Supreme Court ruling: ‘Putang ina mo’ doesn’t mean ‘your mother is a whore’

RIGOBERTO D. TIGLAO
RIGOBERTO D. TIGLAO

I’m not kidding.

The Philippine Supreme Court ruled in 1969, and affirmed in another decision in 2006, that in effect, onion-skinned people like President Obama — or his stupid advisers and uninformed foreign press— shouldn’t really be offended and think that their dearly beloved mothers’ virtues are defamed when the word ”putang ina,” or even the more direct ”putang ina mo,” is used in statements directed at them.

In 1961, an employee at the Naval Exchange in Sangley Point, Rosauro Reyes, got so angry with the store’s managers, especially one Agustin Hallare, for firing him, together with 20 others. Reyes pursued Hallare to his home, and as he was closing the gate, the angry man shouted at the manager: “Agustin, putang ina mo. Agustin, mawawala ka. Lumabas ka, papatayin kita.”

Hallare filed a case accusing the employee of two crimes: grave threat (for saying he will kill him) and oral defamation (for his putang ina). Hallare, in his complaint, claimed that Reyes’ insult, “Agustin, putang ina mo,” “if translated into English means, ‘Agustin, your mother is a whore.’” (That exactly was how the foreign press translated President Duterte’s “putang ina mo” as part of his comment on a reporter’s question about US President Obama during a pre-departure press conference in Manila before his Laos trip. That, of course, sent shock waves around the world.)

The Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s ruling convicting Reyes of both crimes. But Reyes appealed to the Supreme Court in 1962. In 1969 the High Tribunal affirmed his conviction for the crime of grave threat (for threatening to kill Hallare). However, it acquitted him of oral defamation, for his “putang ina mo.”

In its en banc decision written by Justice Querube Makalintal (who later served as Chief Justice from 1973 to 1975), the Supreme Court declared:

“’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. “

The High Tribunal in session.
The High Tribunal in session.

That’s what I said, ahem, in my column Wednesday.

The Supreme Court made that “putang ina” decision part of jurisprudence by citing it in another case (Villanueva v People, G.R. No. 160351) 2006, with Associate Justice Minitia V. Chico Nazarario as ponente:

“In Reyes v. People [137 Phil. 112, 120 (1969)], we 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.”

But really, blame putang ina mo and the brouhaha it created in our relations with the US to our Spanish colonizers, and the Americans’ limited and unimaginative vocabulary for its expletives:

Putang ina came from the Spanish favorite expletive “hijo de puta,” which is still commonly used by Ilonggos (although pronounced as “yodeputa”), especially by those who want to send the message that they are not from the lower classes who utter putang ina. That is why Mar Roxas sounded so fake when he shouted putang ina in an anti-Arroyo rally. Everyone knew he would have used what would have sounded yodeputa.

Obama’s or his advisers’ shock at Duterte’s putang ina is due to the fact that except for “motherfucker,” which really doesn’t refer to the mother, and the rather ambiguous “son of a bitch,” there isn’t an American expletive that accuses a mother of the oldest profession outright. “Your mother is a whore” (stupid foreign journalists’ translation of Duterte’s putang ina) is an accusation, a statement, not an expletive like “putang ina”.

Tricia Zafra wrote an excellent blog piece in which she cited a list prepared by a Michael Estrada, who claimed that most Spanish curses are “mother-directed,” such as hijo de puta (son of a bitch), puta madre (bitch mother) and tu puta madre me la chupa (your bitch mother sucks my dick).

Citing a 2015 BBC article by James Harbeck (“Mind your Language! Swearing Around the World”), Zafra wrote: “The Latin culture has also been specified by Harbeck as among those that have the mother involved most in a list of offensive language. These cultures tend to be extended-family rather than nuclear-family societies.” Hello, Philippines.

Harbeck also pointed out: “The cultures that swear the most about mothers tend to swear about prostitutes a lot, too.” It seems to me that the Spanish, and most probably their colonized peoples, are obsessed with prostitutes in a love-hate relationship, even as they are mamas’ boys yet hate being so.

