The Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights has recommended community service instead of jail time for those who are found guilty of having committed misdemeanors or minor offenses.

Committee chair Senator Dick Gordon, in his Senate Bill No. 2195 contained in Committee Report 621, said the measure could help decongest jails nationwide.

“The measure could help address jail decongestion nationwide.”

SBN 2195 is in substitution of Senate Bill Nos. 590, 1448 and 1452 filed by Senators Gordon, Sonny Trillanes IV, Sonny Angara and JV Ejercito.

“The community service envisioned in the measure consists of any action or physical activity, which inculcates civic consciousness intended toward the improvement of public work or promotion of public service,” the seasoned legislator said.

SBN 2195 or “Community Service Act” seeks to decongest jails and promote restorative justice by authorizing the court to require community service instead of jail sentence for offenses punishable by arresto menor and arresto mayor.

Under the Revised Penal Code, arresto mayor is one month and one day to six months in jail, while arresto menor is one day to 30 days behind bars.

The veteran lawmaker said the proposed measure is timely considering the current jail congestion rate of the Philippines at 436 percent, “making it the world’s second highest most overcrowded prison in the world, next to Haiti.”

“The current jail congestion rate of the Philippines at 436 percent, making it the world’s second highest most overcrowded prison in the world, next to Haiti.”

Haiti’s prison system is overcrowded by 454.4 percent, the senator said.

The top five most congested prisons in the country are Calabarzon (975 percent), Central Luzon (802 percent), Zamboanga Peninsula (789 percent), Central Visayas (775 percent) and Ilocos (674 percent).

As an example, he said a professional basketball player who commits an offense punishable by arresto mayor or arresto menor can teach basketball to the youth instead of serving jail time.

Gordon said restorative justice, on the other hand, “brings those harmed by crime and those responsible for the harm into communication, enabling everyone to play a part in repairing the harm and finding a positive way forward.”

“This will give them a chance to change, rehabilitate and reintegrate themselves into the community,” he added.

The offender, Gordon explained, will also be required to undergo rehabilitative counselling by the Social Welfare and Development Officer of the city or the municipality.

“If he violates the terms of community service, the court shall order his re-arrest and the defendant shall serve the full term of the penalty, as the case maybe, in jail,” he said.

The community service privilege, Gordon said, may only be availed of once, to ensure that it will not be abused.

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