Ecleo guilty of parricide-A A +A
Friday, April 13, 2012
CEBU CITY (Updated) -- The court on Friday convicted Dinagat Representative Ruben Ecleo Jr. for the “brutal, dastardly and inhumane” killing of his wife Alona 10 years ago in this city.
Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Soliver Peras sentenced Ecleo to spend 20-40 years in jail, as well as pay his wife’s family at least P25.62 million in damages.
Ecleo, who was elected as congressman of Dinagat Island, Surigao del Norte in May 2010, missed the promulgation and has not been seen in Cebu since January 2011, when the Sandiganbayan ordered his arrest for a separate graft conviction.
Defense lawyer Orlando Salatandre Jr. said the Ecleo camp will appeal the ruling, but declined to say where the congressman or his family was. He would only say Ecleo is still in the country.
Ecleo is no stranger to jail, having been an inmate of the Bagong Buhay Rehabilitation Center from June 2002 up to April 2004 for his parricide case.
The police arrested him in late June 2002, after a bloody shootout between his arresting officers and loyalists in Dinagat Island, where his family dominates politics and controls a religious organization called the Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA).
His arrest 10 years ago came a few hours after his parents-in-law, Elpidio and Rosalia Bacolod, were gunned down along with two of their children, Ben and Evelyn, in Mandaue City by a PBMA member.
That was in June 2002, five months after Alona’s death.
In 2004, the court allowed Ecleo to post a P1-million bail so he could undergo treatment for his heart ailment. Peras canceled the bail on April 6, 2011 of Ecleo and issued warrant of arrest for failing to attend three hearings in a row last year.
“Daghan mi naagian, nausab among kinabuhi. Panguyawan mi pirmi (We’ve been through so much. Our lives changed. We are always afraid),” Josebil Bacolod, one of Alona’s brothers, told Sun.Star Cebu on Friday night before his bodyguards whisked him away.
Josebil and his brother Niño sat calmly on Friday as they waited for the promulgation, delayed by about two hours.
In his 200-page decision, Judge Peras said: “It is the observation of this court that the prosecution has successfully proven every bit of facts, which leads to fair and reasonable conclusions.”
He ordered Ecleo to pay the Bacolods P25.5 million in compensatory damages (what Alona would have made as a doctor), plus P200,000 in exemplary damages, P200,000 as moral damages, P200,000 as attorney’s fees and P50,000 as temperate damages.
Salatandre, in an interview after the promulgation, said the defense had dismantled the testimonies of Josebil Bacolod and Gloria Navaja, but that seemed to have been overlooked by the court.
“It seems that the burden of proof is already on the defense. It should be the prosecution that would prove guilt beyond reasonable doubt,” Salatandre told reporters.
As soon as the verdict was read past 6 p.m., the surviving Bacolod brothers and their friends from the Crusade Against Violence cheered. “Hallelujah,” the volunteer prosecutors cried out.
In a radio dyLA interview, private prosecutor Fritz Quiñanola, a retired police general, said: “The ball is now in the hands of the PNP. The prosecutors and court have done their jobs. There’s no reason the police can’t arrest one man.”
He also asked why the House of Representatives has not removed Ecleo from office, when his graft conviction has already become final and executory. His parricide conviction Friday night, however, remains open to appeal.
Timeline: Justice after 10 years
In the decision, Judge Peras said Ecleo’s immediate departure to his hometown a few days after his wife went missing was caused by the “sudden fear” that he would be charged with parricide.
The judge pointed out that Ecleo went to different branches of the PBMA in Cebu, then went home to Dinagat Island a few days after his wife was reported missing.
Peras also pointed out that Ecleo surrendered only after a bloody gunfight between his supporters and law enforcers trying to serve the warrant for his arrest. This was in June 2002, on the same night that four members of the Bacolod family were gunned down in Mandaue City.
He also dismissed the defense’s argument that the woman found at the base of a cliff in Dalaguete town was not Alona.
The fact that Ecleo made several attempts to get the body from the funeral parlor “would only lead to the conclusion that the Ecleos, especially Ruben, know that the body placed inside the garbage bag…and the body placed inside the coffin was no other than that of his wife Alona.”
Alona was 27 and a third-year medical student when she died. The couple, at that time, lived with their three children in sitio Banawa, Barangay Guadalupe, Cebu City.
Aside from the parricide case, Ecleo was also earlier convicted of three graft cases.
The three cases correspond to three government-funded projects implemented in San Jose, a town in Dinagat Island, Surigao del Norte, by PBMA Builders as contractor.
The projects -- the construction of a public market, a municipal building and the repair and rehabilitation of a building owned by the PBMA Women’s League -- were carried out from 1991 to 1994, while Ecleo was municipal mayor. (Sun.Star Cebu/Sunnex)