Ecleo denies killing his wife

09/02/2010 - CEBU, Philippines - For two hours, cult leader and Dinagat Islands Representative Ruben Ecleo, Jr. sat on the witness stand and denied accusations that he killed his wife, Alona, at their residence in Banawa, Guadalupe, Cebu City eight years ago.

Testifying yesterday in court for the first time, Ecleo said it was not true that that there were shouting and crying for help from the master’s bedroom of their house around 9:30 in the evening of January 5, 2002.

“That’s not true. She left the house at around 7:00 in the evening,” he said, referring to his wife.

The supreme master of Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association refuted earlier testimony of Josebil Bacolod, Alona’s brother, that the couple had quarreled before she was killed.

Ecleo told the court that Alona asked permission from him the day before she was killed that she was going for an outing with her brothers, Josebil and Ben.

He explained that if Josebil heard shouts, his visitors at the living room and some PBMA members outside their house would have heard.

Ecleo also denied that there were commotions inside the master’s bedroom.

“Not true. Since I arrived on January 4 until the 5th, I haven’t seen him (Josebil) in the house,” Ruben told his lawyer, Orlando Salatandre Jr., during the hearing.

The cult leader said that if there were commotions inside their room, it would be impossible for Josebil to hear since their room is 16 meters away from Josebil’s quarter and that the two rooms are separated by a thick wall.

Salatandre asked Ecleo whether it was true that Josebil, while going inside the house, saw Ecleo half-naked profusely sweating and looking at him fiercely and angrily.

“Absolutely not true,” Ecleo answered slightly laughing. “I’m not used to go out in the room half-naked.”

A photograph of a dead woman believed to be Alona was later shown to Ecleo. He said the woman in the photo was not his wife since the woman had bulging fingers while Alona had small fingers.

Ecleo told the court that based on the medico-legal findings, the woman in the picture was described to be five feet and five inches tall, while Alona was about five feet and one inch.

He said that he was saddened when Alona failed to return home on January 6, 2002 and instructed his househelp, Margie, to check whether she had returned to Dinagat Islands.

From January 6 to January 8, Ecleo said he called Alona countless times but her phone just kept on ringing until it went off. Within those days, he said he was attending on programs of PBMA chapters in the cities of Talisay, Lapu-Lapu and Bogo.

Ecleo said around 12:00 noon on January 8, 2002, Ben called him up to inform that Alona was missing since January 6, and he then told Ben to report the matter to the police.

At around 2:00 pm on the same day, Ecleo was invited by policemen to the Guadalupe Police Precinct to shed light on Alona’s disappearance.

Feeling desperate, Ecleo said he went to her school to inquire about her whereabouts only to be told that she had not been attending school since January 6.

He also informed their children that their mother was missing, and had returned to Dinagat Islands to look for her.

Upon arrival on January 9, he said he failed to find his wife at their mansion and at the house of her family.

Then he received a call from a staff of her mother, former Surigao del Norte Rep. Glenda Ecleo, that a body of a woman believed to be Alona was found in the town of Dalaguete, Cebu.

He said that he wanted to immediately go back to Cebu but was advised by his mother not to leave until the report was verified.

Ecleo said he told his son, Hero, about the dead body. But his children said that the woman was not their mother after they saw the body in Dalaguete.

Hero reportedly told him that the police were eyeing him as the suspect and might kill him if he was going to Cebu. His sister, Geraldine, also told him not to return to Cebu until the reports are being verified.

He later heard over the radio that a parricide case was already lodged against him.

Ecleo surrendered to police on June 19, 2002 after a bloody gunfight between the police and PBMA followers, leaving at least 23 people killed.

The police went to San Jose town on Dinagat Islands to serve a warrant for Ecleo’s arrest. But violence erupted when his followers resisted.

After the violence on Dinagat Islands, Ben, his mother Rosalia and father Elpidio were shot and killed at their house in Mandaue City by a lone assailant later identified as Rico Gumonong, reportedly a PBMA member.

On March 1, 2004, the court allowed Ecleo to post a P1 million bail after his lawyer presented medical results showing that he has a serious heart ailment. (Freeman)

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