At the first hearing on allegations of impropriety committed by some appellate court justices in their handling of a case involving Meralco, Justice Romeo Callejo berated Court of Appeals Justice Jose Sabio for using the word ‘dedma’ when he described how he felt when he saw Francis de Borja, whom he is accusing of attempting to bribe him with P10 million but who instead accused him of demanding P50 million.
“That is what is so tragic in this case, that justices, in the performance of their duties, use words such as ‘dedma'. “Forget the word dedma,” he said.
Why Justice Callejo was making a big fuss about a magistrate’s use of the word 'dedma' in conversational speech? Is ‘dedma’ a vulgar or bad word? I don’t think it is. Dedma is the attenuated form of the English words dead malice . Dead malice, in turn, is the literal translation of the Tagalog expression, patay malisya. It has been used in the following contexts.
1) To completely ignore/feign ignorance of the existence/presence of someone/something.
2) To snub, reject, or toss in the trash.
3) To pretend deafness or blindness in order to escape a sticky situation.
If the meaning word ‘dedma’ is not vulgar per se, why Callejo expressed disappointment over its usage? The obvious reason is that the word ‘dedma’ is a gay lingo. So what? The colloquial ‘dedma’ is understood in our day-to-day conversations and widely accepted as a familiar usage in informal speech. I do believe the correctness of a usage should not be judged by the social standing or prestige of the speakers who adopted it. Wide acceptance of a colloquial word should be the final arbiter of correctness. The speech of the intellectuals, the court, and the clergy is not the only standard that determines the correctness and propriety of a word. It's not unethical for our judges or justices to use colloquial words or expressions in informal conversations. I see no breach of Legal Ethics here.