Enrique G. De Leon vs. People of the Philippines, et al., G.R. No. 212623, Jan. 11, 2016


This is a case for Grave Oral Defamation filed against Enrique G. De Leon, who allegedly uttered “WALANGHIYA KANG MANGONGOTONG NA PULIS KA, ANG YABANG YABANG MO NOON. PATAY KA SA AKIN MAMAYA” and other words and expressions of similar import, thereby bringing SPO3 Pedrito L. Leonardo into public contempt, discredit and ridicule.

Per version of the prosecution, De Leon and his son filed a complaint for grave misconduct against SPO3 Leonardo before the People’s Law Enforcement Board (PLEB). At the first scheduled hearing, De Leon uttered the said words to SPO3 Leonardo in the presence of several persons. SPO3 Leonardo later entered the incident in the blotter of Special Operations Group of the Philippine National Police and on the same day filed his complaint at the Office of the City Prosecutor (OCP).

Per version of the defense, there was a prior incident involving De Leon and his son and SPO3 Leonardo, who approached the two while having breakfast with fellow joggers at the Philippine National Railroad-Tutuban Station. SPO3 Leonardo allegedly said, “Putang ina mo, tapos ka na Ricky Boy,” and tried to shoot his gun but the gun did not fire. De Leon escaped the encounter and consequently, he filed an administrative complaint for grave misconduct against SPO3 Leonardo before the PLEB. In his Sinumpaang Salaysay sa Paghahabla, De Leon narrated that he and SPO3 Leonardo were former jogging buddies and that the latter wanted to borrow money from the former in the amount of PHP 150,000.00 but he declined. SPO3 Leonardo became upset with him, culminating in the gun-pointing incident.

On the day of the PLEB hearing, the defense alleged that it was SPO3 Leonardo who badmouthed and threatened De Leon by uttering the words, “Putang-ina mong mayabang ka, pag di mo inurong demanda mo sa akin, papatayin kita.” Moments later, they caused the incident to be entered in the police blotter.

On the same day, after receiving subpoena from the OCP for SPO3 Leonardo’s case against him, De Leon utilized the police blotter to file a case against SPO3 Leondardo in Camp Crame. But De Leon did not immediately file a case against SPO3 Leonardo before the OCP.

The trial court found De Leon guilty beyond reasonable doubt of Grave Oral Defamation. It considered SPO3 Leonardo’s police blotter as prima facie evidence of the facts contained therein and ruled that his actuations on the day of the incident were spontaneous. On the other hand, De Leon’s defense were found to be only an afterthought and self-serving as he merely filed counter-charges against Leonardo after he had received the subpoena from the OCP.

On appeal, the RTC rendered its decision affirming in toto the ruling of the MeTC. De Leon’s motion for reconsideration was likewise denied.

Aggrieved, De Leon filed a petition for review under Rule 42 before the CA, which affirmed the RTC decision with modification as to the imposed penalty. De Leon’s move for partial reconsideration was to no avail.

Hence, this petition.




The MeTC Decision clearly stated the facts and the law on which it was based.

There was no breach of the constitutional mandate that decisions must express clearly and distinctly the facts and the law on which they are based. The CA correctly stated that the MeTC clearly emphasized in its decision, the factual findings, as well as the credibility and probative weight of the evidence for the defense vis-à-vis the evidence of the prosecution. The MeTC presented both version of the prosecution and that of the defense. De Leon was not left in the dark. He was fully aware of the alleged errors of the MeTC. The RTC, as an appellate court, found no reason to reverse the decision of the MeTC.

Likewise, when it comes to credibility of witnesses, this Court accords the highest respect, even finality, to the evaluation by the lower court of the testimonies of the witnesses presented before it.

The crime committed is only Slight Oral Defamation.

The Court agrees that the words uttered by De Leon were defamatory in nature. It is, however, of the view that the same only constituted simple oral defamation.

First, as to the relationship of the parties, they were obviously acquainted with each other as they were former jogging buddies. Prior to the purported gun-pointing incident, there was no reason for De Leon to harbor ill feelings towards SPO3 Leonardo.

Second, as to the timing of the utterance, this was made during the first hearing on the administrative case, shortly after the alleged gun-pointing incident. The gap between the gun-pointing incident and the first hearing was relatively short, a span of time within which the wounded feelings could not have healed. The utterance made by De Leon was but a mere product of emotional outburst, kept inside his system and unleashed during their encounter.

Third, such words taken as a whole were not uttered with evident intent to strike deep into the character of SPO3 Leonardo as the animosity between the parties should have been considered. It was because of the purported gun-pointing incident that De Leon hurled those words. There was no intention to ridicule or humiliate SPO3 Leonardo because De Leon’s utterance could simply be construed as his expression of dismay towards his actions as his friend and member of the community.


Constitutional Requirement that Decisions must clearly state the Facts and Law on which they are based.

Under Section 14, Article VIII of the Constitution, no decision shall be rendered by any court without expressing therein clearly and distinctly the facts and the law on which it is based. Section 1 of Rule 36 of the Rules of Court provides that a judgment or final order determining the merits of the case shall be in writing personally and directly prepared by the judge, stating clearly and distinctly the facts and the law on which it is based, signed by him and filed with the clerk of the court.

