Perjury

Perjury is the willful and corrupt assertion of a falsehood under oath or affirmation administered by authority of law on a material matter.

Perjury as a Crime

As a crime, perjury is penalized under Article 183 of the Revised Penal Code, which provides:

“Art. 183. False testimony in other cases and perjury in solemn affirmation. — The penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period shall be imposed upon any person, who knowingly makes untruthful statements and not being included in the provisions of the next preceding articles, shall testify under oath, or make an affidavit, upon any material matter before a competent person authorized to administer an oath in cases in which the law so requires.

“Any person who, in case of a solemn affirmation made in lieu of an oath, shall commit any of the falsehoods mentioned in this and the three preceding articles of this section, shall suffer the respective penalties provided therein.”

Essential Elements of the Crime of Perjury

Gathered from the said provision, the following are the essential elements of the crime of perjury:

(a)     The accused made a statement under oath or executed an affidavit upon a material matter.

(b)     The statement or affidavit was made before a competent officer, authorized to receive and administer oath.

(c)     In the statement or affidavit, the accused made a willful and deliberate assertion of a falsehood.

(d)     The sworn statement or affidavit containing the falsity is required by law or made for a legal purpose.

First Element of Perjury

The first element of perjury requires that the accused made a statement under oath or executed an affidavit upon a material matter.

In prosecutions for perjury, a matter is material if it is the main fact which was the subject of the inquiry, or any circumstance which tends to prove that fact.

For instance, Section 5, Rule 7 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, as amended, contains the requirement for a Certificate against Forum Shopping.

The Certificate against Forum Shopping can be made either by a statement under oath in the complaint or initiatory pleading asserting a claim or relief; it may also be in a sworn certification annexed to the complaint or initiatory pleading.

In both instances, the affiant is required to execute a statement under oath before a duly commissioned notary public or any competent person authorized to administer oath that: (a) he or she has not theretofore commenced any action or filed any claim involving the same issues in any court, tribunal or quasi-judicial agency and, to the best of his or her knowledge, no such other action or claim is pending therein;  (b) if there is such other pending action or claim, a complete statement of the present status thereof; and (c) if he or she should thereafter learn that the same or similar action or claim has been filed or is pending, he or she shall report that fact within five days therefrom to the court wherein his or her aforesaid complaint or initiatory pleading has been filed.

Thus, in relation to the crime of perjury, the material matter in a Certificate against Forum Shopping is the truth of the required declarations, which is designed to guard against litigants pursuing simultaneous remedies in different fora.

Second Element of Perjury

The second element of perjury requires that the statement or affidavit was made before a competent officer, authorized to receive and administer oath.

The phrase “competent person authorized to administer an oath” means a person who has a right to inquire into the questions presented to him upon matters under his jurisdiction.

A lawyer, who is also a duly commissioned notary public, is a competent person authorized to administer an oath.

Not all lawyers, however, are notaries public. But all notaries public are lawyers.

Lawyers become notaries public only when the appropriate Regional Trial Court Executive Judge acts on their petition and issues in their favor the corresponding notarial commissions.

Thus, a person who executes an affidavit containing a falsity upon a material matter before a lawyer, who is also a duly commissioned notary public, may be held liable for perjury.

Third Element of Perjury

The third element of perjury requires that, in the statement or affidavit, the accused made a willful and deliberate assertion of a falsehood.

Thus, a mere assertion of a false objective fact or a falsehood is not enough. The assertion must be deliberate and willful.

“Willfully” means “intentionally,” with evil intent and legal malice, with consciousness that the alleged perjurious statement is false with the intent that it should be received as a statement of what was true in fact.  It is equivalent to “knowingly.”

Perjury cannot be willful where the oath is according to belief or conviction as to its truth.  Bona fide belief in the truth of a statement is an adequate defense.

“Deliberately” implies “meditated,” as distinguished from “inadvertent acts.”  It must appear that the accused knows his statement to be false or is consciously ignorant of its truth.

