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Sanctions mulled vs parole board over Leviste release

Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) - December 10, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino yesterday hinted at sanctions against officials of the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP) who had allowed a convicted killer, former Batangas governor Antonio Leviste, to go free on parole despite his being caught sneaking out of prison while serving his sentence.

“Are there sanctions that we can impose on the Board of Pardons and Parole? I’m having it reviewed – how people get appointed at the Board of Pardons and Parole,” Aquino told Palace reporters on the sidelines of the celebration of the 80th anniversary of the Department of Labor and Employment held at the Occupational Safety and Health Center in Diliman, Quezon City.

“I can’t understand why they had to set free someone who had demonstrated his readiness to defy the law even while supposedly behind bars,” Aquino said, referring to Leviste’s walking out of prison in 2011 and staying at his LPL building in Makati City.

The BPP, which is under the Department of Justice (DOJ), is composed of career officials tasked to assess the conduct of prisoners at the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa.

While showing his disappointment, the Chief Executive admitted his hands were tied at the moment as the BPP may have really followed procedures in recommending Leviste’s freedom. Moreover, even the family of Leviste’s victim Rafael delas Alas did not pose any objection to the release order.

“Nevertheless, even assuming that the letter of the law had been followed, there is such thing as the spirit of the law and that’s what I want thoroughly reviewed,” he said. “Review the whole system so this won’t happen again.”

Justified, but...

While insisting that the grant of parole to Leviste was justified, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said she would submit to the power of President Aquino to have it reviewed or even revoked.

“I see no basis for me to conclude that the board did not act aboveboard in passing such application for parole,” she told reporters in an interview after meeting with officials of the BPP and the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).

“I don’t see any reason or indication that there were considerations other than the legal qualifications,” she stressed.

Citing explanations from BPP and BuCor heads, De Lima said Leviste had fulfilled all the requirements for parole, including the serving minimum period of his sentence for the homicide conviction over the 2007 killing of Delas Alas and observing good conduct while doing time in prison.

Aside from homicide, Leviste was charged with evasion of service of sentence after he was seen in his LPL building in Makati City in violation of his “living out” privilege in May 2011.

In granting Leviste parole, the BPP cited the decision of the Metropolitan Trial Court Branch 62 of Makati clearing him and his driver Nilo Solis de Guzman of evading sentence based on the former Batangas governor’s claim “that he was legitimately outside because he was given a green light by the prison officers.”

“The board told me that he was already penalized for that infraction. It would appear that the Board of Discipline adjudged him liable for grave misconduct and as a penalty, they withheld all his privileges and deduction from his good conduct time allowance,” De Lima explained.

Four prison superintendents and a prison guard were dismissed following Leviste’s caper.

Still, the DOJ head pointed out that President Aquino has the power to withdraw the parole.

“If he is not satisfied with the explanation, he would have that option (to withdraw the parole). After all, he is the head of the executive branch so all offices under the executive branch are under him, subject to his control and supervision,” De Lima said.

“The BPP is under the control and supervision of the DOJ and the DOJ is under the control of the President,” she pointed out.

Reservations

De Lima admitted that even she had her own reservations on the parole grant. “It should have been analyzed further and the Board should have not been too legalistic and strict in interpreting the evasion of sentence as ground for disqualification,” she said.

She explained that unlike executive clemency or commutation of sentence, granting of parole needs no approval of the President or the DOJ secretary.

Parole and Probation Administration head Manuel Co reiterated that Leviste’s parole was conditional. He said Leviste still needs to appear before a parole officer regularly as a condition for the parole. He added he wouldn’t mind if President Aquino decides to revoke the parole.

Leviste was convicted by a Makati court in January 2009 for homicide for the 2007 killing of Delas Alas.

The former governor claimed the shooting was in self-defense.

The President earlier said he was “surprised” to hear about Leviste’s parole, claiming he had been tipped about the development by assistant secretary for media affairs Rey Marfil.

‘Leave everything to God’

In Lipa, Batangas, Leviste’s daughter Toni said she respects the President’s position and would “leave everything to God.”

“He is our President. I’m sure that the President is doing what he believes he needs to do for the good of our country. I’m sure it’s nothing personal,” Toni told The STAR.

“At the same time I feel confident and hopeful once the matter has been cleared to him both by the Board of Pardon and Parole and the Department of Justice that things were all done in accordance with the law,” she said. With Edu Punay, Arnell Ozaeta

BATANGAS BOARD BOARD OF PARDONS AND PAROLE DE LIMA DELAS ALAS LEVISTE MAKATI CITY PAROLE PRESIDENT PRESIDENT AQUINO
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