Thursday, April 19, 2012
THERE HAD BEEN GOOD news in so far as our Philippine criminal justice system is concerned. This is about the promulgation of sentence wherein the “Supreme Master” of the Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA) – RUBEN ECLEO JR. - have been found guilty beyond reasonable doubt and is convicted and sentenced to reclusion perpetua.
Yes, Virginia, he is bound to be imprisoned and transferred to the national penitentiary in Muntinglupa – if caught – from TWENTY to FORTY YEARS for parricide. Justice may not have been a quick process but it has done its job nevertheless. He will, of course, appeal and pursue his case before the highest court of the land. To remember, Ecleo murdered his wife, Alona Bacolod, and dumped her body somewhere in Dalaguete, Cebu in January 2002 where it was found, already in a state of decomposition.
What makes this case special is because it is the best example of the triumph of good over evil (a poor family against an influential one) although very costly to the Bacolod family and to one of the prosecuting panel. They have been rubbed out - gangland style – allegedly by the followers of Ecleo, who became a congressman representing the lone district of Dinagat Island right after posting bail of one million pesos.
The Ecleo family ruled Dinagat Island by virtue of their being the closest kin to the original founder of the PBMA – Ruben Ecleo Sr., who was revered by their members as a prophet on the level of divinity. The PBMA is a religious organization with an almost-similar Christian doctrine with which the hierarchies of the majority Roman Catholic and the small Protestant denominations labelled as a cult.
Dinagat Island is a remote island that is located along the Pacific Rim south of Leyte Island and northeast of Mindanao. It used to belong to the Province of Surigao del Norte but became a province itself in 2006. Dinagat is composed of the municipalities of San Jose, Loreto, Tubajon, Libjo, Basilisa, Dinagat and Cagdianao and having a population of about 122,000. The island is rich in nickel and chromium deposits, particularly at nearby Nonoc Island.
When arrested in June 2002, Ecleo’s followers fought a gunbattle with policemen out to serve a warrant of arrest against him where nineteen of their numbers died while inflicting a lone casualty on the side of the government. When arraigned, Ecleo pleaded not guilty and hired a battery of expensive lawyers to defend his case.
During the course of the trial, Alona’s father, mother, brother and sister were gunned down in their home in Subangdaku, Mandaue City by an alleged PBMA member who was also killed when trapped by responding policemen. Private prosecution lawyer Arbet Sta. Ana-Yongco was assassinated by another alleged PBMA member in her house in Zapatera, Cebu City. The gunman was arrested and tried in court but the mastermind of these two incidents was never known.
Amidst all these events, Ecleo enjoyed VIP treatment at the Bagong Buhay Rehabilitation Center until after when he posted bail in 2004 granted by the court for health reasons. He ran for a seat in congress in 2007 after his mother vacated the post and won. He attended the subsequent hearings but grew tired of it. Meanwhile, a warrant of arrest was issued in 2010 for a corruption case filed by the Ombudsman but finding him remains a puzzle.
There were many trial court judges handling this case – SIX - but all wilted under pressure from all directions and inhibited themselves until the buck stops at the sala of Judge Soliver Peras of the Regional Trial Court X. The overworked officer of the law fought a long-running technicalities battle and presumptions of bias from both prosecution and defense camps and remained undaunted by the side distractions.
His career as a strict but fair adjudicator of the law had already been fettered with many feathers on his hat in the past and now, coming out with the final judgment on Ecleo, ought to make him a legend among his peers and a target, as well, of reprisals from the enraged camp of the convicted congressman and PBMA leader. The good judge knows this but he knows very well the hazards of his profession and that is part of his breakfast, especially those served cold.
This is now a challenge for the present national administration and to all law enforcement agencies to double their efforts at applying a tight noose on Ecleo and his rabid followers in the PBMA. The public knows, for a fact, that the PBMA will use any means possible to defend their “supreme master” at whatever cost.
The public have seen their aberrations and the public is full of indignation against such crude use of force against those whom have opposed the desires of their master. There is no language that can be understood by them except to stamp the might of the rule of law upon their foreheads. This is not easy as it may seem but righteousness always prevail in the end.
Document done in LibreOffice 3.3
Photo courtesy of Inquirer.net