Probation is a disposition under which an accused, after being found guilty beyond reasonable doubt of a certain offense and accordingly sentenced, is, nonetheless, released subject to conditions laid down by the court. The accused is, then, referred to the supervision of a probation officer. Its importance is highlighted as one of the State’s strategies to rehabilitate an individual after committing an offense against the State and possibly integrating him anew to the society as a better person.
Privilege and Compassion
This probation is a privilege granted by the court to the convicted accused to remain in the community, instead of serving time in penal institution.
This compassion is brought about by the faith in the person’s capacity to change for the better. So that such rehabilitation, in the ultimate good, will redound to the benefit of the society. It shall rebuild rather than destroying those who have offended it.
Establishing a sophisticated and sympathetic correctional structure is the objective this system of probation. This will promote the reformation of offenders, thus, curtailing incidence of recidivism, which is one of the major goals of the government.
Instead of Incarceration
Moreover, when an offender is released on probation, the government spends much less than that the offender be placed in prison. But this is a once in a lifetime opportunity because the law provides that an offender can be granted probation only once in a lifetime.
The probation, in order to avail of the privilege, an application thereof shall be filed with the trial court and the order granting or denying probation is not be appealable.
Act No. 4221 which was enacted on on August 7, 1935 by the Philippine Legislature initially introduced this system of probation. The statute created a Probation Office under the umbrella of the Department of Justice.
It gave the privilege of probation for first time offenders who are 18 years of age and above convicted of certain crimes.
However, for having some defects in its procedural framework, it was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court in the case of People of the Philippines vs. Vera1 on the grounds of “undue delegation of legislative power” and violation of the “equal protection of the law” clause.
|Brief History | Law on Probation|
|In 1972, Congressmen Teodulo C. Natividad and Ramon D. Bagatsing introduced House Bill No. 393, intending to establish a probation system in the country.|
|The House of the Representatives passed the said bill, which became pending in the Senate. However, while it is pending in the Senate, Martial Law was proclaimed and the Congress was abolished.|
|Then in late 1975, the Philippines was among the participants of the 5th United Nations Congress held in Geneva, Switzerland and is one among the few participating countries without an adult probation system.|
|From the 5th United Nations Congress, the National Police Commission heard the report “Meeting the Challenge of Crime” of the Philippine delegation which cites the role of probation in an integrated approach to crime prevention.|
|The Inter Disciplinary Committee on Crime Prevention in 1974 pursued the preparation of probation decree. Eighteen (18) technical hearings had been conducted. The committee presented the draft decree at the Seminar on the Probation System.|
|The National Police Commission, Philippine Constabulary and Integrated National Police, and the University of the Philippines Law Center sponsored this seminar. Consequently, a final draft of the decree was prepared, then reviewed and endorsed to the President of the Philippines.|
|Hence, during the closing ceremonies of the First National Conference on a Strategy to Reduce Crime held at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, then former President Ferdinand E. Marcos Presidential signed into law Presidential Decree No. 968 or the Probation Law of 1976.|
|The objectives of the decree are to promote the correction and rehabilitation of an offender by providing him with individualized treatment, provide an opportunity for the reformation of a penitent offender which might be less probable if he were to serve a prison sentence, and prevent the commission of offenses.|
|Pursuant to this Decree, the Probation Administration under the Department of Justice has been created to administer the probation system. On November 23, 1989, when Executive Order No. 292, the Administrative Code of 1987 was promulgated.|
|The Probation Administration was renamed “Parole and Probation Administration” and the function of supervising prisoners who, after serving part of their sentence in jails are released on parole pardon with parole conditions, were added to its functions.|
|Pursuant to Executive Order 468 dated October 11, 2005, the Administration was placed in the forefront in relation to crime prevention, treatment of offenders in the community-based setting, and in the overall administration of criminal justice by mandating the revitalization of the Volunteer Probation Aide Program.|
|Likewise, the Administration was directed to monitor and evaluate the activities of the person on release on recognizance under Republic Act No. 10389, the Recognizance Act of 2012.|
On November 26, 2015, Republic Act No. 10707, amending P. D. No. 968, has been signed into law.
