Minor offenders may render community service under new law

PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte has signed a law allowing courts to impose community service as penalty for offenders facing a jail time of up to six months in a bid to decongest jails.

Republic Act (RA) 11362, or the Community Service Act, authorizes courts, upon their discretion, to require community service instead of carrying out the penalties of arresto menor (imprisonment for one day to 30 days) and arresto mayor (imprisonment for one month and and one day to six months).

Community service will, however, be allowed only once.

The new law also requires the offender to render community service in the place where the crime was committed, under such terms as the court will determine, taking into consideration the gravity of the offense and the circumstances of the case.

"The court will prepare an order imposing the community service, specifying the number of hours to be worked and the period within which to complete the service. The order is then referred to the assigned probation officer who shall have the responsibility of the defendant," it said.

"Community service shall consist of any actual physical activity which inculcates civic consciousness, and is intended towards the improvement of a public work or promotion of a public service," the law added.

Punishable by arresto menor are offenses classified as Alarms and Scandals, such as discharge of firearm, rocket, firecracker, or other explosives calculated to cause alarm or danger; taking part in any charivari or other disorderly meeting offensive to another or prejudicial to public tranquility; disturbing public peace at night; and causing any disturbance or scandal in public places.

The law further requires offenders to undergo rehabilitative counseling under the social welfare and development officer of the concerned city or munipality.

If the offender violates the terms of the community service, he will be ordered re-arrested and have to serve the full term of the penalty.

Duterte signed the new law on August 8, 2019, but Palace released a copy on Wednesday, August 14, 2019. (Ruth Abbey Gita/SunStar Philippines)