Convict Leviste ‘living out,’ is arrested
MANILA, Philippines—A Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) official confirmed Wednesday night that former Batangas Gov. Antonio Leviste was arrested Wednesday by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation after he left the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City without a pass.
Ruel Lasala, NBI intelligence chief, said Leviste was arrested by joint operatives of the NBI’s intelligence unit and National Capital Region office at around 5 p.m. outside the LPL Building which he owns in Makati City.
Also arrested was Leviste’s driver Nilo Solis.
Bureau of Corrections Director Ernesto Diokno confirmed to the Inquirer the arrest of Leviste by NBI agents.
Leviste was arrested on orders of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
Diokno said Leviste had been enjoying “living out” privileges because he was pursuing his advocacy of planting a million trees and he had a pending petition for clemency filed in the Board of Pardons and Parole.
This meant that Leviste could freely roam within the NBP premises in Muntinlupa City, Diokno explained, adding that Leviste had been enjoying the privilege when he took over as BuCor chief in September 2010.
But Diokno said he had heard of reports that Leviste had been abusing his privileges and had warned him about it.
“I’ve been giving him warnings. Si Governor Leviste, winarningan ko na iyan. Sinabi ko, ‘nabalitaan ko lumalabas ka,” Diokno told ABS-CBN.
Diokno explained that Leviste was allowed to go outside his prison cell but not outside the Bilibid reservation area.
“Mayroon iyang custody, mayroon diyang naka-assign na tao,” Diokno told ABS-CBN. “May bantay iyan pirmi (He always has a guard.)”
He identified Leviste’s guard as a certain Fortunato Justo, who is now being investigated.
But Diokno admitted the bureau could not monitor all prisoners at the NBP. “Ano ang gagawin namin diyan? Alam mo naman ang Bilibid. Ang binabantayan namin diyan, 32,000 (What can we do? You know at Bilibid we have to guard 32,000),” he said.
NBI Director Magtanggol Gatdula said Leviste would be turned over to Diokno.
Gatdula added that BuCor and NBP officials found to have allowed Leviste to leave prison without a pass will also be charged.
6 to 12 years in jail
Leviste has been detained at the NBP after he was convicted of homicide on Jan. 14, 2009, for killing his long-time friend and aide Rafael de las Alas. The Makati City Regional Trial Court sentenced him to 6 to 12 years in prison.
Leviste told ABS-CBN, who accompanied the NBI arresting team, that he was on his way to see his dentist regarding a toothache.
“In fact, it’s 5 o’clock … my appointment,” he said.
According to Leviste, he did not secure a permit to leave prison. “Biglang sumakit eh. Deretso na lang ako (It hurt suddenly, so I am going straightaway)” he explained.
He said he knew that he had to get a permit to leave prison, but claimed he was “suffering.”
Leviste claimed it was his first time to leave prison without a pass.
When ABS-CBN told him about an “XXX” video footage showing him outside prison several times, including last Good Friday, Leviste said he does not know about such incidents.
But his driver, Solis admitted that Leviste also left the Bilibid premises last May 13.
According to Diokno, only the Department of Justice and the courts can issue a permit for Leviste to leave the Bilibid area.