PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THE Makati Regional Trial Court found former Batangas Governor Jose Antonio Leviste guilty of homicide for killing his long time executive assistant and friend Rafael de las Alas in January 2007.
Judge Elmo Alameda handed down the decision at 9 a.m. in a jampacked court room.
Alameda sentenced Leviste to 12 years in prison and ordered him to indemnify the De las Alas family with a total of P100,000 in civil and moral damages.
The decision explained that Leviste failed to satisfy the requirements of self-defense as espoused by the accused to justify the shooting of De las Alas.
Leviste was originally charged with murder but Alameda said the prosecution had failed to establish the death of De las Alas was premeditated.
The former governor had pleaded not guilty to the charge of murder claiming he shot the victim in self-defense. The judge, however, noted that the victim was shot five times which did not indicate Leviste fired only to defend himself.
He said one shot was more than enough to immobilize De las Alas.
A smiling Leviste said the court judge the case the way it saw it but he insisted on his innocence.
He added that his lawyer will prepare an appeal so he can vindicate himself and his family.
The appeal should be filed within 15 days with the Court of Appeals.
Leviste’s lawyer asked Alameda to allow his client to post bail while his case is on appeal but the judge said any motion for temporary liberty should be filed with the appellate court.
Dina delas Alas, daughter of Rafael, thanked those who supported the De las Alas family in their quest for justice for her father.
“Salamat nakamit namin ang hustisya para sa tatay ko (Rafael), salamat sa inyo (media). Hindi mangyayari ito kung hindi n’yo binantayan. Sa panginoon nagpapasalamat ako, kay Prosecutor Velasco sa DoJ kasi nabigyan tayo ng panahon para sa kaso namin, sa VACC, kay Dante Jimenez at sa inyo, sa lahat.”
After the decision was handed down, Senior Supt. Gilbert Cruz, Makati police chief, took custody of Leviste. He was to be brought to the Makati City jail where he would stay while awai-ting the commitment order for his transfer to the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City.
While being escorted out of the 14th floor of the Makati City Hall, Leviste left a message for the lawyers and the people behind his conviction.
“As the Bible says – my message to the prosecutors – forgive those who persecute you and pray for them… And I will do that,” he said.
On the other hand, Senior State prosecutor Emmanuel Velasco said Leviste’s conviction showed that there is justice in the country and the prosecution is happy with the decision of Alameda.
Malacañang for its part said both camps should respect the decision of the court.
Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo said everyone should respect the verdict and allow the rule of law to prevail.
Sen. Loren Legarda had a terse comment on her former husband’s conviction. “Let justice be served,” she said.
The separated couple have two sons.