The concept of probation stems from faith in man’s capacity to change for the better and in the ultimate good that will redound to society by rebuilding rather than destroying those who have offended it.
Thus, as early as the thirteenth century, efforts were made to mitigate the harshness of penal laws through more enlightened and rehabilitative approaches in the treatment and correction of offenders. These included the release of accused members of the clergy to ecclesiastical authorities, judicial reprieve or temporary suspension of sentence or execution, deportation, and release on recognizance wherein a misdemeanant bound himself before the court to “keep the peace and be on good behavior.” These practices in early English Courts became the forerunners of probation which was later established in England and the United States.
In the Philippines, provisions for juvenile probation has been embodied in Article 80 of the Revised Penal Code since its enactment in 1932. Thus, sentence was suspended for offenders under 16 years of age accused of a grave or less grave felony, who were then placed in the care and custody of public or private entities. This was amended on December 10, 1974 by Presidential Decree No. 603, known as the Child and Youth Welfare Code, and by Presidential Decree No. 1179 which set the age of minority to below 18 years of age at the time of the commission of the offense. Likewise, Republic Act No. 6425 or the Dangerous Drugs Act of 1972 provided for the suspension of sentence and probation of a first-offender under 18 years of age at the time of the commission of the offense but not more than 21 years at the time when judgment should have been promulgated.
The move to integrate adult probation in the Philippine criminal justice system began early in the twentieth century when the Philippine Legislature approved Act No. 4221 on August 7, 1935. This created a Probation Office under the Department of Justice, and provided probation for first offenders 18 years of age and above who were convicted of certain crimes. Unfortunately, there were defects in the law’s procedural framework so that, on November 16, 1937, the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional in the case of People of the Philippines vs. Vera on the grounds of “undue delegation of legislative power” and violation of the “equal protection of the law” clause.
A second attempt was made when then Congressmen Teodulo C. Natividad and Ramon D. Bagatsing introduced House Bill No. 393 during their last months in Congress. Passed in the Lower House, this was pending in the Senate when Martial Law was proclaimed in 1972.
The agitations for the adoption of an adult probation law continued. In 1973, the technical staff of the Bacolod City Police Advisory Council, headed by Lt. Col. Arcadio S. Lozada and assisted by US Peace Corps Volunteer Alvin L. Koenig, prepared a proposed Probation Decree which incorporated pertinent provisions of the Natividad and Laurel Bills. This was submitted to the Secretary of Justice and the National Police Commission after a thorough perusal by a study committee of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and subsequent indorsement by its national Board of Directors.
Late in 1975 the National Police Commission, sitting en banc and headed by Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile who was the concurrent Chairman of NAPOLCOM, heard the report “Meeting the Challenge of Crime” of the Philippine delegation to the 5th United Nations Congress held in Geneva, Switzerland in September 1975. At that time, the Philippines was among the few participating countries without an adult probation system. Citing the role of probation in an integrated approach to crime prevention, the delegation urged priority action on the establishment of the system. This was the turning point that led to the passage of the law. The Inter-Disciplinary Committee on Crime Prevention created in 1974 by Secretary Enrile and chaired by Commissioner Teodulo Natividad, then pursued the preparation of the probation decree. Eighteen technical hearings were conducted, attended by 60 resource persons, after which the draft decree was presented at the Seminar on the Probation System sponsored by the NAPOLCOM, Philippine Constabulary and Integrated National Police, and the University of the Philippines Law Center on April 24, 1976. This was studied and overwhelmingly endorsed by 369 participants representing various sectors of society. A final draft of the decree was subsequently prepared, then reviewed and endorsed to the President of the Philippines by the Minister of Justice, Minister of National Defense, and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
Thus, the law was born on July 24, 1976. It was during the closing ceremonies of the First National Conference on a Strategy to Reduce Crime held at Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City, that President Ferdinand E. Marcos signed Presidential Decree (P.D.) No. 968, otherwise known as the Probation Law of 1976, in the presence of nearly 800 representatives of the country’s criminal justice system.
Under Executive Order No. 292, “The Administrative Code of 1987” which was promulgated on November 23, 1989, the Probation Administration was renamed “Parole and Probation Administration” and given the added function of supervising prisoners who, after serving part of their sentence in jails are released on parole pardon with parole conditions
Moreover, the investigation and supervision of First Time Minor Drug Offenders (FTMDO) placed under suspended sentence became another added function of the Administration pursuant to Sections 66 – 70 of Republic Act 9165, “The Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002” and by virtue of the Memorandum of Agreement between the Dangerous Drugs Board and Administration dated 17 August 2005. Likewise, pursuant to Section 57 of Republic Act 9165, the Administration was designated as the authorized representative of the Dangerous Drugs Board under the Voluntary Submission Program.
The Agency was placed in the forefront in relation to crime prevention, treatment of offenders in the comunity-based setting, and in the overall administration of criminal justice by mandating the revitalization of the Volunteer Probation Aide (VPA) Program pursuant to Executive Order 468 dated October 11, 2005.
Under Republic Act No. 10389, “Recognizance Act of 2012”, the Administration was directed to monitor and evaluate the activities of the person on release on recognizance.