‘Noy can recall pardon granted to Leviste’

Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - December 17, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - President Aquino can recall the parole granted to former Batangas governor Jose Antonio Leviste earlier this month by the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP), Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said yesterday.

De Lima also questioned the composition of the BPP that granted parole to Leviste.

“The President can intervene or act either to affirm or reverse grant of parole of BPP. And remember, he is the head of the executive branch so all executive offices are under his control and supervision,” De Lima explained.

She said a memorandum she submitted to Aquino also included her legal opinion on the validity of BPP’s parole grant to Leviste, but she initially did not reveal this “in deference to and out of respect for the President.”

“(The BPP’s) decision here lies with the President. There are only two choices here – either revoke or affirm (the parole),” she said.

De Lima has submitted to the President a second memorandum on Leviste’s case, which touched on the legality of the current composition of the BPP.

As justice secretary, she said she or her representative should chair the board under the Administrative Code.

De Lima said the appointment of BPP acting chair Natividad Dizon was based on two executive orders (EOs) issued by the previous administration.

“My position there is that a law (Administrative Code) cannot just be amended by an EO since the executive has no legislative power,” she told reporters.

While the Administrative Code itself was an EO, she said it was issued under the 1987 Constitution and cannot be undone by subsequent presidents.

“It’s time to review the composition of BPP,” she said.

De Lima said she also pointed out in the same memorandum that the President has the power to intervene on decisions of the BPP even if rules do not require approval of the President in parole grants.

Citing the Indeterminate Sentence Law, a law that created the BPP, she said the power of the President on the issuance of parole was not divested.

Earlier, De Lima said the parole granted to Leviste by the BPP was “aboveboard,” citing “no indication that there were considerations other than the legal qualifications.”

Noting the explanation of BPP and Bureau of Corrections heads, De Lima said Leviste had met all the requirements for parole, including serving the minimum period of his sentence for homicide conviction for the 2007 killing of his long-time aide Rafael de las Alas and good conduct while inside the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City.

De Lima reviewed the parole grant on Leviste after the President questioned it.

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

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

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