Senate minority leader Alan Peter Cayetano called on the government to strengthen the law against perjury to act as a precursor in resolving bigger crimes such as graft and corruption.
“Let’s start punishing people who lie under oath. Kung kailangan palitan natin ang batas, palitan natin ang batas,” he said.
The senator made this suggestion as he noted that as relatively smaller crimes like perjury and obstruction of justice tend to go unpunished, so do bigger crimes such as plunder.
He cited the recent slew of corruption cases being dealt with by the government particularly the developing investigations into the alleged 2004 and 2007 electoral fraud, the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) scam and the questionable PNP helicopter purchase that are all being linked to the Arroyo administration as prime examples of this sad fact.
He bemoaned that the country’s perjury laws in comparison to those of the United States and other European countries are unmistakably weaker leading to the country’s lack of control in garnering credible testimonies from witnesses.
“In other countries, when you are caught lying in court or in Congress, you go to jail. But here in the Philippines, the witnesses are on-guard to protect themselves and would rather not tell the truth,” he said.
“Dahil sabi nga nila sa Pilipinas, walang nakukulong sa perjury,” he added.
The minority leader expressed his belief that stronger laws against lying under oath will lead to potential witnesses being more concerned about going to jail as a consequence of perjury than displeasing their bosses or losing their jobs.
He pointed out that the strengthened law can also be used to bring perpetrators of big crimes to justice as they can be sent to prison by their merely lying under oath citing the standing perjury case of former Commision on Elections (COMELEC) Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano as an example.
The lawmaker explained that the perjury case was filed in 2006 by Senator Ping Lacson, now- TESDA Secretary Joel Villanueva, now-Senator TG Guingona and himself back when they were still serving as congressmen against Garcillano when the latter lied about not leaving the country as he went into hiding after being implicated in the Hello Garci scandal.
“Katawa-tawa na ang batas natin sa false testimonies, perjury and obstruction of justice. Kaya si Commissioner Garcillano, siya pa ang mayabang. Siya pa ang nagsasabi na walang dayaan ay hina-harass lang daw siya,” he said.
Cayetano stressed that the most important effect of strengthening this law is the protection of private citizens and government officials from those witnesses whose desire is not to speak the truth – one that will never come into fruition as long as perjury laws in the country continue to remain weak.
“Habang ang perjury ay kalokohan lang sa ating bansa, we will continue to have false witnesses. We’ll continue to have witnesses who refuse to go to the Senate or the House or will lie under oath,” he said.