Senate leadership wants to ‘give more teeth’ to law penalizing perjury

Published May 9, 2019, 7:49 PM

by Ellalyn De Vera & Richa Noriega

By Mario Casayuran

The Senate leadership vowed yesterday to increase the penalty on the crime of perjury, particularly for those who give false testimony in congressional hearings, by amending the Revised Penal Code (RPC) when the Senate and the House of Representatives meet for the 18th Congress in late July.

Senate President Vicente C, Sotto and Senator Panfilo M. Lacson, chairman of the Senate public order and dangerous drugs committee, made this commitment following a series of ‘false testimonies’’ given during recent congressional hearings.

This was capped by the alleged ‘’black propaganda’’ by Peter Joemel Advincula, who alleged that the family of President Duterte and close allies of President Duterte were into the multi-billion-peso illegal drugs trade.

Lacson, after conferring with Sotto who unmasked Advincula as the hooded ‘’Bikoy’’ in the video clip, canceled his planned committee hearing on the ‘’Bikoy’’ allegations supposedly scheduled Friday. He said Advincula’s allegations were ‘’concocted.’’

Senators want to increase the current penalty on violators of the crime of perjury from just one month and one day to six months to 12 years to 20 years.

Lacson said government officials or employees convicted of perjury under this bill would also be meted a penalty of perpetual disqualification from holding public office.

The current RPC provision on perjury is ‘’toothless,’’ Sotto said.

What senators want to amend is ‘’RPC Article 183 False testimony in other cases and perjury in solemn affirmation. – The penalty – The penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period shall be imposed upon any person, who knowingly makes untruthful statements and not being included in the provisions of the next preceding articles, shall testify under oath, or make an affidavit, upon any material matter before a competent person authorized to administer an oath in cases in which the law so requires.’’

Lacson expressed hope that his bill, that was refiled in the current 17th Congress, would be heard in committee hearings in the 18th Congress.

‘’Dapat talaga palakasin natin. Yan ang isa sa mga pinakagandang dapat i-file namin sa 18th Congress, palakasin natin yang penalties ng perjury para naman matakot yung gumawa nung ika, kung tawagin nga natin eh fake news or ibig sabihin eh bigla na lang nagsisinungaling. May isa pang bagay dyan palagay ko, aside from that, yung Witness Protection Program (WPP) natin medyo ireview natin, irevise nating mabuti. Parang gustong abusuhin eh. Di ba? Inaabuso rin eh. Pagkatapos sabi mo nga biglang babaligtad later on,’’ Sotto said.(There is a pressing need to increase the penalty. We will file a bill in the 18th Congress that increases the penalty to put fear into the hearts of perjurers or ‘’fake news’’ makers. There is also a need to review the WPP. Some of those in the WPP later recant their testimonies.)

Because the penalty on perjury is very light, Sotto said those threatened by the government only sneer or laugh at the one-month jail term.

Sotto said current contempt powers of the Senate are stronger and longer as they can last for months until Congress adjourns sine die.