Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has joined fresh calls by some lawmakers to impose heavier penalties and stiffer fines to witnesses who lie under oath, including perpetual disqualification for government officials behind false testimony.
De Lima, who is nearing her third year of unjust detention over trumped-up illegal drug charges, said she is the best example of a victim who has been targeted by false charges based only on testimonies of perjured witnesses who wantonly lie under oath.
“If there’s anyone who really wants this bill to be enacted into law, that’s me,” De Lima, considered to be the first prominent political prisoner under the Duterte administration since 2017, said.
“In fact,” she continued, “I pushed for the passage of a measure amending the country’s Anti-Perjury Law during the previous 17th Congress, and prioritized its re-filing, now logged as Senate Bill (SB) No. 373, this current 18th Congress.”
Last Jan. 15, Senator Panfilo Lacson has urged the Senate leadership to punish “the act of giving false testimony” as he recalled some personalities who purportedly lied under oath during Senate investigations.
The lady Senator from Bicol also decried that her detractors have colluded into using fake narratives and perjuring witnesses to destroy her good name and reputation that eventually led to her unjust arrest and prolonged detention.
“Klaro naman sa sitwasyon ko na biktima ako ng mga pinagtagpi-tagping kasinungalingan ng mga gustong patahimikin ako at sirain ang aking kredibilidad,” she said.
“Mga imbentong paratang ng mga pekeng testigo—mga convicted na kriminal—ang pinagbasehan ng mga gawa-gawang kaso laban sa akin,” she added.
Under the measure she filed, SB 373 raises the penalty for perjury by two degrees, from the current arresto mayor or six months or up to two years and two months imprisonment to prison mayor or six years and one day to 10 years behind bars.
“To deter the commission of these crimes, it is high time that we increase the penalty for perjury by two degrees, that is, to prision mayor in its minimum to medium periods, or imprisonment of from six years and one day to ten years,” she said in her explanatory note.
De Lima’s measure also mandates that a person giving false testimony against the defendant in a criminal case shall suffer the same penalty meted out to the defendant and increases penalty for subornation of perjury.
Subordination of perjury, which is also sought to be punished under her bill, occurs when any person procures or induces another to swear falsely or execute a statement under oath for the purpose of charging or accusing another person with a crime or offense.
“I am absolutely sure that there are such public officials and other individuals who procured or induced the giving of false testimonies against me in various fora – the 2016 House Justice Committee hearings, Senate hearings, re: Kerwin Espinosa and the GCTA mess, and the ongoing trial in my three drug cases,” De Lima said.
“I have exposed some of these suborners of perjury and will expose more in due time,” she added.
SB 373 also proposes that public officials or employees who commit perjury and subornation of perjury shall be handed out with a heavier penalty and will be perpetually disqualified from holding a public office or employment.