MANILA - The House of Representatives has approved on second reading a bill doubling the prescription period for the filing of graft cases from 15 years to 30 years.
The committee on revision of laws and codes endorsed the measure. Its chairperson, Pangasinan Rep. Marlyn Primicias-Agabas, has joined colleagues Giorgidi Aggabao of Isabela and Joaquin Chipeco Jr. of Laguna as the bill’s authors.
Aggabao said under their proposal, graft cases can be filed within 30 years instead of 15 years from the time the alleged offenses are committed.
He said offenders should not be allowed to escape criminal prosecution just because appropriate cases are not filed against them within a certain period.
He said the doubling of the prescription period is necessary, especially now that the nation is trying to come to terms with the involvement of several lawmakers and ranking officials in the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam.
“In the Philippines, graft and corruption has become so pervasive that it developed into a total systemic affliction. Recently, we were dumbfounded by the grand larceny of public funds for private pecuniary gain and benefit. It is bleeding the government coffers and the innocent victim is no less than the Filipino people,” he added.
Aggabao pointed out that corruption cases “are one of the most difficult crimes to prosecute and investigate.”
“Records show that the accused are often made liable for their crimes only upon its discovery after their term or tenure in public office or even after the change in government administration,” he said. “By the time the information is filed in court, the crime has already prescribed or about to prescribe.”
He said that this necessitates the extension of the prescription period for such case to at least 30 years.
“This will prevent perpetrators from escaping criminal liability by the mere technicality of prescription,” he stressed.
The bill seeks to amend Section 11 of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
The authors said they hope the Senate would act promptly on their proposal once it reaches them.
At least three senators and several public officers and private citizens are facing plunder and graft charges before the Office of the Ombudsman.