Joseph Estrada has been charged with this offense before the Sandiganbayan, Bill Clinton faced it during the height of his impeachment and senators are accusing witnesses of committing this crime in their hearings. With all the fuss it has generated, it is no wonder why perjury is on everybody’s mind these days.
What is perjury anyway? This offense, as defined in Article 183 of the Revised Penal Code is the willful and corrupt assertion of a falsehood under oath or affirmation administered by authority of law on a material matter. The said article provides:
” The penalty of arresto mayor in its maximum period to prision correccional in its minimum period shall be imposed upon any person who, knowingly making 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.”
The elements of the crime of perjury are:
(a) That the accused made a statement under oath or executed an affidavit upon a material matter.
(b) That the statement or affidavit was made before a competent officer, authorized to receive and administer oath.
(c) That in that statement or affidavit, the accused made a willful and deliberate assertion of a falsehood.
(d) That the sworn statement or affidavit containing the falsity is required by law or made for a legal purpose.
Material matter is the main fact which is the subject of the inquiry, or any circumstances which tends to prove the fact, or any fact or circumstance which tends to corroborate or strengthen the testimony relative to the subject of the inquiry, or which legitimately affects the credit of any witness who testified.
DISTINCTIONS BETWEEN FALSE TESTIMONY AND PERJURY:
False testimony is given in the course of a judicial proceeding and contemplates an actual trial where judgement of conviction or acquittal is rendered and not merely a preliminary investigation. On the other hand, perjury is any willful and corrupt assertion of falsehood on a material matter under oath and not given in judicial proceedings. It may be committed even during a preliminary investigation as well as in the making of a false affidavit under oath on a material matter when required by law.