Monday, October 3, 2016

The P-word, according to SC | Inquirer Opinion

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The Supreme Court reviewed the case and further reduced the crime to slight oral defamation with a fine of P200 and court costs, citing Reyes vs. People, where the Court ruled that “the expression ‘putang ina mo’ is a common enough utterance in the dialect that is often employed, not really to slander but rather to express anger or displeasure. In fact, more often, it is just an expletive that punctuates one’s expression of profanity. We do not find it seriously insulting that after a previous incident involving his father, a drunk Rogelio Pader, on seeing Atty. Escolango, would utter words expressing anger. Obviously, the intention was to show his feelings of resentment and not necessarily to insult the latter. Being a candidate running for vice mayor, occasional gestures and words of disapproval or dislike of his person are not uncommon.”

While the Philippine Supreme Court ruled twice on the P-word in the context of oral defamation, the US Supreme Court has ruled on the F-word in the context of freedom of speech. In 1968, during the height of the demonstrations against the Vietnam War, Robert Cohen was brought to court for “offensive behavior” because he wore a jacket with the words “Fuck the Draft” to a California Court Room. The US Supreme Court Justice Harlan agreed with Cohen who asserted his First Amendment right to engage in non-threatening, non-disruptive political speech. Justice Harlan opined: “No individual actually or likely to be present could reasonably have regarded the words on appellant’s jacket as a direct personal insult.”

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