MANILA, Philippines - The Court of Appeals (CA) has affirmed the ruling of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Makati City that found former Batangas Gov. Jose Antonio Leviste guilty of killing his long-time associate Rafael de las Alas back in 2007.
Leviste was convicted of homicide and was sentenced to a maximum of 12 years of imprisonment for killing de Las Alas in January 12, 2007.
However, the appellate court also ordered Leviste to pay the heirs of de las Alas an additional P50,000 on top of the P100,000 that the Makati RTC earlier ordered him to pay representing death indemnity, moral and temperate damages.
De las Alas was shot dead by Leviste last January 12, 2007 inside the latter’s office at the 9th floor of the LPL Tower inside the Legaspi Village in Makati City.
In a 30-page decision penned by Associate Justice Juan Enriquez Jr., the CA’s Seventh Division did not give merit to Leviste’s claim of self-defense in seeking the reversal of his conviction by the trial court.
Leviste, in his appeal, claimed that he shot de las Alas as his life was in danger when the later pulled out his gun and attempted to shoot him.
He noted that he was forced to shoot the victim several times as the latter was still pointing his gun towards him after he fired his first shot.
But, the appellate court held that Leviste failed to show proof that de las Alas was about to shoot him, as the evidence only showed that the victim merely had drawn out his gun.
It noted that spent shells from de las Alas gun was recovered from the scene of the incident and in fact, the gun’s safety lever was still on when recovered by police authorities.
“The successive shots directed against the face and head of Rafael [de las Alas] reveal that accused-appellant was already the aggressor and not the defender. As such, there was no longer any unlawful aggression to speak of. When an unlawful aggression that has begun no longer exists, the one who resorts to self-defense has no right to kill or even to wound the former aggressor,” the CA explained.
The CA held that the repeated shooting of the victim was intended to ensure his death and not to repel his aggression.
Based on the medico-legal report, de las Alas sustained 5 gunshot wounds in different parts of the body, 2 of which were found to have been fatal.
In its ruling issued on January 14, 2009, the Makati RTC held that the shooting was done with premeditation as it happened a day after Leviste and the victim had a heated argument regarding some transactions.
Leviste, according to the CA, also failed to present evidence to corroborate his claim of self-defense.
It noted that self-defense is “inherently a weak defense” as it is easy to fabricate and difficult to prove.
“For all the foregoing. We find accused-appellant’s plea of self-defense unworthy of credence, being uncorroborated by independent and competent evidence, or being extremely doubtful by itself. This Court, therefore, finds no reversible error on the part of the trial court in rejecting the claim of self defense,” the CA said.
The CA had earlier denied Leviste’s petition to post bail as he failed to substantiate his claim that he is suffering from an illness and that his continued imprisonment would further impair his health.
The CA said the prosecution, led by now Cavite Provincial Prosecutor Emmanuel Velasco, was able to demonstrate that the former governor’s guilt is strong after he failed to meet the requirements of self-defense to justify the shooting of de las Alas.