Anything is possible when an inmate has money. He can go in and out of prison walls at will, even without a pass.
Such is the case of former Batangas Governor Antonio Leviste who was nabbed by agents of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) in Makati City after he was able to leave the premises of the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) without a pass.
Leviste was convicted of homicide on January 14, 2009, for killing his long-time friend and aide Rafael de las Alas. The Makati City Regional Trial Court sentenced him from 6 to 12 years in prison.
It was earlier reported in ABS-CBN that the former Batangas official is often seen leaving prison and getting VIP treatment from NBP prison guards.
The NBI arrested Leviste outside the LPL building in Makati which he owns. The raid was made based on an order from Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. Leviste’s driver, Nilo Solis, was also arrested. Charges are now being prepared against Leviste and his driver. Leviste said that he was on his way to see his dentist regarding a toothache.
When asked if he secured a permit to leave prison, Leviste said, “Biglang sumakit eh. Deretso na lang ako.”
(My tooth suddenly ached, so I immediately left.)
He said he knew that he had to get a permit to leave prison, but claimed that he was “suffering.”
He claimed that it was his first time to leave prison without a pass.
When told about a video footage showing him outside prison several times, including last Good Friday, Leviste said he does not know about such incidents.
His driver, Solis, however, admitted that Leviste also went outside Bilibid last May 13.
NBI Director Magtanggol Gatdula said Leviste will be turned over to Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) Director Ernesto Diokno.
Gatdula added that BuCor and NBP officials found to have allowed Leviste to leave prison without a pass will also be charged.
Diokno, in an interview with TV Patrol on Wednesday, said neither his office nor a court issued a pass for Leviste to go outside the NBP.
However, he said Leviste is a “living-out prisoner.” He explained that Leviste is allowed to go outside his prison cell but must not leave the Bilibid reservation area.
“Mayroon iyang custody, mayroon diyang naka-assign na tao,” Diokno said. “May bantay iyan pirmi.” (He is always under an assigned guard.)
He identified Leviste’s guard as a certain Fortunato Justo. Diokno said Justo is now being investigated.
Diokno reiterated that only the Department of Justice and the courts can issue a permit for Leviste to leave the Bilibid area.
“I’ve been giving him warnings. Si Governor Leviste, winarningan ko na iyan. Sinabi ko, ‘nabalitaan ko lumalabas ka,'” he added.
He said Leviste already has a recommendation for clemency before Malacañang and the Board of Pardons.
Diokno said that they can’t monitor all prisoners at the NBP. What do they expect us to do? They know that we are guarding 32,000 inmates.”