Christmas parole for Leviste, 34 others
Rosalinda L. Orosa (The Philippine Star) - December 7, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Former Batangas governor Jose Antonio Leviste stepped out of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) in Muntinlupa City a free man yesterday after being granted parole almost five years since his conviction for the 2007 killing of his long-time aide.

The 73-year-old Leviste, former husband of Sen. Loren Legarda, was released from the national penitentiary before noon and was picked up by his three daughters.

NBP superintendent Venancio Tesoro told The STAR that Leviste was in high spirits when he left the NBP.

Aside from Leviste, 34 other inmates were also granted parole by the Pardon and Parole Administration (PPA).

In an interview, PPA head Manuel Co said Leviste has met the requirements to qualify for parole.

Co said Leviste had served the minimum period of his sentence for homicide conviction.

“The penalty was six years minimum to 12 years maximum. He already served more than six years,” he said.

Leviste was convicted by the Makati City Regional Trial Court on Jan. 14, 2009, two years after he shot dead Rafael de las Alas inside his office in Makati City on Jan. 12, 2007. He was in jail for almost seven years - almost five years in the NBP and another two in the city jail while standing trial.

Co said the PPA also considered Leviste’s old age which makes him “no longer a threat to the community.”

He added that there is no longer any reason to hold Leviste at the NBP, especially after the family of De las Alas did not object to his parole application.


How come?

Malacañang yesterday said it sees no problem in Leviste’s being granted parole.

“It’s in accordance with our laws and as per consultation with my legal resource, it does not need any presidential action. This is a parole process,” Press Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said.

When asked how come Leviste was given a good conduct time pass when he was seen going in and out of the national penitentiary, Coloma said there are rules that are being observed regarding the matter.

“We can conduct a review of the process if and when it can be proven that he violated such laws,” he said.

Leviste was slapped with another case for evasion of service of sentence after he was caught roaming in his LPL building in Makati City in violation of his “living out” privilege in May 2011.

But the Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 62 of Makati acquitted the inmate and his driver Nilo Solis de Guzman, buying Leviste’s defense “that he was legitimately outside because he was given a green light by the prison officers.”

Four prison superintendents and a prison guard were dismissed as a result of Leviste’s caper.

Co, however, clarified that Leviste still needs to appear before a parole officer while outside the prison as a condition of the grant.

“Parole is a temporary liberty. Technically, he remains under the custody of the state,” he said.

Co added that it would be up to the parole officer to allow Leviste to leave the country.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, meanwhile, said there is a list of inmates recommended for presidential pardon submitted to the Palace, which could also be released this month.


Family time

Batangas Vice Gov. Mark Leviste told The STAR yesterday that his uncle wants to spend quality time with his family now that he is out of prison.

“For now he does not want to receive media interviews. He wanted to just go home straight to Lipa, Batangas and make up for the lost time with his family,” Leviste said.

Mark said they were grateful for the freedom of Leviste. – Edu Punay, Delon Porcalla, Perseus Echeminada, Arnell Ozaeta

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