CEBU CITY — Talk about a stairway to heaven. Cult leader Ruben Ecleo Jr.’s cell in the Cebu City jail could have been mistaken for a bachelor’s pad Monday night, when a surprise inspection revealed it to contain as much as 360,000 pesos in different currencies, four electric guitars — and one portable chainsaw.
Ecleo, also known as a rock musician, was detained in June last year on parricide charges after he was accused of killing his wife, Alona Bacolod, in January last year.
Also seized from Ecleo’s cell were a 3310 Nokia cell phone, one electric drum set, a violin, a flute, a headphone, an electronic gadget, one table vise, a hand drill and a humidifier.
The money was in pesos, US dollars, Canadian dollars, Australian dollars, Japanese yen, British pounds and euros. It included 54 pieces of 1,000-peso bills and 103 pieces of 500-peso bills; a total of 2,898 dollars in assorted dollar bills; eight 50-euro bills; two 50-Canadian dollar bills; one 50-euro bill; 400 Australian dollars and two other currencies.
There were also at least three checks, for 1,000 dollars, 500 dollars and 1,000 pesos.
The discovery of the money raised suspicions among jail officials that Ecleo, the “supreme master” of the Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association, might be using the money to bribe his jail guards to gain privileges and special treatment. Ecleo is also the former mayor of San Jose town, Danagat Island, in Surigao del Sur province.
The items were discovered during the conduct of Operation Greyhound, a surprise inspection conducted by newly installed warden Superintendent Nestor Velasquez at around 7 p.m. Monday. The operation came in the wake of last Friday’s dawn jailbreak by three inmates convicted of serious crimes.
Velasquez said Ecleo’s cell was the first to be inspected. Instead of the expected cursory inspection, however, the search ended past 9 p.m. because of the number of banned items found in the cell.
Ecleo shares with four other inmates infirmary Cell No. 3, located on the roof deck of the city jail.
Velasquez assumed the post of warden on Saturday, a day after the jailbreak. One of the escapees was re-arrested on Saturday evening.
Velasquez promised to continue the conduct of surprise inspection inside the jail to change the facility’s image and to prove to Cebu City officials that corruption in the jail would not be tolerated under his administration.
Velasquez said the money found in the cell could be donations from PBMA members here and abroad.
Some of the money was still inside envelopes and kept in a money box, he added.
Velasquez said he ordered the money confiscated because a prisoner is not allowed to keep large amounts of money — a clear violation of the jail manual.
He said keeping such amounts could also endanger Ecleo’s life. Or Ecleo could also use the money to bribe jail officers.
Velasquez disclosed that Ecleo had in fact admitted that he had given money to some jail guards. The cult leader refused to name the guards and how much he gave to them, the new warden said.
Ecleo also admitted that he had been using the cell phone for three months.
Velasquez said he knew that Ecleo had asked permission from the previous jail warden, Chief Inspector Gledo Baroro, to allow him to bring musical instruments into the jail.
But Velasquez said Baroro had refused the request.
Interior undersecretary for peace and order Marius Corpus Tuesday ordered Velasquez to conduct an inquiry into why and how those items had been brought inside the jail.
Corpus also ordered Velasquez to find out if Ecleo’s claim that he had bribed some jail officers was true.