By Stacy Ang
MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Panfilo Lacson on Wednesday underscored the need for heavier penalties against lying witnesses like lawyer Jude Sabio, Peter Joemel “Bikoy” Advincula, Rodney “Ninja Cop” Baloyo, Edgar Matobato, Arturo Lascañas, Cezar Mancao II, and Mary “Rosebud” Ong.
“They are all reasons for the need for a stronger law that would impose heavier penalties on lying witnesses – including public officials and employees who may be behind them, ” he said.
“Naging tig-singkong duling na lang ang pagsisinungaling under oath sa Pilipinas. That is why there is a compelling need for a stronger perjury law,” he said.
He stressed this is “a matter of punishing not personalities but the act of giving false testimony.”
Earlier this week, Sabio said he will withdraw the case he filed against President Rodrigo Duterte before the International Criminal Court, reportedly because the case he initially filed was politically motivated.
Last year, Lacson scored Baloyo for giving false testimony before the Senate investigation on “ninja cops,” and moved that Baloyo be cited for contempt.
On the other hand, Lacson also cited the case of Advincula, who attempted to link the First Family to the drug trade, but recanted his claims and said he was used for political ends.
These are aside from the harassment Lacson personally experienced due to the claims of lying witnesses such as Angelo “Ador” Mawanay in the early 2000s.
Mawanay was one of a host of paid witnesses unleashed by the Arroyo administration obsessed with putting Lacson in jail.
“Our present perjury law only carries a prison term of six months up to two years and two months. With a penalty that light, we can expect lying witnesses not only in Senate hearings but even before the courts,” Lacson noted.
In 2019, Lacson refiled a bill seeking heavier penalties against lying witnesses. Senate Bill 28 seeks to give lying witnesses – including public officials and employees who may be behind them – a dose of their own medicine.
“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,’” Lacson said.
Under the bill, anyone who gives false testimony in any criminal case shall suffer “the same penalty for the felony the defendant is being accused of.”
A public official or employee who ordered such a false testimony shall face the penalty for the felony the defendant is being accused of, in its maximum period – along with a fine of up to P1 million and perpetual absolute disqualification from any appointive or elective position in the government.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan said Sabio no longer has credibility after his 180-degree turn.
“No. 1, after his 180-degree turn, he has no credibility whatsoever. The public should reject this balimbing. He is lying and he knows it,” he said.
He said the bodies of thousands of extrajudicial killings are proofs of a man-made disaster, if not mass murder as government policy, that the ICC is mandated to investigate and address.
According to the Liberal Party pr has been a series of natural disasters, from the successive earthquakes in Mindanao, the Christmas typhoon, and the latest Taal eruption.
Instead of political attacks by the administration, he said everyone should be focusing on the tens of thousands of our affected kababayans whose lives have been dramatically changed and whose livelihoods have been severely affected.
Sen. Leila de Lima, also of the LP said she feels sorry for Sabio.
“I can understand that he is going through personal issues that forced him to turn his back on the cause of the victims of mass atrocities. Whatever is the true reason for such an awful move, Atty. Sabio has become very vulnerable to the machinations from the dark forces,” said De Lima.
The opposition senator said she is sure there are forces, desperate ones, behind this development.
“I don’t have to imagine the temptation Atty. Sabio must have faced, urging him to put his own interests ahead of those he is supposed to be advocating for. Those voices of temptation could be difficult to resist, and commitments to truth and justice could waver.”
At any rate, she said it’s too late a move, and hardly having any significant dent on the progress of the current ICC interventions.
She said there are other communications and information presented before the ICC on the matter of crimes against humanity perpetrated by the Duterte regime.
“The Sabio Communication (not a complaint; no such thing in ICC processes) may be the first, but not the only one under consideration by the ICC,” she pointed out.
The worst thing we can do, she said, is accept the false narrative that resort to the ICC and other global mechanisms for accountability is about politics or propaganda.
“No. this is about human lives and a quest for justice and accountability which is never a lost cause. Atty. Sabio may have fallen, but the fight continues without him and in spite of his betrayal of the victims.”
Earlier. Senator Antonio Trillanes IV said Sabio’s decision to withdraw the complaint he filed against the President will have “no effect” in the international tribunal’s investigation.
He said Sabio merely facilitated the drafting and helped in the filing of the complaint with ICC. He said the complaint itself was from the testimonies of Matobato and Lascañas. (Stacy Ang/IAMIGO/Currentph.com)