In an earlier article, the issue on whether community service may be imposed as a penalty by an ordinance or whether it can be imposed at all was discussed. As for local government units, the Local Government Code of 1991 empowers them to impose penalties through the enactment of ordinances but one lingering question is whether the penalty of community service can be imposed as penalties in addition to imprisonment or fine. Last 08 August 2019, President Rodrigo Roa Duterte signed into law Republic Act 11362 entitled: An Act Authorising the Court to Require Community Service in lieu of Arrestor Menor and
Arresto Mayor, Amending fo the Purpose Chapter 5, Title 3 Books I of Act No. 3815, as Amended, Otherwise Known as “The Revised Penal Code”. The law gives judges the discretion to require community service instead of conimprisonment for Arresto Menor or Arresto Mayor. This option, however may only be availed once and aside from rendering community service, the defendant shall also undergo counselling from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). Does this law settle the question on whether community service may be imposed for violation of laws or ordinances?
R.A. 11362 states that “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”. Yes the law defines community service, but does it mean it can already be imposed a penalty in laws or ordinances? For now, I don’t think so. While RA 11362 allows for its imposition, it is only the judge who can impose it if and only if the defendant is qualified. In the first place the law itself says that one of its main purposes is the decongestion of jails.
Community service therefore is not the main penalty and it is only rendered as an alternative to the already imposed main penalty of arresto menor or arresto mayor. In fact, the law says that if the defendant violates the terms of the community service, he shall be rearrested and shall serve the full term of the penalty – meaning arresto menor or arresto mayor as the case may be. It means that when community service is rendered by the defendant he shall be considered to have served his penalty. In other words, he is sentenced to arresto menor but shall serve his sentence through community service rather than imprisonment. Still, technically no person may be sentenced to community service. That local sanggunians are not authorised to impose community service as main penalty I think still holds true.
The Local Government Code of 1991 only authorises three forms of penalties: imprisonment, fine, or both. It does not mention community service or any other forms of penalty except those mentioned. As discussed earlier in another article, the Local Government Code though does not prohibit the imposition of community service as an alternative penalty as what R.A. 11362 provides. In my opinion, although it cannot be imposed as an additional or main penalty for violation of a local ordinance, the violator ma y be given the option through ordinance to choose rendition of community service instead rather than imprisonment or fine. This might be the same with what other local governments have been doing, where through an ordinance they give violators the option to admit his violation and pay the penalty impossable so that the case may no longer be referred to the prosecutors office for the filling of cases in court and avoid the prolonged and tedious trial.