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MANILA, Philippines — Senator Leila de Lima has filed a bill that seeks to impose stiff penalties on government officials who commit perjury or make others do so.
De Lima is detained in Camp Crame after being charged with drug trading by the Department of Justice mainly on the testimony of convicts at the National Bilibid Prison who linked her to the drug trade inside the penitentiary.
The senator, who used to head the Justice department, has denied the charges and accused the administration of political persecution and making the convicts lie against her.
De Lima, in a statement, alluded to this in explaining why she filed Senate Bill 1359: “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.”
“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 added.
De Lima’s bill would amend Articles 180, 183, and 184 of the Revised Penal Code.
Currently, perjury is punishable with arresto mayor in its maximum period, or four months and one day to two years and four months.
On the other hand, subornation of perjury, which the statement said, “is committed by a person who knowingly and willfully procures another to swear falsely and the witnesses suborned does testify under circumstances rendering him guilty of perjury,” is not expressly penalized although “the direct induction of a person by another to commit perjury is punishable under Article 183 in relation to Article 17.”
De Lima noted that “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 … is two years, which would entitle him to avail of the benefits of the Probation Law.”
Her bill would increase the penalty for perjury to prision mayor in its minimum to medium periods, or a jail term of from six years and one day to 10 years. Persons forced to commit perjury, on the other hand, will be given a chance to evade criminal liability by proving they were forced to lie under oath or retract previous testimony.
Government officials or employees proven to have committed perjury and subornation of perjury, meanwhile, will be meted a higher penalty and be perpetually disqualified from holding public office.