Supreme Court  allows community service for minor offenses
In a statement issued yesterday, the Supreme Court (SC) announced it approved the guidelines that would give trial court judges the discretion to hand down the punishment of community service to promote the restorative justice and aid in prison decongestion.
Philstar.com/ Erwin Cagadas
Supreme Court allows community service for minor offenses
Evelyn Macairan (The Philippine Star) - October 8, 2020 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Starting Nov. 2, courts can impose the punishment of community service for those found guilty of minor offenses and whose punishments fall under the classification of arresto menor and arresto mayor.

In a statement issued yesterday, the Supreme Court (SC) announced it approved the guidelines that would give trial court judges the discretion to hand down the punishment of community service to promote the restorative justice and aid in prison decongestion.

The guidelines were in line with Republic Act 11362 or the Community Service Act passed by Congress and signed into law by President Duterte on Aug. 8, 2019.

By virtue of RA 11362, the court has the discretion to require community service in lieu of imprisonment for minor offenses.

Those who can benefit from the penalty of community service are those who were imposed with the penalty of arresto mayor or when the duration of imprisonment is from one month and one day to six months and arresto menor or when the duration of penalty is from one day to 30 days.

Among the offenses with a corresponding penalty of arresto mayor are less serious physical injuries, attempted robbery in an uninhabited place and serious slander.

Offenses whose punishment fall under arresto menor are slight physical injuries, simple slander and unjust vexation.

In deciding on whether a person should be given the punishment of community service, the following should be considered – the gravity of offense, circumstances of the case, welfare of society and reasonable probability that the accused shall not violate the law while rendering the service.

Under the guidelines, contained in A.M. No. 20-06-14 promulgated by the SC on Oct. 6, all judges concerned, after promulgation of judgment or order where the imposable penalty for the crime or offense is arresto menor or arresto mayor, shall be duty-bound to inform the accused in open court that he or she has an option to, among others, apply that the penalty be served by rendering community service in the place where the crime was committed.

The judge should also explain to the accused that he or she would be barred from applying for community service or probation if he or she would appeal the conviction.

Application for community service must be filed within the period to perfect an appeal and that the application shall be resolved within five days from filing. The court should set a hearing to render or promulgate the ruling for this purpose.

Upon receipt of the application for community service, the court shall immediately notify the barangay chairperson or authorized representative of the barangay where the crime was committed; representative from the provincial or city’s probation office and local government unit’s Social Welfare Development Officer, the SC said.

The court may resort to electronic service of the notices to these officers.

The court shall resolve the application for community service immediately after the hearing. An order granting or denying the same shall not be appealable.

If the accused fails to appear at the hearing, except for justified reasons, it is a ground to deny the application and a warrant of arrest will be issued against the person.

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