Supreme Court in 1969: 'P***** ina' isn't oral defamation, slander

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 08 2016 06:29 PM | Updated as of Sep 09 2016 02:08 AM

MANILA – Firebrand President Rodrigo Duterte has been criticized by some quarters for sometimes punctuating his public speeches with swear words, the latest incident during a media briefing before departing for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) summit in Laos this week.

READ: Duterte calls Obama a 'son of a w****'

The president blurted out "p***** ina," while responding to a reporter's question about a possible meeting with US President Barack Obama, who may bring up the issue of summary killings.

Loosely translated, the Filipino expletive means "b**** mother." It has different variations, with literal and loose translations equivalent to "your mother is a b****," "son of a b****," or "daughter of a b****."

In a ruling by overwhelming majority in the late 1960's, the Supreme Court (SC) of the Philippines said the expletive "p***** ina mo" does not constitute oral defamation, and must not be interpreted literally as an attack on a mother's virtues.

The decision, dated March 28, 1969, penned by then Associate Justice Querube Makalintal, who later became Chief Justice, acquitted a party who said the swear words against another person. The ruling said that the words are an "expression" in the Filipino dialect that is seldom taken in its literal sense.

"This is a common enough expression in the dialect that is often employed, not really to slander but rather to express anger or displeasure. It is seldom, if ever, taken in its literal sense by the hearer, that is, as a reflection on the virtues of a mother," the SC ruling stated.


In the case at hand, a petition was filed with the high court by Rosauro Reyes, a former civilian employee of the Navy Exchange in Sangley Point, Cavite City, after the Court of Appeals (CA) affirmed his conviction by a trial court for grave threats and oral defamation.

The case stemmed from an incident on June 6, 1961, when Reyes, after staging a rally with several others at the main gate of the US Naval Station at Sangley Point, went to complainant Agustin Hallare's residence to stage a demonstration there.

Reyes accused Hallare and a certain Frank Nollan of causing his dismissal from the Navy Exchange.

The former Navy Exchange employee supposedly yelled expletives while outside the gates of Hallare's residence, said an account of the incident, which was detailed in the SC decision.

"Agustin, p***** ina mo. Agustin, mawawala ka. Agustin, lumabas ka, papatayin kita," Reyes supposedly shouted repeatedly before leaving.

Hallare filed charges of grave threats and oral defamation against Reyes after the incident.

The high court acquitted Reyes of oral defamation on the basis of his utterance of "Agustin, p***** ina mo."

However, the SC affirmed Reyes' conviction for grave threats for shouting "Agustin…papatayin kita," taken with other actions, such as raising threatening placards at the main gate of the naval station, and trailing Hallare up to his residence and holding a demonstration there.

According to the high court, these were made "with the deliberate purpose of creating in the mind of the person threatened the belief that the threat would be carried into effect."

Reyes' utterance of expletives according to the high court, "should be viewed as part of the threats voiced by appellant against Agustin Hallare, evidently to make the same more emphatic."

The Reyes vs People case continues to be invoked in SC decisions.