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Senate OKs on 3rd reading bill seeking higher penalties for false testimonies outside court

With 20 affirmative votes, the Senate on Monday passed on third and final reading a bill imposing longer jail terms for perjury committed outside courts such as false testimonies executed in Senate inquiries.

Senate Bill No. 1354 proposes to amend Articles 183 and 184 of the Revised Penal Code and impose an imprisonment period of six years and one day up to ten years for violators. This would increase the current two years and four months maximum penalty for perjury committed outside judicial proceedings.

The bill also provides that 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 disqualification from holding any position in the government.

Though there were no negative votes and no abstention, Senator Panfilo Lacson said he cast a yes vote with "very strong reservations."

This was after the members of the chamber removed during the period of amendments his proposal to impose to a violator the same penalty that he or she is imputing against a person through untruthful statements under oath or through an affidavit.

"The penalty equivalent to the punishment for a crime after a perjured witness or accuser has executed under oath a sworn statement or testimony on its material points that maliciously intends to accomplish is what my version of the bill is all about," Lacson said during the plenary session.

He said the issue was somehow personal to him because he first-handedly experienced being a victim of "perjured sworn statements" in the past.

"My distinguished colleagues, I can only pray that fate will not bring you there. But if and when it comes to that, I’m afraid you will look back and regret why you did not vote with me on this issue," he added.

He also recalled that during the committee hearing of the bill, Justice Assistant Secretary Nicholas Felix Ty said that such proposed penalty will "definitely not" fall into the category of unusual and cruel punishment.

"While I voted in favor of the measure, I am consoling myself with the thought I am settling for second best in supporting the passage of the measure although with very strong reservations," Lacson said.

During the period of interpellation, Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon previously questioned the said deleted provision.

"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.—AOL, GMA News