By SC PIO, October 7, 2020; Philippine Information Agency

MANILA, Oct. 7 — Starting November 2 this year, trial courts can impose community service as a penalty for minor offenses.

This after the Supreme Court on Tuesday approved the guidelines in the imposition of community service as a penalty, which promotes restorative justice and jail decongestion. The guidelines, contained in A.M. No. 20-06-14-SC promulgated by the SC En Banc on October 6, shall take effect on November 2, 2020 after the required publication.

Congress passed RA 13362 or the Community Service Act which was signed into law by President Duterte on August 8, 2019. The said RA authorizes the court, in its discretion, to require community service in lieu of imprisonment for minor offenses.

Under A.M. No. 20-06-14-SC, 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, however, that the same will be barred to apply for community service or probation should he or she choose to appeal the conviction.

Application for community service must be filed within the period to perfect an appeal and that the said application shall be resolved within five days from filing thereof. 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 1) barangay chairperson or authorized representative of the barangay where the crime was committed; 2) representative from the provincial or city’s Probation Office; and, 3) local government unit’s Social Welfare Development Officer. The Court may resort to electronic service of the notices to the said officers.

The court shall resolve the application for community service immediately after the hearing thereon. An order granting or denying the same shall not be appealable. Failure of the accused to appear at the said hearing, except for justified reasons, shall be a ground to deny the application and a warrant of arrest shall be issued against the accused.

The SC held that these should be taken into consideration in allowing community service ─ gravity of offense, circumstances of the case, welfare of the society, and reasonable probability that the accused shall not violate the law while rendering the service.

The Court, pursuant to Section 5(5), Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution, has the power to adopt and promulgate rules concerning the protection and enforcement of constitutional rights, among others.

The SC Public Information Office will upload the copy of the guidelines once it is available.