leviste.leaves.jailEX-GOV. LEVISTE

MANILA — A fact-finding panel of the Department of Justice grilled the custodial guard of former Batangas Gov. Jose Antonio Leviste who was arrested in front of his building in Makati City on May 18 when he should have been inside the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) serving his 12-year sentence for the killing of his business aide in January 2007.

Faustino Justo, who was earlier suspended for gross neglect of duty and violation of Article 223 of the Revised Penal Code for infidelity in the custody of prisoners, was subjected to severe scolding by the five-member panel during the second day of its probe to determine the liabilities of officers and jail custodians of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) over Leviste’s unauthorized trips outside the NBP premises.

State Counsel Wilberto Tolitol asked why Justo failed to notice that Leviste was already missing when said he made a head count of all inmates under his custody at about 4 p.m. on May 18.

Sinabi ni Gov. Leviste na hinahanap ka niya ng 4 p.m. pero wala ka. Wala daw siyang makitang mapapag-alaman. Sabihin mo sa amin kung paano mo nalaman na wala na siya? Nalaman mo lang ba sa TV? Kasi yung sinasabi mo at yung sa incident report na na-file mo ay magkaiba. Ano ba talaga ang totoo? Nakita mo lang ba sa TV na nahuli na siya o gumawa ka ba talaga ng headcount? Yung totoo lang,” Tolitol said.

In his incident report, Justo said he conducted a headcount of all his 13 sleep-out and nine living-in inmates at 4 p.m. on May 18, and all of them were accounted for, including Leviste.

He said it was not until 15 minutes later that he noticed Leviste missing, prompting him to report the matter to the BuCor Reservation Support Service, which helps BuCor in locating missing inmates.

Ang katotohanan po, alas-kwatro nalaman ko nang magbalik ako, wala na si Leviste. Pinahanap ko sa kasama niya kung andoon pa. Pero napag-alaman ko, wala na si Leviste. Gumawa po ako ng report at katulong ko po ang 4 p.m. to midnight shift,” he said.

He said he did not notice Leviste leave the compound, or that he was picked up by his personal driver from his living-out quarters.

He also said he had tried to look for Leviste until 9 p.m. of that day.

Tolitol also pointed to the incident report filed by Justo at noon of May 18 which stated it was filed at 2 p.m. or two hours later.

Custodians are required to file reports three times a day — at noon, 4 p.m, and the third at night.

Tolitol also said Justo could not have been looking for Leviste until 9 p.m. because the latter was already under the NBI’s custody as early as 5 p.m., and his arrest was already on the news at 6:30 p.m. of that same day.

This observation was supported by Superintendent Roberto Rabo, who said he sought out Justo to inform him that BuCor Director Ernesto Diokno was looking for him and that he was being asked to report on the matter, because he was about to be interviewed by a TV network over Leviste’s caper.

Justo, however, insisted that he could not be faulted for the incident because he was in charge of monitoring eight other living-in inmates and 13 sleep-out prisoners under his watch.

Hindi ko na po alam. Alam ninyo ang sistema sa loob, madami po akong binabantayan,” he said, adding his monitoring of all the inmates is based on “trust and confidence.”

Justice Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III said in an interview after the hearing that Leviste could not have managed to come and go without the connivance of his custodians.

Baraan said the panel is expected to ask clarificatory questions from former BuCor Director Oscar Calderon during the last day of hearing today, specifically on the “sleep-out” and “living-out” privileges accorded inmates like Leviste.

It was under Calderon’s administration that Leviste was granted the privilege because of his tree-planting advocacies.