The crime is oral defamation if the libelous remarks were not printed. Oral defamation is the malicious act of spreading untrue statements about someone, with the intention to harm. Like in libel, the victim need not hear the slander. It is sufficient that the slanderous remarks be made publicly, or that there other persons who have heard such remarks.
One very good example is the plain act of gossiping. It may be considered as oral defamation if insulting and offensive facts are made against the victim; however, if there is no such imputation, then there is only a cause of action for a civil case of intriguing against honor.
Oral defamation may be slight, or grave. In the latter case, the remarks should be of a serious and insulting nature. The gravity of the oral defamation can be determined by several factors, such as: expressions used, the personal relations of the accused and the offended party, the circumstances surrounding the case, social standing and the position of the offended party. By taking into consideration, all or some of these circumstances, the court can determine whether the oral defamation is only slight or if it is grave.
Example of Grave oral Defamation
On March 30, 1993, the Supreme Court decided the case of Amelia Lorbis vs. People of the Philippines, GR. No. 104189. In this case, Amelia shouted, within hearing distance of several persons this statement to the victim: “You are a cheat, a dishonest teacher, you are dead hungry, an old person with gray hair, dull, dirty, I will have you salvage(d) by Dodong Amora.” She was convicted of grave oral defamation, but she claimed that she should only be held liable for slight oral defamation.
Taking into consideration special circumstances, the Supreme Court ruled that Amelia is liable for grave oral defamation. The victim was 61 years old and he has been a public school teacher for 32 years. These circumstances have qualified the offense into grave oral defamation, and it cannot be reduced to simple oral defamation by the claim that the slanderous words were said in the heat of anger.
Self-defense in oral defamation may only be invoked if his reply is made in good faith, without malice, is not necessarily defamatory to his assailant and is necessary for his explanation or defense.