MANILA, Philippines?When he was young, Jose Antonio ?Tony? Leviste was seen as a beacon of hope for Batangueńos, according to Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr.
Pimentel recounted how Leviste started out as a ?promising? politician in his
province at the onset of martial law in 1972 when he was elected governor.
?Leviste, in his youth, was a glimmer of hope from partisan Batangas politics. He was a new face different from the Laurels who controlled Batangas before,? said Pimentel, a human rights lawyer who joined the opposition to oust the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship.
The hometown of the Laurels?including the late Vice President Salvador ?Doy? Laurel?is Tanauan, while the Levistes hail from Lipa.
?Here comes Tony, coming out as a possible replacement of the Laurel dynasty in Batangas. That was in the olden days. In other words, he gave out a lot of promise when he ran for governor, so I noticed him. He was a fresh wind,? Pimentel said.
?He did not come out openly against the Marcos domination of politics in the country. In any event, I noticed him because he was not a Laurel,? he added.
?I thought that this young man at the time held a lot of promise of sane leadership and politics in Batangas,? Pimentel said.
?He became violent now. From afar, it looks out of character. I don?t know him that well, but it?s out of character for him to pull a gun and kill.?
Business and politics
Leviste, who celebrates his 69th birthday on Friday, comes from a wealthy Batangas family renowned in business and politics.
?I didn?t have to work a day of my life,? he once told the Philippine Daily Inquirer (parent company of INQUIRER.net). He, nonetheless, proved to be bright, enterprising and outstanding while he was young.
At the age of 8, he already earned his first few pesos by selling iron-on stickers of Captain Marvel and Superman to his classmates.
When he was 19, together with his twin Conrad, he took over the real estate empire of their father, Lauro, which had for a long time specialized in Makati properties.
In 1962, at age 22, Leviste was awarded Realtor of the Year by the Business Writers Association of the Philippines?one of the many awards he would receive.
Ten years later, he became the youngest governor of Batangas and was honored with a ?Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines? (TOYM) Award for Public Administration just after a year in office. He was governor until 1980.
Honorary Palestinian consul
Since then, he has served as governor of the Board of Investments and director in various government agencies such as People?s Homesite and Housing Corp. and Philippine Tourism Authority.
He converted to Islam in 1986 and became honorary consul general of the State of Palestine.
Leviste was also a director of the Philippine Ports Authority and Philippine Aerospace Development Corp.
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo appointed him chair of the Philippine Leisure and Retirement Authority in 2001.
Leviste married Sen. Loren Legarda in 1987. They have two sons. Legarda has publicly announced that she and Leviste had been leading separate lives since 2003.
He once touted that before Loren Legarda, there was Tony Leviste.
Leviste and his first wife, Celia Sarangaya, separated after Sarangaya left for the United States with their daughters when martial law was declared in 1972. With Inquirer Research