December 09, 2023

Ex-Gov. Tony Leviste charged after 'vacation' from Bilibid


After taking an illegal vacation in the free world, former Batangas Gov. and convict Jose Antonio Leviste was charged on Thursday with evasion of service of sentence.

Leviste, convicted of homicide in 2009 for the killing of his friend Rafael de las Alas two years earlier, was arrested on Wednesday for leaving the New Bilibid Prison without a pass.

On Thursday noon, the National Bureau of Investigation filed the evasion of service of sentence complaint with the Department of Justice, which conducted inquest proceedings against Leviste.

The inquest, conducted by Senior State Prosecutor Lilian Alejo, will determine whether there is probable cause to file charges against him for evasion of service of sentence charges. The offense is provided under the Revised Penal Code.

When there is a warrant-less arrest, as in Leviste's case, a suspect is subjected to inquest proceedings in lieu of a formal DOJ preliminary investigation.

Both inquest proceedings and preliminary inquiries seek to determine whether there is probable cause that warrants the filing of the appropriate charges against a respondent.

If a court finds Leviste guilty of evasion of service of sentence, six more years will be added to his sentence of six to 12 years for homicide.

Leaving without permission

On Wednesday afternoon, National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) agents arrested Leviste in Makati City after finding he left the national penitentiary without a pass.

Leviste said he was in Makati City because he had an appointment with his dentist, a claim that Justice Sec. Leila de Lima found "very flimsy."

Bureau of Corrections director Ernesto Diokno said Leviste is on a "living out" status, which means that he is not detained at the maximum security facility but only within the NBP compound in Muntinlupa City. He added that at 71, Leviste is a candidate for executive clemency because NBP inmates above 70 can apply for such.

But De Lima said that Leviste's "living out" status and his application for executive clemency are still being verified.

"I am still looking into that. There is no such thing. I didn't even even know if he has an application for executive clemency. I also directed the undersecretary in charge to review these regulations about living out prisoners," said De Lima at a separate news briefing.

"Even if validity is sustained, [being a] living out prisoner does not mean you can go out. There are times within the day that you have to report so you can be accounted for, or you can be physically checked," she added.

Diokno faces probe, too

De Lima, vowing that "heads will roll" because of the incident, said she had ordered Baraan to create a panel that will conduct within three days, starting next Monday, a fact-finding inquiry into the matter. The panel will also determine Diokno's liability.

"We will know whether we will recommend Director Diokno to be subjected to disciplinary proceedings. And remember that he is a presidential appointee, so he is subject to disciplinary powers of the Office of the President, but the DOJ can always recommend [sanctions]," said De Lima.

But Diokno said he implemented the proper measures when it was first reported to him that Leviste was leaving NBP premises. He added he had warned the governor several times.

"When I first got here [as BuCor director], I received the information that high-profile prisoners are going in and out of Bilibid. One of those was Leviste. So I told him that I had such information. But he said he remains within the compound and that he had a twin. So I gave him all the warnings," Diokno said.

Rolito Go

Also on Thursday, De Lima said that he received information that convicted killer Rolito Go has also walked in and out of Bilibid without permit.

Go was found guilty of murder for the killing of businessman Eldon Maguan in 1991 over a traffic altercation.

"Last night there was an informant who talked to me... He said that it's not only Leviste [who was going in and out], but also Rolito Go," De Lima said. - RSJ/LBG/HS/KBK, GMA News

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