Lamenting that the use of lying witnesses has made a mockery of the courts and sent many innocent people to jail for crimes they did not commit, Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson has filed a bill recommending heavier penalties on false witnesses and on public officials who encourage them to do so.
Senate Bill 2803 seeks to impose a P1-million fine on such false witnesses, while government officials or prosecutors who induced their false testimony face perpetual absolute disqualification from holding any appointive or elective position in the government or its agencies or entities.
“The assertion of falsehood, under oath of affirmation, is becoming prevalent. False testimonies and sworn statements are sometimes being used to support malicious complaints with the intent of harassing and persecuting innocent persons. This pernicious practice is aimed not only to harass innocent persons but put them behind bars and make their families suffer,” Lacson said.
“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,’” he added.
He pointed out that since the testimony of a witness – especially an eyewitness – is crucial, it is a fundamental rule that sworn testimonies be honest and should not leave any room for inconsistency and untruthfulness.
Yet, he lamented there are times the sacredness of statements made before the courts and that of sworn affidavits are being disregarded.
Worse, he said some public prosecutors, instead of making sure that justice is done, suppress facts and conceal witnesses capable of establishing the innocence of the accused.
Sometimes they even offer false testimonies and perjured witnesses to support their unfounded charges, he said.
“The prevalence of untruthful testimonies and statements may not be possible if only public officials and employees are responsible enough and in their vigilance in their quest for the truth, should uphold the rule of law and not their thirst for victory at the expense of another. However, it is distressing that sometimes it is the public officials and employees themselves who encourage, induce or even force a person to assert falsehood under oath,” he said.
The bill seeks to amend Articles 180, 183 and 184 of the Revised Penal Code, where the false witness who knowingly offers false testimony as evidence will be subjected to the same penalty the defendant is being accused of, and be slapped a fine of up to P1 million.
“If the person who will induce or order the commission of this felony is a public officer or employee, the penalty shall be imposed in its maximum period,” Lacson said in his bill.
As for the government official or prosecutor behind such false testimony, he or she shall also suffer “perpetual absolute disqualification from holding any appointive or elective position in the government or in any agency, entity or instrumentality thereof.”