Who are qualified to apply for probation?
“SECTION 1. Section 4 of Presidential Decree No. 968, as amended, is hereby further amended to read as follows:4
“SEC. 4. Grant of Probation. — Subject to the provisions of this Decree, the trial court may, after it shall have convicted and sentenced a defendant for a probationable penalty and upon application by said defendant within the period for perfecting an appeal, suspend the execution of the sentence and place the defendant on probation for such period and upon such terms and conditions as it may deem best. No application for probation shall be entertained or granted if the defendant has perfected the appeal from the judgment of conviction: Provided, That when a judgment of conviction imposing a non-probationable penalty is appealed or reviewed, and such judgment is modified through the imposition of a probationable penalty, the defendant shall be allowed to apply for probation based on the modified decision before such decision becomes final. The application for probation based on the modified decision shall be filed in the trial court where the judgment of conviction imposing a non-probationable penalty was rendered, or in the trial court where such case has since been re-raffled. In a case involving several defendants where some have taken further appeal, the other defendants may apply for probation by submitting a written application and attaching thereto a certified true copy of the judgment of conviction.5
“The trial court shall, upon receipt of the application filed, suspend the execution of the sentence imposed in the judgment.6
“This notwithstanding, the accused shall lose the benefit of probation should he seek a review of the modified decision which already imposes a probationable penalty.7
“Probation may be granted whether the sentence imposes a term of imprisonment or a fine only. The filing of the application shall be deemed a waiver of the right to appeal.8
“An order granting or denying probation shall not be appealable.”9
Strict Compliance with the Period Provided by Law
Applying for probation should be within fifteen (15) days from the promulgation of judgment. The court then will suspend the execution of the sentence. Thereafter, the Court shall refer the application to the proper probation office for the conduct of post-sentence investigation (PSI).
This period is non-extendible and must be strictly complied with. Nonetheless, while the accused appealed a non-probationable conviction, if the appellate Court imposes a probationable penalty, the accused can still apply for probation.
Consequently, upon receipt of such application, the probation officer shall submit the Post-Sentence Investigation Report (PSIR) within sixty (60) days from the said receipt.
Such period may be extended in meritorious cases for a period that will be approved by the court. While the Post-Sentence Investigation Report (PSIR) and the resolution of the application is pending, the defendant may be temporarily released under bail or be released on recognizance of a responsible member of the community.
Such is the case if the accused is incapable of posting bail.
However, not all qualified, convicted persons are automatically entitled to probation.
The court will not grant the probation if the findings of the probation officer after his investigation shows:
- that the offender can be treated better in an institution or in other places for correction;
- that the offender is a dangerous risk to the community; or
- that the probation will lessen the gravity of the offense.
Is probation a matter of right?
In the case of Pablo C. Francisco vs Court of Appeals, et. al.,10 the accused in this case was charged of multiple grave oral defamation in five (5) separate Information before the Metropolitan Trial Court of Makati.
The trial court then found the accused guilty of grave oral defamation in four (4) of the five (5) cases filed against him. He then elevated the case to the Regional Trial Court insisting his innocence.
However, the Regional Trial Court affirmed his conviction which became final for his failure to interpose an appeal therefrom. The Metropolitan Trial Court [MeTC], as a consequence, issued a warrant of arrest.
But before he could be arrested, accused filed an application for probation which the MeTC denied. On certiorari before the Court of Appeals, the court dismissed his petition on the ground that the petition for probation was filed out of time and that MeTC did not commit any whimsical exercise of power in denying the application for probation.
Therefore, the central issue in this case is whether the accused is still qualified to avail of probation even after appealing his conviction to the RTC which affirmed the MeTC except with regard to the duration of the penalties imposed.