Perjury being a felony by dolo, there must be malice on the part of the accused.

A felony is committed by dolo when the act is performed with deliberate intent.

Good faith or lack of malice is a valid defense vis-a-vis the allegation of deliberate assertion of falsehood in perjury cases.

The basis of the third element of perjury is the phrase “knowingly making untruthful statements” in Article 183 of the Revised Penal Code.

The word “knowingly” suggests that the assertion of falsehood must be willful and deliberate.

Hence, there is no perjury through negligence or imprudence.

Fourth Element of Perjury

The fourth element of perjury requires that the sworn statement or affidavit containing the falsity is required by law or made for a legal purpose.

For instance, in consonance with Section 1 (a), Rule 110 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, for offenses where a preliminary investigation is required, a criminal action is instituted by filing a complaint with the proper officer, such as a public prosecutor, for the purpose of conducting the requisite preliminary investigation.

That complaint, in turn, must be made under oath, in accordance with Section 3, Rule 110 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, which provides:

“Sec. 3. Complaint defined. – A complaint is a sworn written statement charging a person with an offense, subscribed by the offended party, any peace officer, or other public officer charged with the enforcement of the law violated.”

Thus, a person who executes a criminal complaint containing a falsity upon a material matter may be held liable for perjury.

However, in an unpublished decision (People v. Angangco, G.R. No. L-47693, October 12, 1943) it was held that the word “requires” in the phrase “in cases in which the law so requires” (in Article 183 of the Revised Penal Code) may be given the meaning of “authorizes.” Hence, the fourth element may be read “that the sworn statement (or affidavit) containing the falsity is authorized by law.”

Thus, even if there is no law, requiring the statement to be made under oath, as long as it is made for a legal purpose, it is sufficient.

Policy of the Law on Perjury

Of great importance is the policy of the law on perjury, which the Supreme Court laid down in People v. Cainglet (G.R. Nos. L-21493-94, April 29, 1966).

In that case, the Supreme Court emphatically stressed that every interest of public policy demands that perjury be not shielded by artificial refinements and narrow technicalities. For perjury strikes at the administration of the laws. It is the policy of the law that judicial proceedings and judgments be fair and free from fraud, and that litigants and parties be encouraged to tell the truth, and that they be punished if they do not.

[References: Antonio B. Monfort III, et. al. v. Ma. Antonia M. Salvatierra, et. al., G.R. No. 168301, March 5, 2007, Article 183 of the Revised Penal Code, Section 5, Rule 7 of the 1997 Rules of Civil Procedure, Union Bank of the Philippines and Desi Tomas v. People of the Philippines, G.R. No. 192565, February 28, 2012, Celsa P. Acuña v. Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon, et. al., G.R. No. 144692, January 31, 2005, Page 275 of the law book titled, The Revised Penal Code, Criminal Law, Book Two (Articles 114-367), Fourteenth Edition (Revised 1998) by Luis B. Reyes, citing U.S. v. Go Chanco, 23 Phil. 641, Philip S. Yu v. Hernan G. Lim, G.R. No. 182291, September 22, 2010, Article 3 of the Revised Penal Code, Page 276 of the law book titled, The Revised Penal Code, Criminal Law, Book Two (Articles 114-367), Fourteenth Edition (Revised 1998) by Luis B. Reyes, Section 1 (a), Rule 110 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, Section 3, Rule 110 of the Revised Rules of Criminal Procedure, Page 277 of the law book titled, The Revised Penal Code, Criminal Law, Book Two (Articles 114-367), Fourteenth Edition (Revised 1998) by Luis B. Reyes, People v. Angangco, G.R. No. L-47693, October 12, 1943, People v. Cainglet (G.R. Nos. L-21493-94, April 29, 1966), and Alfonso C. Choa v. People of the Philippines, et. al., G.R. No. 142011, March 14, 2003, citing People v. Cainglet, G.R. Nos. L-21493-94, April 29, 1966]

 

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