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Compel guard to testify in Ecleo case, court asked

Freeman News Service, Philippines
July 25, 2004 • Sunday July 25, 2004

CEBU The private prosecutor in the parricide case against cult leader Ruben Ecleo Jr. has asked the court to issue a warrant of arrest for a security guard who allegedly saw him drive a car out of a subdivision the night his wife was said to have been killed.

Lawyer Arbet Sta. Ana-Yongco told the court that Rodrigo Panelio, a security guard of Forest Hills Subdivision in Barangay Banawa, is a “material witness” who should be compelled to testify in court in favor of the prosecution.

A subpoena was issued for Panelio on Aug. 26 last year, to testify on what he witnessed the night Ecleos wife, Alona Bacolod, was killed. However, he never appeared in court.

Yongco earlier said she personally handed over the subpoena to Panelio sometime last February but he disappeared after that.

In that brief meeting, she recalled him telling her that he feared for his life, saying that he knew one of the bodyguards of Ecleo, supreme master of the Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA).

Bacolods brother, Josebil, who used to live with the Ecleo couple, testified in court that he saw Ecleo and his bodyguard load a big black garbage bag into a car on the night before they discovered her sister missing.

The resolution of Ecleos case has long been delayed because it has been passed on from one judge to another. It started with Judge Olegario Sarmiento, and then transferred to Judges Generosa Labra and Anacleto Caminade, and finally, to Judge Ireneo Lee Gako who has vowed to resolve it soonest.

Both prosecution and defense lawyers have agreed to a marathon trial starting next month until November this year.

Ecleo is now out on P1-million bail which Labra granted for health considerations. This, after a local doctor testified that Ecleo was a “walking time bomb” who seriously needed medical attention in Manila where he could undergo an angiogram.

Immediately after his release, Ecleo was flown to the Makati Medical Center where he was confined and underwent medical tests. He has since gone to his hometown on Dinagat Island in Surigao del Norte. Freeman News Service

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