Senate leader blames lax perjury laws for 'flip-flopping' witnesses

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Wednesday, October 19, 2011


SENATE Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano blamed Wednesday the light penalty for perjury for allowing witnesses at Congressional hearings to lie under oath.

In a press statement, Cayetano said perjury--punishable with a maximum of six years in prison--is a joke in the Philippines.

Cayetano said this in reaction to recent testimony by former judge Nagamura Moner, who swore in 2005 that there was no cheating in the 2004 elections. Moner recanted in September, saying he had been directed to distribute money to ensure an election victory for then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

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He said he was afraid for his life and could not disclose details of the alleged poll fraud while Arroyo was President.

Testimony from other witnesses at a Senate hearing on poll fraud Tuesday supported Moner's latest statement.

Alfonso Cusi, whom Moner said acted as his handler in election fraud in 2004, has denied the charge. He pointed at Moner's earlier testimony to raise doubts about the former judge's credibility.

"While perjury remains a joke in this country, we will continue to question the credibility of our witnesses. We'll continue to have witnesses who refuse to attend these hearings or would even lie under oath," Cayetano said.

He said a higher penalty for lying under oath could have been used against "perpetrators of big crimes" like former Commission on Elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano. Cayetano, Senator Teofisto Guingona III, and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority chief Joel Villanueva, while still members of the House of Representatives, filed a perjury complaint against Garcillano for lying to Congress.

Garcillano said he had not left the country in the wake of the "Hello, Garci" scandal. The Singapore government said, however, that he went to the city-state. This was backed up by the Department of Justice.

"Our laws against false testimonies, perjury, and obstruction of justice are laughable. That's why Commissioner Garcillano was able to claim that there was no cheating (in the 2004 elections) and that he was just being harrassed," Cayetano said.

There is only one proposal at the Senate to increase the penalty for perjury, filed by Senator Panfilo Lacson. His proposed amendments focus on making false accusations under oath. (Jonathan de Santos/Sunnex)

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