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PNoy can ‘reverse’ Leviste parole – De Lima

December 9, 2013 1:00pm
(Updated 4:03 p.m.) President Benigno Aquino III can withdraw the parole granted to convicted killer Jose Antonio Leviste, according to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, even as she maintained that there seems to be nothing irregular with the granting of the parole.

“So far, there's no basis for me to conclude that the board did not act above board in passing such application,” De Lima said Monday following a meeting with the country's top jail officials.

She, however, noted that she would “defer” to the decision of the President, who she said has the power to “review” paroles granted to prisoners.

“Legally, I would say may karapatan at may kapangyarihan ang Pangulo na i-review iyan at may karapatan at may kapangyarihan siya na i-reverse 'yan,” she said.

De Lima said the Board of Parole and Pardon can also revoke the parole grant if the parolee was found to have committed “concealment of fact or misrepresentation” during application.

Present during the meeting with De Lima were Parole and Probation Adminisration chief Manuel Co, New Bilibid Prison Superintendent Venancio Tesoro, and Bureau of Corrections Director Franklin Bucayu.

Standing by decision

De Lima also said the Board of Parole and Pardon is standing by its decision to end Leviste's almost five-year imprisonment by granting him parole. She also noted that Leviste, a former Batangas governor who was jailed in January 2009 for killing a long-time aide in Makati, was able to comply with the requirement for parole.

Leviste, 73, was convicted of homicide and was sentenced to at least six years in prison, but his good conduct time allowance allowed him to cut short his sentence by a little more than a year.

In May 2011, Leviste was reported to have escaped from prison. He was re-arrested, transferred to the maximum security facility, and was slapped with fresh charges of evasion of service of sentence.

In questioning the approval of the parole application, Aquino noted that Leviste's “escape” two years ago is not indicative of good conduct.
“Paano magiging good conduct iyong nasa labas ng piitan habang nagse-serve ng sentence? So hindi ko maintindihan kung bakit maco-consider man lang,” he said.

Aquino surprised

Aquino said he was surprised after learning about this, prompting him to order a probe as announced by the Palace on Sunday.
“Hindi ko maintidihan kung bakit napalaya ang isang taong ... nakapiit na ay hindi pa rin sumusunod sa batas,” he said.
The problem, Aquino said, is that the parole grant supposedly went through the proper process and that the victim's family did not object.

De Lima had earlier said she was aware of Aquino's reaction to the parole grant and that he had required her to submit to him a brief on how Leviste was granted parole.

When De Lima brought up Leviste's 2011 escape to the jail officials during the meeting, Tesoro acknowledged that Leviste was indeed found guilty of grave misconduct and that he had already been penalized for that incident.

"May na-impose sa kanyang penalty ng Board of Discipline. Parang na-suspend or withhold ang privileges or whatever privileges he has as an inmate. Binawas din iyan sa pag-credit sa kanya ng GCTA or good conduct time allowance," De Lima said.

Leviste capers

Leaving NBP grounds was nothing new for Leviste, as then NBP assistant director Teodora Diaz claimed the former Batangas governor had left the NBP compound four times in the past, three of them through the main gate.

In early 2010, Leviste was allowed to leave the NBP to undergo a dental check-up in Makati City.

Because of old age, the then-71-year-old Leviste – soon after his conviction in 2009 – was awarded “sleep out” privileges, which was normally given to inmates 65 years old and above.

He also later obtained “living out” status, which means that he is not detained at the maximum security facility but only within the NBP compound in Muntinlupa City.

After his re-arrest, Leviste has since been kept inside the NBP Maximum Security Compound.

Originally considered a minimum security and sleep out prisoner, Leviste did not only have the privilege to freely roam the NBP compound but also had the freedom to build his own house on designated areas inside.

Authorities said Leviste belongs an elite group of “two to three” inmates who had enough funds to construct their own kubol.

Leviste could have spent an additional six years to be added to his sentence had he been found guilty of evasion of service of sentence. However, Tesoro said the Makati court that handled his case eventually cleared him of the new charges.

“Kaya hindi nakaapekto sa computation ng penalty ang incident [ng pagtakas niya] dati," said Tesoro, adding that sleep out and living out privileges had been removed following the controversy caused by Leviste's caper. — KBK, GMA News
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