Cebu judge frees cult master Ecleo on P1-million bail bond

CEBU CITY — A Regional Trial Court (RTC) judge here, who was recently tasked to handle the case of Ruben Ecleo Jr. following the inhibition of the previous judge, granted yesterday a motion for bail filed by the parricide suspect and cult leader.

RTC Judge Anacleto Caminade signed yesterday an order releasing Ecleo from the city jail on a R1-million bail bond. Caminade has taken over the case after Judge Generosa Labra inhibited herself from further hearing Ecleo’s case.

Earlier, Judge Labra allowed Ecleo Jr. to post bail, set at P1 million, some 20 months after he was locked behind bars. Labra cited Ecleo’s “serious ailments and a worsening health condition” as grounds for granting the former mayor’s motion for bail.

However, the Office of the Cebu City Prosecutor filed a motion  for reconsideration.

Caminade’s decision sparked protests from the Bacolod family and the Crusade Against Violence (CAV-Visayas). It was noted that the order to release Ecleo was signed even if he has not yet conducted a hearing on the case since it was transferred to his sala.

Prosecution lawyer Arbet Yongco said she was shocked by the “sudden decision” of Judge Caminade  because he has not yet called for a hearing since he took over the case.

“I fear for the lives of my clients (the Bacolod family) now that Ecleo is free,” Yongco told reporters yesterday.

Yongco said that she already felt that Caminade would release Ecleo, prompting her to file last Monday a motion for the inhibition of the judge but her motion has yet to be heard.

She said the prosecution team would file a motion for certiorari with the Court of Appeals but she clarified that at this time, she can’t do anything to stop the release of Ecleo.

Niño Bacolod, Alona’s brother, said he fears for the security of his family now that Ecleo is walking free.  He also criticized Caminade for his “unfair  decision.”

CAV-Visayas also showed its disgust over the decision of Caminade by conducting a protest rally in front of the Palace of Justice.

Serious ailments had been the last ground Ecleo had raised in seeking bail. The court had rejected the other four, which all dealt with legal technicalities.

Labra had earlier said that bringing Ecleo back to the city jail from the hospital would imperil his  worsening health condition. The court had allowed  Ecleo to undergo complex medical examinations in the  hospital to save him from “the possibility of dying anytime on the advice of Dr. Evelyn Alesna and police surgeon Rodrigo Codoy.”

Alesna described Ecleo as “a walking time bomb who could die anytime from coronary heart disease.”

Ecleo, supreme master of the Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA), is accused of killing his wife Alona Bacolod two years ago and of placing the body in a garbage bag dumped in a ravine in Dalaguete town.

Alona, at that time, was in her senior year as a medical student in a Cebu university.

Alona’s brothers Josebil and Ricky were shocked and disappointed to learn of the court decision granting Ecleo bail.

Josebil and Ricky are the only surviving members of the Bacolod family. Their parents and siblings were murdered in an attack by a lone gunman, said to be a member of the Ecleo cult, on the same day Ecleo was captured, at a great cost in human life, in the PBMA enclave on Dinagat Island in Surigao del Norte.

After being criticized for failing to capture Ecleo months after the murder of Alona, dozens of policemen, backed by heavily armed soldiers, stormed the Ecleo enclave, killing some 20 of his armed supporters who  put up a fight in defense of their master.

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