Mere Privilege Granted by the State to those Who are Qualified
The Supreme Court11 held that:
Probation is a mere privilege, not a right. Its benefits cannot extend to those not expressly included. Probation is not a right of an accused, but rather an act of grace and clemency or immunity conferred by the state which may be granted by the court to a seemingly deserving defendant who thereby escapes the extreme rigors of the penalty imposed by law for the offense of which he stands convicted.12
It is a special prerogative granted by law to a person or group of persons not enjoyed by others or by all. Accordingly, the grant of probation rests solely upon the discretion of the court which is to be exercised primarily for the benefit of organized society, and only incidentally for the benefit of the accused.13
The Probation Law should not therefore be permitted to divest the state or its government of any of the latter’s prerogatives, rights or remedies, unless the intention of the legislature to this end is clearly expressed, and no person should benefit from the terms of the law who is not clearly within them.14
Furthermore, the Supreme Court reiterated in the case of Mustapha Dimakuta Maruhom vs People of the Philippines15 that:
“In the American law paradigm, probation is considered as an act of clemency and grace, not a matter of right. It is a privilege granted by the State, not a right to which a criminal defendant is entitled.”16
In City of Aberdeen vs. Regan,17 it was pronounced that:
“The granting of a deferred sentence and probation, following a plea or verdict of guilty, is a rehabilitative measure and, as such, is not a matter of right but is a matter of grace, privilege, or clemency granted to the deserving.”18
In view of the foregoing cases decided by the Supreme Court, the question whether probation is a matter of right was answered. It is, therefore, a privilege and not a right.
Who are disqualified to avail of probation?
Under the Probation Law of 1976,19 as amended by R. A. No. 10707,20 the list of disqualified offenders were enumerated, wherein it states that the benefits of this Decree shall not be extended to those:
“(a) sentenced to serve a maximum term of imprisonment of more than six (6) years;21
“(b) convicted of any crime against the national security;22
“(c) who have previously been convicted by final judgment of an offense punished by imprisonment of more than six (6) months and one (1) day and/or a fine of more than one thousand pesos (P1,000.00);23
“(d) who have been once on probation under the provisions of this Decree; and (e) who are already serving sentence at the time the substantive provisions of this Decree became applicable pursuant to Section 33 hereof.”24
Does probation really work?
It has been said that probation is a good alternative to incarceration. One of its benefits is that the government spends much less when an offender is released on probation than be placed in prison.
It also protects the society from the high rate of recidivism of detained offenders. Also, the offender would be able to continue working and earn income.
Thus, he would also be able to pay taxes and pay damages to the victim of the crime. It can also help restore his dignity and can provide rehabilitation in the community. Moreover, it maintains the unity of the home.
With the Philippines being on the sixth-highest prison population out of 21 Asian countries in 2018, Probation also helps to address the problem of severe overcrowding in prisons in the country which leads to illness and death tolls of prisoners.
What are the disadvantages of probation?
While probation has its advantages to the society, to the offender, to the victims, as well as to the government, there are also some negative effects.
In some cases when an offender was granted probation, it could also be seen as if there is no punishment at all because the offender will still remain in the society but under the supervision of a probation officer.
Also, allowing an offender to be back in the society may put, among others, the community at risk of that offender committing other or additional crimes.
Some say that it is not enough to monitor a convicted person and that there is a high percentage that they tend to commit other or similar offenses which will put the community at peril.
Another disadvantage would be the discrimination that the offender may receive from his community. Being a person convicted of a crime, there is a high probability of you being discriminated by the people, should they know that you have been convicted to a crime.
With the implementation of the Probation Law in the country, many have already benefited and is grateful to it. Probation helps to rehabilitate the defendant, protect the society from further criminal act by the defendant and protect the rights of the victim.
As previously mentioned, probation is a good alternative to incarceration. Instead of going to prison, probation can be effective. Probation may be a prelude to a full integration with the community.
The probationer just need to comply with the conditions of probation enumerated in Section 10 of Probation Law. Failure to comply with any of the conditions prescribed in the probation order or his commission of another offense, he shall serve the penalty imposed for the offense under which he was placed on probation.
- G.R. No. L-45685, November 16, 1937
- Pioneer Probation Law
- Amendatory Law
- G.R. No. 108747, April 6, 1995
- G.R. No. 206513, October 20, 2015
- In the Supreme Court of the State of Washington, Case No. 82476-2
- Probation Law
- Law Amending P. D. No. 968