court hearing of Victor vs Court of Appeals G.R. Nos. L-32836 of May 3, 1989.

Oral defamation can come from acts of retaliation, acts of yelling and acts of any form of heated argument pertaining baseless information. Even talk which contains overtones of false information or content are considered an act of oral defamation.

Oral defamation can be classified as ‘grave’ or ‘simple’ – depending on the words used and its grammatical meaning. The act is also classified depending on the relationship and even the social standing of the parties noted in the offence. (Leonor D. Boado, Notes and Cases on Revised Penal Code citing Larobis vs Court of Appeals, G.R. No. 104189, March 30, 1993).

Penalties for oral defamation can be severe, with the highest penalty imposed for those found guilty of the act is up to two years and four months. (Article 358, Revised Penal Code).

Often foreigners involved in such cases tend to find hardships in cases involving heated arguments. Like numerous laws in the Philippines the local barangay will take on such cases between two parties and release it to a higher court after a 3 and final hearing on the matter. Once in the upper courts the offence can take years to adjudicate.