Solon urges stiffer penalties vs. ‘lying witnesses’

MANILA — The recent withdrawal of lawyer Jude Sabio of the complaint he filed against President Rodrigo Duterte before the International Criminal Court (ICC), as well as other instances of “recanting” witnesses, only highlighted the need for a stronger law that would impose heavier penalties on lying witnesses, Senator Panfilo Lacson said Wednesday.

Besides Sabio, Lacson also cited Edgar Matobato, Peter Joemel “Bikoy” Advincula, and Police Major Rodney Baloyo IV, among others, as the reasons for the imposition of stiffer penalties on lying witnesses.

“Our present perjury law only carries a prison term of six months up to two years and two months. With a penalty that light, we can expect lying witnesses not only in Senate hearings but even before the courts,” Lacson said in a statement.

Naging tig-singkong duling na lang ang pagsisinungaling under oath sa Pilipinas (Lying under oath in the Philippines now only costs nickels). That is why there is a compelling need for a stronger perjury law),” he said.

Lacson said the heavier penalties should also be imposed on all public officials and employees who ordered the persons giving false testimonies.

“This is a matter of punishing not personalities but the act of giving false testimony,” he said.

Earlier this week, Sabio asked the ICC to “set aside and thrash” the communication he initially filed reportedly because he did not want to be part of the “political propaganda of Senator (Antonio) Trillanes, Senator (Leila) de Lima and their Liberal Party-led opposition.”

Sabio acted as a lawyer of Matobato, the self-confessed hitman who implicated President Duterte to the alleged Davao Death Squad (DDS) during a series of Senate hearings in 2016.

However, under cross-examination, Matobato admitted that he did not hear Duterte personally order an execution. His testimonies on the alleged killings involving the DDS have also not been independently verified or corroborated.

Lacson also cited the case of Advincula, who attempted to link the First Family to the drug trade, but later recanted his claims and said he was used for political ends.

Just last year, Lacson scored Baloyo for giving false testimony before the Senate investigation on “ninja cops.” and moved that Baloyo be cited for contempt.

These are aside from the harassment Lacson said he personally experienced due to the claims of lying witnesses such as Angelo “Ador” Mawanay in the early 2000s.

Mawanay was one of a host of paid witnesses allegedly unleashed by the Arroyo administration obsessed with putting Lacson in jail.

Lacson said these are just some of the reasons why he refiled a bill seeking heavier penalties against lying witnesses.

“It is noteworthy that because of these untruthful and inconsistent statements, we have witnessed how some men were robbed of their youth and freedom for a long period of time only to be freed later on account that the reason for their incarceration was based on a ‘polluted source,’” Lacson said.

“Senate Bill No. 28 seeks to give lying witnesses – including public officials and employees who may be behind them – a dose of their own medicine,” he said.

Under the bill, anyone who gives false testimony in any criminal case shall suffer “the same penalty for the felony the defendant is being accused of.”

On the other hand, a public official or employee who ordered such a false testimony shall face the penalty for the felony the defendant is being accused of, in its maximum period – along with a fine of up to PHP1 million and perpetual absolute disqualification from any appointive or elective position in the government.  Jose Cielito Reganit /PNA –