Sen. Leila M. de Lima has filed a measure seeking to increase penalties against government officials who commit perjury and who force any individual to lie under oath or retract a previous testimony under duress.
As part of her commitment to strengthen the criminal justice system, De Lima filed Senate Bill 1359 increasing the penalty of perjury and subornation of perjury, amending Articles 180, 183, and 184 of the Revised Penal Code.
“In light of recent instances when those entrusted with the duty to see justice are the ones coercing and using government resources to manufacture lies, it is high time that we increase the penalty for perjury and subornation of perjury,” she said.
Under the Revised Penal Code, perjury is punishable by arresto mayor in its maximum period, that is, four months and one day to two years and four months.
Subornation of perjury, meanwhile, is not expressly penalized, but the direct induction of a person by another to commit perjury is punishable under Article 183 in relation to Article 17.
Subornation of perjury is committed by a person who knowingly and wilfully procures another to swear falsely and the witnesses suborned does testify under circumstances rendering him guilty of perjury (U.S. v. Ballena, 18 Phil. 382).
De Lima who is detained at the Philippine National Police Detention Center in Camp Crame is facing trumped-up drug trafficking charges based on obviously manufactured evidence and on perjured testimonies of convicted drug lords.
“Recently, false testimonies of convicted felons were used to support malicious complaints. This condemnable act could be employed not only to harass and unjustly punish innocent persons, but also to silence dissent,” she said.
The former justice secretary noted how the assertion of falsehood under oath or affirmation has become prevalent nowadays because the commission of perjury and subornation of perjury are only meted with slight jail term.
“With such low penalty, a would-be perjurer would not only worry thinking that, even if convicted for such lies, the worst that he would get in jail term is two years, which would entitle him to avail of the benefits of the Probation Law,” she said.
Under her proposed measure, the penalty for perjury should be increased by two degrees, that is, to prision mayor in its minimum to medium periods, or a jail term of from six years and one day to 10 years.
Persons who have been forced to commit perjury is given the chance to be exempted from criminal liability by proving that they were pressured and other circumstances forced them to lie under oath or retract a previous testimony.
In addition, government officials or employees proven to have committed perjury and subornation of perjury shall be meted with a higher penalty and be perpetually disqualified from holding a public office or employment.