CEBU CITY — The court on Friday found Dinagat Island Representative Ruben Ecleo Jr. guilty of parricide for the death of his wife in January 2002.
In a 200-page decision, Judge Soliver Peras of the Regional Trial Court Branch 10 in Cebu City found Ecleo guilty beyond reasonable doubt.
Ecleo, who was not present in the promulgation of the case, was sentenced to life in prison or reclusion perpetua. The court awards the family of Ecleo’s wife at least P25 million in damages.
The supreme master of the Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA) was indicted for the death of his wife, Alona Bacolod-Ecleo, whose body was thrown into a ravine in Dalaguete town in 2002.
The couple, at that time, lived with their three children in sitio Banawa, Barangay Guadalupe, Cebu City. Alona was a third-year medical student the last time she was seen alive.
Part of the decision stated P200,000 as exemplary damages to Alona’s family, P25.550 million as compensatory damages, P200,000 moral damages, P200,000 as attorney’s fees, and P50,000 as temperate damages.
Ecleo is no stranger to jail, having been an inmate of the Bagong Buhay Rehabilitation Center (BBRC) from June 2002 up to April 2004 for his parricide case.
He was arrested in late June 2002, after a bloody shootout between his arresting officers and PBMA loyalists in Dinagat Island on the basis of a warrant of arrest issued in Cebu City by now retired judge Galicano Arriesgado.
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.
In Friday’s promulgation of the case, security was tight inside and outside the Palace of Justice in Cebu City.
Judge Peras allowed 20 PBMA members to enter the courtroom Friday.
Josebil and Angelito Bacolod, brothers of Ecleo’s slain wife, also attended the promulgation.
Josebil testified in June 2011 that he heard a thud from the couple’s room on January 5, 2002.
He said he pretended to get drinking water and went inside the couple’s house and saw Ecleo half-naked and furiously staring at him.
Aside from the thud, Josebil said he also heard his sister shouting for help. Alona did not leave their house at 7 p.m. on January 5, contrary to Ecleo’s claim.
But Ecleo has denied killing his wife.
The lawmaker claimed that the body of a woman found at the foot of a ravine in Dalaguete was not his wife’s.
Alona, he said, was petite and stood not more than five feet and one inch. Since the woman’s body placed inside a garbage bag was at least 5’5”, Ecleo said it was not his wife’s.
Members of the Bacolod family were the ones who identified the body as that of Alona.
Part of Judge Peras’s decision said Ecleo’s alibi is easy to fabricate.
“For alibi to prosper, there must be showing of the accused in another time and place,” the decision stated.
Ecleo also told the court that during Alona’s disappearance, her brother Ben was the last person with her.
Ben was killed along with his father, mother, sister and neighbor by an alleged PBMA member in Barangay Subangdaku, Mandaue City in June 2002, the same night Ecleo was arrested in Dinagat.
Aside from the parricide case, Ecleo was also 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. (Sunnex)