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Ping airs strong reservations in voting for ‘watered-down’ anti-perjury bill

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With very strong reservations. This was how Sen. Panfilo Lacson voted on Monday for the passage of a proposed measure seeking harsher punishment against perjury and false testimonies.

The bill was approved on third reading via a 20-0 vote, but minus Lacson’s push to have false witnesses suffer the same penalties for crimes they wrongly accuse a person of.

“A solemn oath to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth is exactly what it is: Solemn. To desecrate the solemnity of that oath, and worse, with the deliberate and evil purpose of destroying other people’s lives whom they could have succeeded in putting away for the rest of their lives by their lies, thus denying them the basic and sacred right to freedom, is most detestable,” Lacson said in explaining his vote.

He added 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 his version of the bill is all about.

Lacson noted this is personal to him, as he had endured at least nine years of persecution due to fake witnesses unleashed by the Arroyo administration.

“Having said that, I hope none among the present members of this Senate of the 18th Congress will someday experience what I had endured for nine long and tortuous years while serving as a duly elected Senator of the Republic, based on perjured sworn statements from characters obviously suborned by malevolent officials in the highest echelons of the government bureaucracy,” he said.

“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.

Also, Lacson noted that during a committee hearing presided by Senate Justice and Human Rights Committee chairman Richard Gordon last Feb. 12, at least two resource persons said Lacson’s proposal of an equivalent punishment for false testimony would not face constitutional challenge as “cruel and unjust punishment.”

He was referring to Judge Felix Reyes, president of the Philippine Judges Association; and Justice Assistant Secretary Nicholas Felix Ty.

During the Feb. 12 hearing, Reyes noted the penalty for perjury and false testimony is “very, very low.” Ty added Lacson’s proposed penalty would not fall under the so-called “cruel and unusual punishment” that may face constitutional challenge.

“It is for these reasons Mr. President and more, that 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.

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