Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has questioned the decision of the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP) to approve the parole for Antonio Leviste, the former Batangas governor convicted of homicide for the death of his aide, Rafael delas Alas.
De Lima made the stance in light of the flak that the Aquino administration is getting because Leviste was granted pardon despite the fact that Leviste escaped from New Bilibid Prisons in 2011.
“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],” de Lima 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 committed sexual abuse on distressed Overseas Filipino Workers, then invoked that BPP got it wrong because 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,” de Lima added.
The Justice Secretary, however, admitted that there was lapse on her part.
“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,” de Lima stressed.
Still, de Lima 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,” de Lima added in closing.
Leviste is formerly married to Sen. Loren Legarda. They have two sons, Lorenzo and Leandro. LLANESCA T. PANTI