Restorative justice

February 05, 2019

What are they supposed to do?

They cannot be put behind bars, but they cannot be allowed to go about their mischievous, potentially damaging or distructive behavior.

This is the dilemma of law enforcers and social workers in dealing with juvenile crime.

There must be a middle ground that could cut it both ways.

The Senate Committee on Justice and Human Rights has recommended community service instead of a jail term for minor offenses.

Committee chair Sen. Richard J. Gordon, in his Senate Bill No. 2195 contained in Committee Report 621, said the measure could help address jail decongestion nationwide.

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

"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," Gordon said.

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

Under the Revised Penal Code, the jail term of arresto mayor is one month and one day to 6 months, while arresto menor is one day to 30 days.

Gordon 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."

Haiti's prison system is overcrowded by 454.4 percent, the lawmaker said.

The top 5 most congested prisons in the country are Region 4A (975%), Region 3 (802%), Region 9 (789%), Region 7 (775%) and Region 1 (674%).

As an example, Gordon said a professional cager 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," Gordon said.

The offender, he said, would 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 would not be abused.