In contrast, Americans, as in their cuisine, are unimaginative in their expletives, which are as limited as the menu of their fast-food eateries: the all-time favorite “fuck,” “shit,” “bitch,” “bastard,” “asshole,” “cunt,” and “faggot.” Even their British cousins have more colorful expletives, “bollocks” and “bugger” being among my favorites.

Compare these with the height of imagery by certain Spanish expletives that would have made Obama nuke us if Duterte had uttered them: Jode tu madre ayer noche; Yo cago en la leche de tu puta madre; or even Tu hermano no tiene la ingle.

Fuck
While we may fault Americans for their lack of imagination in their expletives, we should admire them for making the common term for that biblical injunction to multiply — “fuck” — their all-time favorite expletive, a magical word, as my former guru Osho (Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh) explained:

“Just by its sound it can describe pain, pleasure, hate and love,” Osho pointed out. He explains: “In language, it falls into many grammatical categories. It can be used as a verb, both transitive (John fucked Mary) and intransitive (Mary was fucked by John), and as a noun (Mary is a fine fuck). It can be used as an adjective (Mary is fucking beautiful).”

“As you can see, there are not many words with the versatility of ‘fuck.’ Besides the sexual meaning, there are also the following uses:

Fraud: I got fucked at the used car-lot; Ignorance: Fucked if I know; Trouble: I guess I am fucked now! Aggression: Fuck you! Displeasure: What the fuck is going on here? Difficulty: I can’t understand this fucking job; Incompetence: He is a fuck-off; Suspicion: What the fuck are you doing?

Enjoyment: I had a fucking good time; Request: Get the fuck out of here! Hostility: I am going to knock your fucking head off! Greeting: How the fuck are you? Apathy: Who gives a fuck? Innovation: Get a bigger fucking hammer. Surprise: Fuck! You scared the shit out of me! Anxiety: Today is really fucked.”

May I add its use to express outrage: What the fuck has become of our country?

(Note: My gratitude to reader Jose Oliveros, who pointed out the Supreme Court decision I discussed through his comments on my column Wednesday.)

tiglao.manilatimes@gmail.com

COMMENT MODERATOR’S NOTE: We are normally very strict with expletives and other guidelines in moderating comments . Due to the subject of this article, we would be remiss if we censor  as we usually do for this piece.

This Post Has 50 Comments

  1. Migs Doromal

    Trivia.

    Do you know that people close to PRRD’s Special Assistant Christopher Bong Go call him “PIAO”?

    YES, only close to Bong, they call him “PIAO” for the Hokien word “piao si ngi” which means putang-ina!

  2. Migs Doromal

    Great read as usual, RT!

    PUNYETA! Haha, gotcha! You forgot Heneral Luna’s favorite expletive! 🙂

  3. Olive Encina

    For sure, I don’t accept those words at home, sampal ang aabutin ng anak ko or whoever within my family circle. Ang pagkakaalam ko nasa pagpapalaki ng magulang yan or kung anu ang kinagisnan mo or your surroundings. However, as the jurisprudence is saying, it is “common expression” and not slander. It is an expression of anger and displeasure, so be it.

  4. Luke

    is there any other world leader that openly curse? What do you think the US or the foreign press will do if they hear obama curse? Lol

  5. Rudi Miranda

    Bobbi Tiglao Maraming salamat sa iyong sinulat at mabuhay po kayo! Hindot! Fucking enjoyed the piece about the Supreme Court’s view(s) about the use of Putang ina. About expletives I guess the Chinese and the Jews are tops, the Chinese reaches up to grandmothers and how about Jesus words: you brood of vipers! In Butuan City it is: bilatinamo! The pussy of your mother.

  6. nestor

    Fucking hell, what a great fucking article.

  7. Leslie

    My late mother’s expression was “putah” and my late dad “yodeputa”. And we know their ok, meaning in good health when we regularly hear those words coming out of their mouth in conversations. If we don’t hear those words, we know we should worry.
    Mr. Oliveros is right, the American expression “God damn it” is so fucking worst. But we’re not fucking scandalized.
    It was media’s fault, gardemet! They gave it a wrong translation and sent a wrong message to Obama.
    Fucking good article Mr. Tiglao!

