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Oral Defamation, Slander and Libel: The Thin Line That Separates Them

They say, "stick and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me". Words can hurt people and can scar them for life. When a person becomes a victim to the throes of another person's anger, hurtful words become a powerful weapon that pierces through the soul. Some would simply shrug these off, but if words have already tainted one's reputation, honor or character, the matters are taken to court. Libel, oral defamation or slander. These are freedom of speech and expression gone wrong. As they say, too much of everything is bad and even if you only intend to express your anger, discontentment or turmoil towards the person by uttering or writing unpleasant words against him or her, the damage cannot be undone. However, deciphering the intricacies of laws concerning violation of freedom of speech and expression can be quite puzzling. So, how does libel differ from slander?


Libel, according the to Article 353 of the Revised Penal Code is "the public and malicious imputation of a crime, or  of a vice or defect, real or imaginary, or any act, omission, condition, status, or circumstance tending to cause the dishonor, discredit, or contempt of a natural or juridical person, or to blacken the memory of one who is dead"

"ART. 355. Libel by means of writings or similar means. — A libel committed by means of writing, printing, lithography, engraving, radio, phonograph, painting, theatrical exhibition, cinematographic exhibition, or any similar means, shall be punished by prisión correccional in its minimum and medium periods or a fine ranging from 200 to 6,000 pesos, or both, in addition to the civil action which may be brought by the offended party."

Slander or Oral Defamation

Slander or oral defamation is defined as speaking of base or defamatory words with an intention to prejudice another person in his or her reputation. Slander by deed on the other hand, is an act committed which tends to discredit or dishonor another individual. (Article 359 of the Revised Penal Code)

Art. 358. Slander. — Oral defamation shall be punished by arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period if it is of a serious and insulting nature; otherwise the penalty shall be arresto menor or a fine not exceeding 200 pesos.

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.

Whether it is spoken or written, it is every person's responsibility to mince words to avoid hurting another person's feelings. It is true that the freedom of speech and expression is one of the most valued rights, but this does not give you license to say as you please.