MANILA – Senator Richard J. Gordon on Sunday lauded the Supreme Court’s (SC) approval of the guidelines for the imposition of community service as a penalty for minor offenses as stated in Republic Act 11362 or the Community Service Act.
Gordon, chairman of the Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights and author of the law, said the law will promote restorative justice and jail decongestion as it will allow the courts to impose community service in lieu of imprisonment for minor offenses.
“This will be a game changer. In fact, we should have done this a long time ago. This law can help reduce overcrowding in jails, which will make it easier for prison officers to manage the penitentiaries in a way that will allow the country to meet its basic obligations to the prisoners under their care,” he said.
Gordon added that congestion in current penal facilities in the country is enormous and that it should be resolved immediately to ensure the safety of the prisoners, the guards and the public in general.
As of Sept. 18, 2019, there is a total of 47,354 inmates in various penitentiaries under the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), but these prison facilities can only accommodate 12,299 inmates, which resulted to a congestion rate of 285 percent.
“Through RA 11362, jails in penitentiaries could be decongested as minor violation offenders will no longer be imprisoned. They will also be protected because they will be separated from those convicted of more serious crimes,” he said.
The law can also help address the growing number of pending trials, decongest the court dockets and speed up the judicial process.
The Community Service Act also aims to encourage meaningful engagement and accountability, and to provide an opportunity for healing and reintegration of those convicted of minor violations.
“Instead of serving time in jail, minor offenders will serve the community where the crimes were committed,” Gordon said.
Under RA 11362,which President Rodrigo Duterte signed on Aug. 8, 2019, it is the court that will prepare the order for community service and will specify the number of hours to be worked and the period within which to complete the service.
Those who will commit minor offenses will also have to undergo rehabilitative counselling by a social welfare officer. If the offenders violate the terms of the community service, the court may order re-arrest.
“We want to encourage civic consciousness and promote public service through this law that aims to help minor offenders restore their dignity especially those who committed crimes for the first time. We want to give them another chance in life and to assist them in rehabilitation programs. Through this, we can help transform the people and the communities. This will be beneficial for everybody,” he said
The SC approved the guidelines for RA 11362 on October 6 and shall take effect on Nov. 2, 2020 after the required publication. (PR)
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