  8. Rony Balondo

    As studies suggest that people who normally swear are the most honest people. And people who normally criticise others behaviour are the most unhappy and untruthful people.

  9. fyi

    “putang ina” is a term of endearment, Yea that’s the ticket.

  10. Maddie

    I’d rather want to hear Duterte Swear than steal millions and millions of taxpayer money intended for hospitals schools and roads

  11. zak Pasiking

    In Ilokano dialect: Okinnana;Tagalog, putang ina; In Ilokano, okinnam, in tagalog, putang ina mo.

    Okinnana is not direct to individual and it is not a curse, it is a matter of expression when some one get angry.. While Okinnam, direct to individual and it is a curse.same thing in tagalog. So I agree with sir tiglao and others.

    1. Marisa

      When you are the president and not just anyone on the street, you have an office to uphold, accountability that is uniquely yours, certain standards you are to hold yourself to, etc. All this justification is beside the point. Have you ever heard Mr. Obama use that kind of language in reference to/to address another president? I’m sure he’s familiar with the wide application of the “f” word.

      So much as you, Mr. Tiglao and the rest, want to parse the language, explain away the expletives, and then defend them with a Supreme Court ruling..doesn’t make what he said appropriate. Seriously, you want to go with that?? Sorry but I find it pathetic…and somewhat immature.

      Even locally, his people have had to define and redefine some of the things he says…and you can’t say we don’t “understand” him. There are things you may want to do/say in your backyard…but if it is offensive, inappropriate, and crude, don’t expect your neighbours to appreciate it.

  12. Gus Molina

    I have a friend who uses the PI very frequently as an expression. This guy is the nicest, most honest and considerate person I ever met. When I first met him, I was uncomfortable of his conversations. I got used to him because I knew he really did not use it for its literal meaning. It is his person and I believe it is difficult for him to unlearn. But, why should I want him to change? He is honest, concerned and considerate to his friends and other people. He is fair. Of my golfing buddies, he is the only one who does not cheat and does not act as a sandbagger. I myself do not use PI or any other profane words. Others do. So what the “F…”! So why should I not like Duterte? He is great!

  13. Amnata Pundit

    What the fuck has become of our country? You mean, after 1986?

  14. Naldo

    To find out how Duterte measures up with other politicians in the case of having a foul-mouth, all one has to do is to type in the words on his or her key board – top 16 foul-mouthed politicians. In it are 16 famous American politicians, and list Obama as among the top 16. So for the uninformed and prude people, this incident should be taken with a grain of salt, because it is not grevious in any way as the word ‘putang ina’ expressed in a fit of anger often cannot kill. To raise the bar of direct personal threat, let us take the case in Sudan, where the Sudanese presidential guards fired at an American convoy, with it is the second highest ranking American diplomat, the American security detail has to call in the marines to extract them out of the place, but the Americans downplayed this incident.

    So this narrative about ‘putang ina’ and much hype being thrown its way, should not even bother America, for it is least lethal nor was it ever intended to throw insult at Obama. In short what can be said about this issue and those who continue to get stuck up on this, let us tell them – come on get a life!

  15. makasalanan na pinoy

    How the fuck are you Mr. Tiglao? There are still a bunch of dickheads around here that don’t like your article, but hey, just tell these shitheads to fuck off. I enjoyed reading this article and I haven’t laugh so hard in a long time that I almost shit on my pants. Fuck! loved it!!.

    1. Migs Doromal

      Very true! When I was in elementary grade in the 70s we used “putang ina” on a regular basis.

      When I moved to Manila in the late 80s, I noticed the expletive was not taken so lightly or easily.

