“Putang Ina”

jayThe biggest story during the Asean summit in Laos was the profane language unleashed by the President in his comments about the United States President Barrack Obama.

When the President said his favorite expression,  “Putang Ina”, the international press lost no time in translating it and headlined that the President called the US President “son of a whore”.

This caused the cancellation bilateral talks  between the two leaders.

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“Putang Ina” or “Putang Ina mo” literally taken, puts mothers into disrepute.

Literally taken, it refers to one’s mother as a prostitute.

However the counterpart expressions in Bisaya in my observation are more “colorful”, to borrow the description by the U.S. President

But should it be taken literally?

The Supreme Court has had occasion to rule that hurling invectives like “Putang Ina” does not necessarily mean it is actionable within the purview of the laws on Slander.

In one case decided by the High Court, one went to the gate of another person and shouted”Agustin, putang ina mo. Agustin, mawawala ka. Agustin lumabas ka, papatayin kita.”

The person who shouted was sued for criminal Slander.

In ruling, the Supreme court said:

“Putang ina mo”  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.

In the instant case, it should be viewed as part of the threats voiced by appellant against Agustin Hallare, evidently to make the same more emphatic.

Hence, the real context of “Putang Ina” is that it has always been a type of common expression  to express anger or displeasure.

President Obama, perhaps after being briefed by aides on the true context of the phrase said he does not take it personally since he realized this is a habit of the President.

Other nasty phrases have been subject of decisions of the Court too.

I found it interesting how the Supreme Court handled supposedly slanderous phrases that often hurt people and drive them to seek judicial redress.

What about pointing the dirty middle finger?

It connotes “Fuck You,” the Supreme Court has explained.

In Noel Villanueva versus People of the Philippines  (April 10, 2006) the Supreme Court said:

“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 another case, uttering the words “Putang ina, bullshit, bugo“ merited a fine as penalty for the crime of serious slander by deed.

In Mari v. Court of Appeals (38 SCRA 269) the 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.

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.

The Supreme Court ruled:

“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. ”

Somehow, these vulgar phrases that have nowadays occupied headline stories, even in international media outlets, had long found their way into the annals of Philippine jurisprudence.

By Atty. Jay I. Dejaresco



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