Arresto mayor replaced by unpaid work under new bill

Senator Richard J. Gordon said the passage on third and final reading of the bill seeking to require community service in lieu of imprisonment for offenses punishable by a jail term ranging from one day to six months would decongest the jails and avert the humanitarian crisis triggered by the congestion.

The Senate on Mondaypassed Senate Bill No. 2195 of the Community Service Act, which will promote restorative justice and decongest jails by authorizing the court in its discretion to require community service in lieu of service in jail for offenses punishable by arresto menor and arresto mayor. A jail term of one day to one month may be imposed for arresto menor, and one month and one day to six months for arresto mayor.

The bill, that Gordon sponsored, provides 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. However, the privilege of rendering community service in lieu of service in jail shall be availed of only once.

If the defendant violates the terms of the community service, the court shall order his re-arrest and the defendant shall serve the full term of the penalty, as the case may be, in jail. However, if the defendant has fully complied with the terms of the community service, the court shall order the release of the defendant unless detained for some other offense.
"An investigative report by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism in 2018 showed that the Philippines has the most overcrowded jails in the world, with a congestion rate of 605 percent that is far ahead of Haiti's 320 percent, the second most crowded. The Philippine National Police detention centers, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology and provincial jails, and the Bureau of Corrections prisons are not only full to the brim, they are teeming with emaciated and disease-carrying bodies," Gordon noted.

"This measures aims to address that. This will also help in preventing the humanitarian crisis that the present congestion in our jails brings," he added.

Gordon said there is a humanitarian crisis because there is a relentless and constant battle for space, water, food in an unhygienic facility since jails are massively overcrowded and lack sufficient sanitary facilities. As a consequence, too, a number of inmates have acquired highly communicable diseases, such as tuberculosis, red eyes, and small pox in the detention and jail facilities due to the face-to-face proximity.

SOURCE: Senate (2019). Community Service Bill to decongest jails, avert its accompanying humanitarian crisis - Gordon. Press Release on June 4, 2019.