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Leviste under fire



Manila, Philippines – Former Batangas Gov. Antonio Leviste may find himself behind bars anew if it will be proven that he knows about the “shabu” storage facility being maintained by a Mexican drug cartel inside his ranch in Lipa City.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima yesterday said that Leviste now risks of losing his parole grant following the drug raid in his ranch in Lipa City on Christmas Day that yielded R420 million worth of shabu and led to the arrest of three suspects.

Leviste walked free from the New Bilibid Prison last Dec. 6 after his parole had been granted. He was convicted in the 207 killing of long-time head Rafael delas Alas.

“If it will be proven that he was aware of this drug facility inside their property which is apparently being rented out, then it could be a criminal offense and it could be a ground for withdrawal of the parole,” she told reporters in a press conference. “This is, however, not definite yet. That’s why we still have to investigate,” De Lima was quick to clarify.

De Lima said the Department of Justice (DOJ), through Assistant State Prosecutor Juan Pedro Navera, is set to issue a subpoena requiring Leviste to produce and submit the lease contract of the property where the shabu storage facility was found. She said probers have already verified that the LPL Ranch in Barangay Inosloban is owned by Leviste.

The DOJ chief cited section 30 of Republic Act No. 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002), which penalizes owner of a property or establishment “who consents to or knowingly tolerates or authorizes the use of a facility” in illegal drug production or trade.

Leviste’s release drew opposition from quarter but the BPP explained that Leviste had met all the requirements for parole, including serving of minimum period of his sentence for homicide conviction.

Unlike pardon, parole is conditional as grantees are still required to report to parole officers and could be revoked for cause.

The drug suspects – Chinese Gary Tan and couple Argay and Rochelle Argenos – were brought to the DOJ last Thursday evening by the Philippine National Police Anti-Illegal Drugs Special Operations Task Force (PNP-AIDSOFT) for inquest proceedings on charges of section 11 of Republic Act No. 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002) or possession of illegal drugs and several other charges.

But the DOJ chief questioned why the PNP-AIDSOFT did not include in the referral complaint a certain Jorge Torres, believed to be leader of the group with links to the notorious Mexican Sinoloa drug syndicate.

“The police should also charge these members of the Mexican drug syndicate if they are sure about such report or at least put them under John Does,” she explained.

Torres is now a subject of a manhunt, it was reported.