Is pointing a dirty finger at complainant constitutes simple slander by deed?

Article 359 of the Revised Penal Code provides:

Art. 359. Slander by deed. – The penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period or a fine ranging from 200 to 1,000 pesos shall be imposed upon any person who shall perform any act not included and punished in this title, which shall cast dishonor, discredit, or contempt upon another person. If said act is not of a serious nature, the penalty shall be arresto menor or a fine not exceeding 200 pesos.

Slander by deed is a crime against honor, which is committed by performing any act, which casts dishonor, discredit, or contempt upon another person. The elements are (1) that the offender performs any act not included in any other crime against honor, (2) that such act is performed in the presence of other person or persons, and (3) that such act casts dishonor, discredit or contempt upon the offended party. Whether a certain slanderous act constitutes slander by deed of a serious nature or not, depends on the social standing of the offended party, the circumstances under which the act was committed, the occasion, etc.[32] It is libel committed by actions rather than words. The most common examples are slapping someone or spitting on his/her face in front of the public market, in full view of a crowd, thus casting dishonor, discredit, and contempt upon the person of another.

In Mari v. Court of Appeals,[33] complainant and petitioner were co-employees in the Department of Agriculture, with office at Digos, Davao del Sur, although complainant occupied a higher position. On 6 December 1991, petitioner borrowed from complainant the records of his 201 file. However, when he returned the same three days later, complainant noticed that several papers were missing which included official communications from the Civil Service Commission and Regional Office, Department of Agriculture, and a copy of the complaint by the Rural Bank of Digos against petitioner. Upon instruction of her superior officer, complainant sent a memorandum to petitioner asking him to explain why his 201 file was returned with missing documents. Instead of acknowledging receipt of the memorandum, petitioner confronted complainant and angrily shouted at her: “Putang ina, bullshit, bugo.” He banged a chair in front of complainant and choked her. With the intervention of the security guard, petitioner was prevailed upon to desist from further injuring complainant.  We held:

Prescinding from the foregoing, it would serve the ends of justice better if the petitioner were sentenced to pay a fine instead of imprisonment. The offense while considered serious slander by deed was done in the heat of anger and was in reaction to a perceived provocation. The penalty for serious slander by deed may be either imprisonment or a fine. We opt to impose a fine.

ACCORDINGLY, the Court hereby SETS ASIDE the decision of the Court of Appeals and in lieu thereof renders judgment finding petitioner guilty beyond reasonable doubt of serious slander by deed defined and penalized under Article 359 of the Revised Penal Code, and sentencing him to pay a fine of P1,000.00, with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency.[34]  (Emphasis supplied.)

In Mari, the Court found petitioner guilty of serious slander by deed defined and penalized under Article 359 of the Revised Penal Code, and sentenced him to pay a fine of P1,000.00, with subsidiary imprisonment in case of insolvency. The deed involved was the banging of a chair in front of complainant and choking her.

In another case, Teodoro v. Court of Appeals,[35] the incident, which gave rise to this case, is narrated as follows:

Petitioner Amado B. Teodoro was vice-president and corporate secretary of the DBT-Marbay Construction, Inc., while complainant, Carolina Tanco-Young, was treasurer of the same corporation.  Petitioner is the brother of the president of the corporation, Donato Teodoro, while complainant is the daughter of the chairman of the board of the corporation, Agustin Tanco. x x x

Records show that the incident complained of took place at the Board Room of the D.B.T. Mar Bay Construction Incorporated in the afternoon ofAugust 17, 1984.  Present at the meeting were Agustin Tanco, Chairman of the Board; the President, Donato Teodoro; the accused, Amado Teodoro, as Corporate Secretary; the complainant, Carolina Tanco-Young who is the Treasurer; and one Oscar Benares.

x x x x

It appears that there was a controversial document being insisted upon by the accused, as secretary, to be signed by the chairman.  The Board Treasurer, Carolina Tanco-Young questioned the propriety of having the document signed as there was, according to her, no such meeting that ever took place as to show a supposed resolution to have been deliberated upon.  A verbal exchange of words and tirades took place between the accused Secretary and the Treasurer.  One word led to another up to the point where Carolina Tanco-Young, the treasurer, either by implication or expressed domineering words, alluded to the accused as a “falsifier” which blinded the accused-appellant to extreme anger and rage, thus leading him to slap Tanco-Young — the alleged name caller.[36]  (Emphasis supplied.)

This Court in Teodoro held that there was grave slander by deed.

In another case, the acts of pushing and slapping a woman in order to ridicule and shame her before other people constitute the felony of slander by deed defined and penalized under Article 359 of the Revised Penal Code by arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period.[37]

In the cases as above-cited, there was no provocation on the part of the complainants unlike the present case.  Moreover, the “poking of the finger” in the case at bar was, palpably, of less serious magnitude compared to the banging of chair, the choking in Mari and the slapping of a face in Teodoro. Thus, we find that the poking of dirty finger in the case at bar, while it smacks of slander by deed, is of a lesser magnitude than the acts committed in the foregoing cases.

Moreover, pointing a dirty finger ordinarily connotes the phrase “Fuck You,” which is similar to the expression “Puta” or “Putang Ina mo,” in local parlance.  Such expression was not held to be libelous in Reyes v. People,[38] where the Court said that: “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.”  Following Reyes, and in light of the fact that there was a perceived provocation coming from complainant, petitioner’s act of pointing a dirty finger at complainant constitutes simple slander by deed, it appearing from the factual milieu of the case that the act complained of was employed by petitioner “to express anger or displeasure” at complainant for procrastinating the approval of his leave monetization. While it may have cast dishonor, discredit or contempt upon complainant, said act is not of a serious nature, thus, the penalty shall be arresto menor meaning, imprisonment from one day to 30 days or a fine not exceeding P200.00. We opt to impose a fine following Mari.[39]

http://sc.judiciary.gov.ph/jurisprudence/2006/april2006/G.R.%20No.%20160351.htm

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About Erineus

Ernesto O. Bendita. Born on December 28, 1965, Surallah, South Cotabato, Southern Mindanao, Philippines.
This entry was posted in Criminal Law, Question and Answers, Slander. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Is pointing a dirty finger at complainant constitutes simple slander by deed?

  1. VICENTE MANALAC says:

    TAMA NA IYAN ….LET US SUPPORT THE CHIEF JUSTICE NALANG …

  2. VICENTE MANALAC says:

    GET OUT OF HERE .. GO OUT THERE AND SUPPORT OUR CHIEF JUSTICE …

  3. vicente manalac says:

    support cj corona … stand beside chief justice renato corona

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