‘No contest provision’ unfair to poor, disabled
I was invited recently to a public hearing on the merits of a proposed city ordinance. I shared my views on its penalty provision.
It is now becoming a customary practice of some sanggunian to enact an ordinance with a “no contest provision.” The provision stipulates that a violator of an ordinance may at once voluntarily choose to be penalized by paying fines to the treasury office of the local government unit or, as an alternative, render community service for a number of hours after receiving a citation ticket. The lawbreaker may feel that it is of no use challenging it or it’s simply a baloney waiting for a case to be filed against his person before the appropriate court. Actually, when such reaches the jurisdiction of the court, it will determine its probative value. If found guilty, the violator is meted out the prescribed penalty.
However, this no contest provision should be used with restraint. A perennial violator who can afford to pay the fine or is physically fit to render community service might take advantage of the provision. On the other hand, this provision is, to my mind, more disadvantageous to the poor and to people with “special physical needs.”
Besides, I find it superfluous that an ordinance with a no contest provision still has a section to the effect that “any person who willfully violate this ordinance shall, upon conviction, be penalized with a fine or imprisonment, or both, at the discretion of the court.” An indigent violator who cannot pay would most likely accept, without question, his fate before the court of law. Or, vulnerable as he is, he might ignore or defy the order to pay the fine or render community service and become a rebellious member of society.
With the economic hardship nowadays, it is my humble view that penalty provisions in ordinances should be less harsh. In other words, penalties should be meted out with some measure of compassion, taking into account extenuating circumstances, like the lawbreaker’s capacity to pay and ability to render community service. I propose as well that even before a penalty is slapped on a violator of an ordinance, a corrective program or activity should be introduced or instilled into the violator to rectify his wrongdoing—that is, short of saying there should be some sense of humanity in the penalties the sanggunian prescribe in their ordinances.
—REGINALD B. TAMAYO, assistant city council secretary, Marikina City
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