The question on whether community service may be imposed as a penalty for violation of an ordinance is one of the questions many local legislators confront. On my first term as a member of the Sangguniang Bayan of our Municipality, this was one of the first issues I tried to answer. To many in the legal profession, this may seem trivial or simple but the question lingers because apparently many local government units have enacted ordinances imposing community service as one of the penalties aside from imprisonment and fine. Of course the intention of these local government units is highly commendable and I do presume that their primary consideration is the good of the community. They most probably also desire to instill upon violators the value of civic duty while aiming to deter aberrant behavior. “Two birds in one shot”. Yet the question remains, can community service be prescribed as penalty for violation of an ordinance?
Revised Penal Code
The Revised Penal Code (RPC)which defines and prescribes the penalties for crimes in our country states in Article 25 the imposable penalties which are: “Death, Reclusion perpetua, Reclusion temporal, Perpetual or temporary absolute disqualification, Perpetual or temporary special disqualification, Prision mayor, Prision correccional, Arresto mayor, Suspension, Destierro, Arresto menor, Public censure, Bond to keep the peace, Perpetual or temporary absolute disqualification, Perpetual or temporary special disqualification, Suspension from public office, the right to vote and be voted for, the profession or calling, Civil interdiction, Indemnification, Forfeiture or confiscation of instruments and proceeds of the offense, Payment of costs.” There is no mention of “community service” but there is a pending bill in Congress which seeks to amend the RPC and authorize the judge to impose the penalty of community service in lieu of arresto mayor and arresto menor. According to information available to us, the bill is still pending with the proper committee.
Local Government Units
Among the powers of the Sangguniang Barangay is to: “Prescribe fines in amounts not exceeding One thousand pesos (P1,000.00) for violation of barangay ordinances; (Section 391 (a)14, Local Government Code). In the case of Municipalities, the Sangguniang Bayan has the power to: “Approve ordinances imposing a fine not exceeding Two thousand five hundred pesos (P2,500.00) or an imprisonment for a period not exceeding six (6) months, or both in the discretion of the court, for the violation of a municipal ordinance;” [Section 447 (a)1(iii)]. Community service has not been mentioned in any of the above-quoted sections of the Local Government Code because imprisonment and/or fine are the only penalties allowed by the Code for the local sanggunian to impose. The local sanggunian cannot add through an ordinance, another kind of penalty other than the two mentioned. It simply does not have this power since local governments and its offices were merely created by law enacted by congress. What can be done probably is for the sanggunian to prescribe community service as an option in case the violator is unable to pay the penalty but not as the main penalty. It is my opinion that the length of the community service should be equivalent to the amount of the penalty taking into consideration the prevailing minimum wage of the place since the violator is performing community service merely as an alternative to the fine imposed against him.