    2. villa

      Me too, honestly it helped me understand my husband’s cussing…lol. Like: putang ina pare, ang sarap maligo sa waterfalls, dalhin kita doon minsan. ( I told him to refrain from saying it to his compare, there are still good adjectives to say about the waterfalls. And he said it is just an expression of how he enjoyed under the waterfalls, but at that time my mind was closed and I don’t want to hear those words specially in front of the children. He is a tribal people and it is ordinary for them to say putang ina, but we agreed not to let our children here those words again. . One day my only son played chess with an older neighbor and to my dismay he uttered “putang ina natalo kita” with all the joy and laughter dancing as he won over an older friend over chess game. Though that was the last I heard him say that after I reprimand him, but I don’t know outside home as it is a by-word to many. At home we can control our kids when they are small, but outside home as they grow, they are exposed to many influences, we couldn’t help it. . Now he is 45 and he said those words not because he is angry or disappointed, but because he accomplish something great in his life ! Twice become Champion of Philippine Poker Tournament and a known Songwriter and Arranger in the field of music, his first love.

  16. lynn

    If you are not from Davao, no relatives living there or not even had the chance to visit the city, you will be shocked by the expletive “putang-ina”….it is a very common expression used in all walks of life……sa kwentuhan pa lang umaatikabo na ang putang -ina….

    1. Migs Doromal

      Very true! When I was in elementary grade in the 70s we used “putang ina” on a regular basis.

      When I moved to Manila in the late 80s, I noticed the expletive was not taken so lightly or easily.

  17. Benj

    Yodeputa to those who cant comprehend this article! Good research Atty. TIGLAO!

  18. Elsa G. Jambre

    In two months, we have witnessed an authentic move to clean up the gutter. Why do Filipinos dwell on play of words, disgusting and displeasing they may be, and waste time on such unproductive matters when there are tons of concerns to be faced and work to be done? Our streets remain crowded with illegally parked vehicles, still littered with garbage no matter how much cleaning up is done, unfinished road projects, no one seem to be working on them, and everything that each citizen should be taking upon himself. Hello, Filipinos, are we that shallow, making a lot of noise, empty-headed, noisy magpies, or what? Insanity is really contagious…

  19. Ian Gaskell

    Really? you spent at much time justifying his comment? LOL he made a speech in English, broken only by a profanity that has different meanings in different dialects. serious even Tagalog speaking children of Bicol parents cant understand some words in either of the two main Bicol dialects let alone Visayan or the hundreds of other dialects! Little Roddy is becoming an international joke, and making Philippines a laughing stock A clever president is clear in their wording avoiding any chance of misinterpretation. Shame on the Filipinos for letting your wonderful country be weakened by stupidity.

  20. vg

    I don’t give a fuck.

  21. NRS Villarama

    Just a grammatical point. Fuck as verb can be both transitive & intransitive. Yes! But your e.g. John fucked Mary. & Mary was fucked by John. – the verbs used are both transitive, with the 2nd being in the passive voice.
    John fucks beautifully. -would render the verb intransitive.
    The article, sir Tiglao is very informative.

  22. Micky

    No place for those type of words either at home or in any international setting. Shows no breeding whatsoever. Words are very powerful. And he claims that he is a lawyer…

    1. Gina

      Exactly! It doesn’t matter what it really means. The point is it’s a profanity coming from a head of state! Why can’t some people get that?

    2. Lorna

      Breeding… I wonder how that will improve the economic situation. Words are very powerful indeed. It shows independence. And it can twist things to suit anyone EVEN IF THOSE WHO DO NOT UNDERSTAND THE CULTURE WILL INSIST ON THEIR OWN INTERPRETATION. Duterte is a lawyer, was even a fiscal, mayor and now PRESIDENT all on his own accord WITHOUT HAVING TO DEPEND ON BREEDING TO PUT HIM AT THE TOP.

    3. Davdi

      “And he claims that he is a lawyer…”
      he’s not claiming to be a lawyer. he is a lawyer.

    4. Gerry Mata

      No breeding? You’re talking about Benigno Simeon, the Lying Psycho. Now there’s a prime example — bad upbringing, no class, no breeding.

