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Conviction of ‘fall guy’ in Ecleo case nullified

The INQ7 Network, Philippines
Aug. 3, 2004
Jolene R. Bulambot, Inquirer News Service • Tuesday August 3, 2004

CEBU, Cebu, Philippines — The Regional Trial Court (RTC) has nullified the decision that convicted an alleged “fall guy” in the murder of Alona Bacolod-Ecleo.

Acting presiding Judge Leopoldo Caete of RTC Branch 60 in Barili town, Cebu said the verdict of his predecessor Judge Idelfonso Suerte to sentence Cedric Devinadera for accessory to murder should be considered “non-existent.”

In a seven-page decision, Caete said Suerte acted without authority when he decided the Devinadera case.

He cited an administrative order dated March 3, wherein the Supreme Court directed Caete to preside over all newly filed cases in Suerte’s sala starting January this year pending Suerte’s application for retirement on Jan. 5 next year.

Despite the High Tribunal’s order, Suerte took cognizance of the Devinadera case even if it was filed on March 29.

“With the foregoing legal consequences of a void judgment, all the effects of both the public prosecutor and defense counsel to resuscitate and give life to the infirm judgment of conviction of Judge Suerte are put to naught as well as their arguments along that point are rendered meaningless, if not, baseless,” Caete said.

He also remanded the Devinadera case to the Provincial Prosecutor’s Office for further investigation and gave it 45 days to submit a report to the court.

The judge also advised the provincial prosecutor to coordinate with the Cebu City prosecutor who is handling the separate parricide case against cult leader Ruben Ecleo Jr.

Ecleo, supreme master of the Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA), is facing a separate parricide case pending before the RTC in Cebu City for killing his wife Alona.

Caete’s ruling was hailed by the surviving Bacolod family members who saw the conviction of Devinadera as an effort by Ecleo’s camp to weaken the parricide case, and eventually free him from jail.

“We are very happy because we can proceed with the prosecution of the parricide case against our brother-in-law,” said Angelito Bacolod.

Lawyer Gloria Lastimosa-Dalawampu, lawyer of the Bacolods, said Devinadera should be released from the provincial jail, now that Suerte’s decision had been rendered null and void.

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