Several days after Justice Secretary Leila de Lima defended the decision of the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP) to grant parole to former Gov. Antonio Leviste of Batangas who was convicted of homicide for the death of his aide, Rafael de las Alas.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd had said that he was shocked and dismayed by the BPP decision. He ordered lawyers to study what sanctions could be imposed on BPP officials for their controversial decision.
On Wednesday, de Lima admitted that BPP officials may have erred in granting parole to Leviste.
“Upon my review, I saw that the BPP glossed over the findings of the Justice department’s fact finding team then that Leviste escaped. It is an evasion of sentence, which is a requirement on disqualification for parole. The BPP, however, didn’t recognize such fact because Leviste was acquitted in the Makati City Regional Trial Court [of evasion of sentence],” she told reporters.
De Lima, who was in Congress for the House probe on the sex-for-flight scheme involving diplomat and labor officials who allegedly abused distressed overseas Filipino workers, said the BPP manual does not have a provision on acquittal.
“The BPP ignored the findings of the Justice department’s fact finding team that Leviste left detention without proper authority. Why wasn’t it considered? I think there was something wrong with the BBP’s interpretation [of facts and its manual]. I will submit another memo to the President setting forth my position on the matter,” the secretary said.
She also shared the blame for the BPP lapse.
“The parole, pardon or commutation of a sentenced person would not need my approval, but nevertheless, I am given a heads up. In the Leviste case, the BPP told me that it followed the process and that requirements are met so I cleared it. But upon my review, it turned out otherwise and I take responsibility for it.”
She maintained that the President can revoke Leviste’s pardon even if BPP manual limits the requirements of withdrawal of parole or commuted sentence to misinterpretation and concealment of material facts on the part of the parolee.
“Legally, the President can revoke it because BPP and DOJ are under the Executive department. The President is the head of the Executive department.”