Faithful adherence to the requirements of Section 14, Article VIII of the Constitution is indisputably a paramount component of due process and fair play. A decision that does not clearly and distinctly state the facts and the law on which it is based leaves the parties in the dark as to how it was reached and is precisely prejudicial to the losing party, who is unable to pinpoint the possible errors of the court for review by a higher tribunal.

More than that, the requirement is an assurance to the parties that, in arriving at a judgment, the judge did so through the process of legal reasoning. It is, thus, a safeguard against the impetuosity of the judge, preventing him from deciding ipse dixit.

Minimum Standard for the Judiciary in Rendering Decision

The standard “expected of the judiciary” is that the decision rendered makes clear why either party prevailed under the applicable law to the facts as established. Nor is there any rigid formula as to the language to be employed to satisfy the requirement of clarity and distinctness. The discretion of the particular judge in this respect, while not unlimited, is necessarily broad. There is no sacramental form of words which he must use upon pain of being considered as having failed to abide by what the Constitution directs.

It is understandable that courts, with heavy dockets and time constraints, often find themselves with little to spare in the preparation of decisions to the extent most desirable. Judges might learn to synthesize and to simplify their pronouncements. Nevertheless, concisely written such as they may be, decisions must still distinctly and clearly express, at least in minimum essence, its factual and legal bases.

Elements of Oral Defamation

Oral Defamation or Slander is libel committed by oral (spoken) means, instead of in writing. It is defined as “the speaking of base and defamatory words which tend to prejudice another in his reputation, office, trade, business or means of livelihood.” The elements of oral defamation are: (1) there must be an imputation of a crime, or of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, status or circumstances; (2) made orally; (3) publicly; (4) and maliciously; (5) directed to a natural or juridical person, or one who is dead; (6) which tends to cause dishonor, discredit or contempt of the person defamed. Oral defamation may either be simple or grave. It becomes grave when it is of a serious and insulting nature.

How to determine if allegation is defamatory

An allegation is considered defamatory if it ascribes to a person the commission of a crime, the possession of a vice or defect, real or imaginary or any act, omission, condition, status or circumstance which tends to dishonor or discredit or put him in contempt or which tends to blacken the memory of one who is dead. To determine whether a statement is defamatory, the words used in the statement must be construed in their entirety and should be taken in their plain, natural and ordinary meaning as they would naturally be understood by persons reading them, unless it appears that they were used and understood in another sense. It must be stressed that words which are merely insulting are not actionable as libel or slander per se, and mere words of general abuse however opprobrious, ill-natured, or vexatious, whether written or spoken, do not constitute a basis for an action for defamation in the absence of an allegation for special damages. The fact that the language is offensive to the plaintiff does not make it actionable by itself.

When defamation is serious or slight

Whether the offense committed is serious or slight oral defamation, depends not only upon the sense and grammatical meaning of the utterances but also upon the special circumstances of the case, like the social standing or the advanced age of the offended party. The gravity depends upon: (1) the expressions used; (2) the personal relations of the accused and the offended party; and (3) the special circumstances of the case, the antecedents or relationship between the offended party and the offender, which may tend to prove the intention of the offender at the time. In particular, it is a rule that uttering defamatory words in the heat of anger, with some provocation on the part of the offended party constitutes only a light felony.

Examples of cases for grave oral defamation

In U.S. v. Tolosa, where a woman of violent temper hurled offensive and scurrilous epithets including words imputing unchastity against a respectable married lady and tending to injure the character of her young daughters, the Court ruled that the crime committed was grave slander. In Balite v. People, the accused was found guilty of grave oral defamation as the scurrilous words he imputed to the offended party constituted the crime of estafa.

Examples of cases for slight oral defamation

In the case of People v. Arcand, a priest called the offended party a gangster in the middle of the sermon. The Court affirmed the conviction of the accused for slight slander as there was no imputation of a crime, a vice or immorality. In Pader v. People, the Court ruled that the crime committed was only slight oral defamation as it considered the expression, “putang ina mo,” as expression to convey anger or displeasure. Such utterance was found not seriously insulting considering that he was drunk when he uttered those words and his anger was instigated by what the private complainant did when the former’s father died.

Example of a case where no defamation was found

Also in Jamilano v. Court of Appeals, where calling someone “yabang” (boastful or arrogant) was found not defamatory, the complainant’s subsequent recourse to the law on oral defamation was not sustained by the Court.

Defamation against a Public Officer

Finally, the Court finds that even though SPO3 Leonardo was a police officer by profession, his complaint against De Leon for oral defamation must still prosper. It has been held that a public officer should not be too onion-skinned and should be tolerant of criticism. The doctrine, nevertheless, would only apply if the defamatory statement was uttered in connection with the public officer’s duty.

One of man’s most prized possession is his integrity. There lies a thin line between criticism and outright defamation. When one makes commentaries about the other’s performance of official duties, the criticism is considered constructive, then aimed for the betterment of his or her service to the public. It is thus, a continuing duty on the part of the public officer to make room for improvement on the basis of this constructive criticism in as much as it is imperative on the part of the general public to make the necessary commentaries should they see any lapses on the part of the public officer.

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