Senators want more teeth vs perjury; lying witnesses to be detained at Senate’s warehouse
MANILA, Philippines — Resource persons giving false testimonies before a Senate inquiry will soon be put behind bars immediately —still under the upper chamber’s custody but outside its building in Pasay City.
The new detention will be a separate establishment — a warehouse, which will be converted into a detention cell for those who will be cited for contempt by senators, according to Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri.
“We’ve already instructed the secretariat, meron tayong stand-alone building dyan sa baba malapit sa basketball court, pinapalagyan ko ng mga rehas at pinapaayos ko na kasi doon natin ililipat. Hindi na sila sa loob ng building na ito. Ililipat natin dun sa labas, sa isang bodega. Pinapa-reinforce na namin ngayon, ” Zubiri said during Senate’s plenary session on Monday.
(We’ve already instructed the secretariat, we have a stand-alone building there near the basketball court. I’m having bars installed and having it fixed because we’re going to transfer them there. They will not be detained here inside this building. We’ll move them outside, to a warehouse. We’re already reinforcing it.)
“So that’s a fair warning to those who are cited in contempt and who continue to abuse by lying during (committee hearings) that when they will be are cited for contempt, we have a place for them,” he said.
At present, those cited in contempt during Senate probes are detained inside its building.
Some senators, however, are not happy at how existing laws against perjury `are being taken for granted in the country.
Senator Alan Peter Cayetano cited as example the recantation of one of the suspects in the killing of Negros Oriental Governor Roel Degamo and some police officers who openly and blatantly lied before a Senate hearing last week.
“Ang point ko Mr. President, untenable at untenable at unsustainable na ang perjury ay hindi pinapansin sa ating bansa, o hindi kinakasuhan,” Cayetano said.
“I’m not saying that yung mga witnesses po ay walang karapatang bumaligtad. Ang point ko anong penalty nila? So kung nagsisinungaling sila, dapat kasuhan sila,” he added.
(I’m not saying that the witnesses have no right to change their statements. My point is, what is their penalty? So if they are lying, they should be charged.)
Zubiri agreed there is a need to toughen the laws on perjury, which according to him “is becoming a norm now.”
“I think the truth should be ferreted out and if they are lying, then they should be liable. They are under oath and they will be charged with perjury,” he said.
Senator Francis Tolentino, chairman of the Senate committee on justice, echoed the sentiments of his colleagues .
“I think it’s about time that either we amend our rules to make it more strict in so far as our treatment of witnesses acting with malice and malicious intent and lying in violation of several articles of the Revised Penal Code…” Tolentino said.
Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel noted that increasing the penalty seems to be a “knee-jerk reaction” whenever a law is taken for granted.
Before thinking of imposing heavier penalties, existing law must be enforced first, Pimentel stressed.
“Ang problema, the deterrent effect of our criminal laws has been absent or taken for granted by our people. So kung walang nakulong sa six months, kung gawin mong life yun kung ang feeling nila wala rin namang makukulong e di ganun din po,” he pointed out.
(The problem is that the deterrent effect of our criminal laws has been absent or taken for granted by our people. So if no one gets imprisoned for six months, even if you make it a life sentence, if they feel that no one will really be incarcerated, then it’s the same thing)