06 December 2013

Does "Crime Pays" in Leviste's Case?

Governor Leviste
In the Philippines, some people believed that "crime pays in the end." The only conditions that a criminal needs to meet is by becoming rich, rickety old and should be a former local official.

Take the case of former Batangas Governor Antonio Leviste. He was convicted of homicide on 29 May 2010, 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 starting 26 January 2009, the time he was already in jail.

And guess what happened next? When the minimum time serve of 6 years was reached, he was immediately granted parole and is now a free man! Only six years for blowing a person's head off in the guise of self-defense.

The sad part is that the reasons given were too flimsy for my taste.

According to the Parole and Probation Administration (PPA), it considered five conditions in granting parole to the 73-year-old Leviste including serving the minimum sentence for his homicide conviction, old age and that he is no longer considered a threat to the community.

"Ang penalty is 6 years minimum to 12 maximum. He already served more than 6 years. That's one. Second, the public knows he was charged with evasion of service of sentence. Itong evasion of service of sentence, based on the decision of Metropolitan Trial Court branch 62 of Makati, Leviste and a certain Nilo Solis de Guzman were declared not guilty of charges against them," Parole and Probation Administration head Manuel Co said in an interview on Mornings@ANC.

New Bilibid Prison OIC Superintendent Venancio Tesoro said Leviste is qualified for parole because he had served the minimum sentence of 6 years imprisonment minus good conduct time allowance for prisoners. He said Leviste's age was likely considered during the review of his sentence.

Again, let's revisit the reasons given. Five conditions were mentioned in the report, but I only counted three. First, if Leviste was in jail since January 2009, counting six years from that point means he should be released on January 2014 and not December 2013. Was he awarded a month for good conduct? This is not certain at this time, but if he was not, then PPA should check their math again.

Second reason given is old age, which is a very poor excuse I might add. Leviste was a 67-year old successful businessman when he committed that gruesome crime. He is mature enough to know the intricacies of life and the consequences of his actions.

Releasing him from prison just because he is old does a disservice to the loved ones of his victim, who accepted — sometimes very bitterly — that this mature criminal would not be put to death in exchange for the promise that he would never walk free for a long time.

Maybe the only exception is when Leviste is already using a walker or a wheelchair, tethered to oxygen tanks or completely bedridden, can we allow him to serve less than the maximum of twelve years.

The last reason given was that Leviste is not considered a threat to the community anymore. They must be out of their mind with this one. He is only 73-years old that can live another ten years and capable of wielding his power and influence in his home turf. He still has lots of money that he can easily use to pay off goons who are more than willing to do his bidding. Those two factors alone are enough reason to dispel the argument that he is not a menace to this country.

Releasing Leviste this early contributes little to enhancing public safety and is socially and economically very risky. However, reconsidering the decision to recall the parole appears to be not high up on the penal reform agenda for one reason or another.