'Leviste's VIP privileges due to tree planting skills'

By David Dizon, abs-cbnNEWS.com

Posted at May 23 2011 04:09 PM | Updated as of May 24 2011 02:24 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The acting chief of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) on Monday said there are no clear rules on the granting of "living-out status" to New Bilibid Prison (NBP) inmates that would allow them to live outside the minimum security compound but not outside the prison.

Acting BuCor chief Teodora Diaz said the granting of living out status to prisoners is determined by the prison superintendents on a case-to-case basis.

She said prisoners can be granted living out privilege if they are classified as minimum security, are considered low risk, and if there is a custodial officer charged with the responsibility of the prisoner's whereabouts.

In the case of former Batangas Governor Antonio Leviste, he was even granted sleeping-out status - which meant he could stay in a nipa hut he had built inside the prison - because he had started a billion tree program inside the NBP. Sleep-out status is only granted to skilled prisoners.

Leviste's status was granted by former NBP superintendent Armando Miranda.

"Leviste's skill involves propagation of seedlings. He has to oversee also the 8 prisoners working under him. He has skills on that. I understand they have quota how many seedlings to prepare or plant. Even in the evening, they do propagation of seeds," Diaz said.

The NBP currently has 408 minimum security prisoners, of which 109 are given living-out status. Aside from Leviste, another prisoner given living out status is road rage convict Rolito Go.

Diaz said Go was assigned as an orderly at the Inang Awa Church, upon the request of the local priest.

The BuCor official said there is no duration for a prisoner's living out status "If the inmate is released, that's the only time it is stopped or if the inmate has an infraction, it can be cancelled," she said.