When the President said his favorite expression, Â â€œPutang Inaâ€, the international press lost no time in translating it and headlined that the President called the US President â€œson of a whoreâ€.
This caused the cancellation bilateral talks Â between the two leaders.
â€œPutang Inaâ€ or â€œPutang Ina moâ€ literally taken, puts mothers into disrepute.
Literally taken, it refers to oneâ€™s mother as a prostitute.
However the counterpart expressions in Bisaya in my observation are more â€œcolorfulâ€, 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 â€œPutang Inaâ€ 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:
â€œPutang ina mo” Â 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 â€œPutang Inaâ€ is that it has always been a type of common expressionÂ 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 â€œFuck You,â€ the Supreme Court has explained.
InÂ Noel Villanueva versus People of the PhilippinesÂ (April 10, 2006) the Supreme Court said:
â€œMoreover, pointing a dirty finger ordinarily connotes the phraseÂ FuckÂ You,Â which is similar to theÂ expressionÂ Â PutaÂ orÂ PutangÂ InaÂ mo,Â in local parlance.Â Such expression was not held to be libelous.â€
In another case, uttering the words “Putang ina, bullshit, bugo“Â merited a fine as penalty for the crime of serious slander by deed.
InÂ MariÂ v. Court of AppealsÂ (38 SCRA 269) theÂ complainant and petitioner were co-employees in the Department of Agriculture, with office at Digos, Davao del Sur, although complainant occupied a higher position.
OnÂ Â 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.Â With the intervention of the security guard, petitioner was prevailed upon to desist from further injuring complainant.
The Supreme Court ruled:
â€œThe offense, while considered serious slander by deed was done in the heat of anger and was in reaction to a perceived provocation.Â The penalty for serious slander by deed may be either imprisonment or a fine.Â We opt to impose a fine. â€
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