The Senate has passed on third and final reading an amendment to the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act which will extend the prescriptive period for graft cases from 15 to 20 years to allow government prosecutors to build stronger cases and give witnesses more time to come forward.
Senate President Franklin Drilon said that the measure was “a manifestation of the determination of Congress to stamp-out corruption in the country, by making sure that time does not hinder our quest for justice nor provide a loophole for the corrupt.”
“Our justice system can only be a strong deterrent against possible malfeasance if we demonstrate that no matter the passing of years, a crime remains a crime and those who committed them must answer for them,” he stressed.
Drilon also said that the proposed measure will complement the amendments to the Sandiganbayan Law passed and signed into law last April “as necessary reforms that will strengthen the nation’s justice and legal system.”
Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, sponsor of Senate Bill No. 2422, noted that under the current system, a 15-year prescription is being observed in the filing of graft cases and after such period, the government may no longer prosecute graft cases.
“Establishing a solid and winnable case against a corrupt public officer or employee may ordinarily take a longer time compared to other crimes,” Pimentel SAID.
With the new measure, Pimentel said that with the new measurtre, judicial authorities would be empowered to commence prosecution of corrupt officials within 20 years from the commission of the crime.
He explained that the amendment also allows state prosecutors to fight graft and corruption through “reasonable time limitations for their investigation and case build-up.”
Pimentel added that many witnesses on graft cases “hesitate to come forward” with incriminating evidence for “fear of reprisal and retribution” especially when the offender is an incumbent public officer or employee.
“Public office is a public trust,” Pimentel cited Article XI, Section 1 of the Constitution. “Conviction rates in graft and corruption cases remain low such that we can say that the perpetrators continue to act within a culture of impunity,” he added.
“This measure signals our unending quest for public accountability and this will serve to remind erring public officers and employees that their so-called enviable lives or wealth, power, and impunity are, in fact, fraught with impending retribution by the long arm of the law, which by this measure we can say has gotten even longer,” Pimentel said.
SBN 2422 was approved in substitution of several bills on the matter filed by Senators Teofisto “TG” Guingona III and Jinggoy Ejercito-Estrada. (With report from Apple Buenaventura, PRIB)