  23. walalang

    That’s really the true meaning of “putang ina mo”, to express one’s anger. Just like “yodeputa” or “Linte” in Ilongo and in Bisaya we had “yawa ka” or “jawa ka” or “pesteng yawa”.. It is commonly express and people never mind it except the Media in Metro Manila who want to sensationalize it and put a different meaning from the original dialect that come from it..

  24. Tony Reyes

    WHAT A FUCKING BRILLIANT ARTICLE! YODEPUTA GID!

  25. Andres Luna

    REALLY,MR. TIGLAO,WHAT THE FUCK HAS BECOME OF OUR COUNTRY ?

  26. Jose A. Oliveros

    Thanks, Amb. Tiglao, for taking note of my comment in your column last Wednesday. By the way, you forgot to include another favorite American expression – God damn it, which Filipinos have transformed into gardemet. I am really wondering why there are people who cringe or scandalized when they hear the phrase “putang ina” as if their virgin ears have been raped. But these same people don’t react when Americans or even Filipinos exclaim “God damn it” which is taking the name of the Lord in vain?

  27. ernie purisima

    This column is based on facts while a “yellow” one is based on FUCKS!

  28. P.Akialamiro

    The ‘expletive’ expressed by Pres. Du30 was not directed to Obama; it cannot ‘hold water’ in court as such.

  29. kris tulo

    As usual mga animal na Yellowtards much so with the dreaded Yellow media…….aysus dedma lang sila kasi supalpal sila palagi

  30. dayne

    Great, Mr. Tiglao! See…what happens if one does not know the principles of translation? I suggest that Mr. Obama’s advisers and the foreign press be made to take translation lessons.

  31. Peter Gonzales

    What a fucking article you have written Mr. Tiglao. I fucking enjoy it and widened by fucking perspective. Aaay mga
    yodepota!

    1. Juan

      Amen..

  32. Gabriel Mensahero

    Inquierer reporters and their ilk, are ignorant of the meaning. Bilat sýang ina!

  33. jun marcelino

    Please take note that what President Duterte said was “Putang ina” and not “Putang ina mo”. These two tagalog phrases have different meanings. The first phrase, is a very common expression being uttered by most Filipinos, and do not pertain to a specific individual. Henceforth, President Duterte was not referring to Presidentg Obama when he said this words.

    1. Buddy

      In our hosts country, everybody here respect the dignity of a person. We think before we say something to a person, co-worker or to our boss.

    2. Micky

      Common expression of folks with no breeding. Typically spoken on street corners…

    3. Ely Sacayanan

      You’re right. He never said “putang Ina mo.” He said “putang Ina”. It’s too bad, even Filipino reporters are VERY IRRESPONSIBLE. They, too, are as arrogant and cannot discern what responsible journalism is all about.

  34. babyrooch

    dont justify it, malas lang niya iba lahi ang pinatamaan niya and they take that seriously, dati ka pa man din na na govt opisyal tatanga tanga ka pa din, regardless of what the supreme court held sa kaugalian natin masamang mura pa din yan o at least mura pa din yan, e sa atin isa na yan sa pinakamalalang mura e. just shut up!

    1. Modie

      I beg to disagree. Sa tagalog mas malala pag tinawag kang tarantado kaysa putang ina mo. I’m an ilonggo so I’m using the curse yodeputa.

    2. jun marcelino

      Hindi ko alam kung sino sa amin ni Mr Tiglao ang pinagsasabihan mo ng tatanga tanga. I
      But, I am pretty sure na may sense pareho ang ipinost namin dito. I am also sure na ikaw ang tanga at bastos pa dahil kung may pinag aralan ko, hindi ka magku kumento ng ganito lalo na at hindi mo alam ang pareho naming background, at karanasan sa aming mga buhay.

  35. Dan August

    That is a very informative information. Thank you very much.

    1. Olive Encina

      For sure, I don’t accept those words at home, sampal ang aabutin ng anak ko or whoever within my family circle. Ang pagkakaalam ko nasa pagpapalaki ng magulang yan or kung anu ang kinagisnan mo or your surroundings. However, as the jurisprudence is saying, it is “common expression” and slander. It is an expression of anger and displeasure, so be it.

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