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Gordon wants harsher penalties for perjury committed in legislative hearings

The penalty for committing the crime of perjury during legislative hearings should be increased to give more teeth to the law and end the culture of lying under oath, Senator Richard Gordon said on Wednesday.

Senate Bill No. 1354 which seeks to cement such a proposition was tackled during the plenary session.

"In the hearings that we conduct in the Senate, everybody who lies to the Senate will now have to answer to these proposals that we are now discussing in the Senate," said the lawmaker.

Perjury is defined under Article 183 of the Revised Penal Code as "knowingly making untruthful statements and testifying under oath or making an affidavit upon any material matter before a competent person authorized to administer an oath in cases in which the law so requires."

Under the existing law, the maximum penalty for perjury is imprisonment of only two years and two months.

The proposed measure seeks to amend this provision to impose a jail term of six years and one day up to ten years.

Further, a fine not exceeding P1 million shall be meted out if the violator is a public official or employee. He or she shall also face perpetual absolute disqualification from holding any position in the government, according to the bill.

Gordon, chair of the Senate Justice and Human Rights Committee, previously said the low penalty for perjury discourages victims from prosecuting and that increasing it would serve as a deterrent to the crime.

During the period of interpellation, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon agreed that the penalties must be amended because the existing ones were based on cases that occurred several decades ago.

However, he expressed reservations on the bill's provision which states that "any person who shall incriminate or impute through false testimony or untruthful statements under oath or through an affidavit, any person the commission of a crime shall suffer the same penalty as that being imputed."

"For example, if somebody calls me a murderer and murder is punished by life imprisonment, that person who accuses me falsely of being a murderer will suffer the penalty of life imprisonment? Don't you find it a little too harsh?" Drilon asked.

Gordon said he is amenable for further discussion of the said clause. -MDM, GMA News