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Leviste guilty in Batangas capitol bomb threat

Batangas City, Philippines   – The municipal trial court found Batangas Vice Gov. Mark Leviste guilty yesterday of masterminding the planting of a dummy bomb at the Batangas capitol on June 8, 2006.

In a 12-page decision, Judge Eleuterio Bathan of Branch 2, fourth Judicial Region Municipal Trial Court sentenced Leviste to one year in prison and ordered him to pay P1,000 for violation of Article 143 and 153 of the Revised Penal Code or public disturbance. 

Panic spread at the Batangas provincial capitol and the Sangguniang Panlalawigan following a bomb threat, causing the suspension of the session of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan and evacuation of the capitol’s employees. 

Subsequently, the Philippine National Police and the bomb disposal unit of the Philippine Air Force recovered a dummy bomb in a trash can about 15 meters away from the session hall.

In the course of the investigation, authorities arrested Leviste’s personal driver Edward Ronquillo after gathering evidences pointing to him as the one who planted the dummy bomb. 

Ronquillo, turned state witness and pointed to Leviste as the mastermind of the turmoil.

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In his sworn statement, Ronquillo said Leviste handed him a green bottle of wine and told him to fill it with sand and a wick and had it wrapped with brown packing tape while they were at the latter’s house in Barangay Inosluban in Lipa City. 

Ronquillo said he was then instructed by Leviste to plant the dummy bomb at a bench outside the door of the office of board member Lianda Bolilia.

He narrated that he asked Leviste the reason why he had to plant a bomb at Bolilia’s door. “Ang sagot nya (Leviste) sa akin ay malaki daw po ang naging galit nya dun sa ginawang pagsa-sampa ni Bokal Bolilia sa Ethics Committee.” 

Prior to the incident, Bolilia filed a complaint against Leviste at the Ethics Committee when the vice governor allegedly erased the name of women lawmakers in an ordinance which she authored. 

He likewise testified that Leviste’s purpose in planting the fake bomb was to create a commotion that would eventually suspend the ongoing ethics committee hearing and to send the board members to their respective offices. 

Leviste denied all the allegations. 

“I still respect the court’s decision, pilit natin inuunawaan ang kanilang desisyon, I’m calm dahil alam kong wala naman tayong ginawang masama, hindi po tayo guilty at sinusunod natin ang batas,” Leviste said. 

Leviste’s counsel lawmaker Socrates Hermoso said in media interview- “We have 15 days to file an appeal and definitely we will file an appeal.”

Asked for his comment on the case decision “we have a very strong chance that this case would be reversed by the regional trial court because we believe that the prosecution failed to present enough evidence to convict the accused,” Hermoso said.

Leviste was temporarily released on bail.

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