Is saying that a person is a “thief” a grave oral defamation?

To say that Daylinda is a thief is irrefragably grave oral defamation. This imputes to her a crime that is dishonorable or contemptuous.

However, the Court finds that the penalty imposed on the petitioner is erroneous.  The penalty imposed by Article 358 of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, for grave oral defamation is arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period which has a duration of from four (4) months and one (1) day to two (2) years and four (4) months.

In order to fix the minimum term of the penalty required by the Indeterminate Sentence Law,[21] the imposable penalty should be reduced by one degree – arresto mayor, in its medium and minimum period, which has a range of from one (1) month and one (1) day to four (4) months. The maximum of the penalty imposed on the accused is to be taken from the penalty imposed by the law taking into account the modifying circumstances attending the commission of the offense for which the accused is convicted.

In this case, the petitioner was sentenced to an indeterminate penalty of from six (6) months and one (1) day as minimum to two (2) years and four (4) months and one (1) day, on the trial court’s premise that the petitioner had been convicted for another crime for which he filed a petition for probation.  However, we have reviewed the records of the CA inclusive of the decision of the MCTC, and there is no such allegation in the Information, nor is there any showing that the respondent adduced in evidence any decision convicting the petitioner by final judgment of any other crime, or that he filed a petition for probation therein.  Thus, we find and so hold that the petitioner should be sentenced to suffer a straight penalty of six (6) months.

The award of P2,000.00 as compensatory damages should be deleted for lack of factual basis.  To be entitled to actual and compensatory damages, there must be competent proof constituting evidence of the actual amount thereof.[22]

The Court affirms the trial court’s award of moral damages in favor of the private complainant. Article 2219(7) of the New Civil Code allows the recovery of moral damages in case of libel, slander or any other form of defamation. This provision establishes the right of an offended party in a case for oral defamation to recover from the guilty party damages for injury to his feelings and reputation.[23]

It must be remembered that every defamatory imputation is presumed to be malicious, even if it be true, if no good intention and justifiable motive for making it is shown.  And malice may be inferred from the style and tone of publication subject to certain exceptions which are not present in the case at bar.[24] Indeed, calling Daylinda a thief is defamation against her character and reputation sufficient to cause her embarrassment and social humiliation. Daylinda testified to the feelings of shame and humiliation she suffered as a result of the incident complained of.[25]

About Erineus

Born on December 28, 1965, Surallah, South Cotabato, Southern Mindanao, Philippines.
This entry was posted in Criminal Law, Oral Defamation, Question and Answers and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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