Mayor willing to bet killing was related to Ecleo case; lawyer denies client involved in shooting
CEBU CITY — He may not be 100 percent sure but Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña is willing to bet that Monday’s murder of lawyer Arbet Sta. Ana-Yongco has something to do with the Ecleo case.
An angry Osmeña described the killing as a brazen act “that may be done by people who think they are beyond the law, who think they are god.”
Osmeña said the City Government will give a P100,000 reward for the capture of the gunman.
“I already know who the mastermind is, I want the killer,” the mayor told a news conference on Monday.
Osmeña also said he will name after the slain lawyer a street in Forest Hills in Banawa, where Ruben Ecleo Jr.’s house is located.
It was in the same house where Ecleo allegedly killed his wife Alona Bacolod-Ecleo in January 2002, for which he is facing a parricide case.
Ecleo is out on a P1-million bail.
Osmeña also said he is worried the murder will affect the city’s peace and order.
“I strongly believe that as long as Ecleo is alive, this will continue. We just want to remind the Cebuanos that there are criminals that want to challenge us and we’re going to respond to the challenge in every way we can,” he said.
While he did not categorically say that Ecleo is the mastermind, Osmeña said that just like Yongco’s murder, all the other incidents linked to Ecleo are related to outright murder and violence.
These incidents include Alona’s murder, her family’s massacre in Mandaue City and death of more than 20 members of the Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA) and of the arresting team during Ecleo’s arrest in Dinagat Island, Surigao, all happening in the same year.
“And now, this vicious murder of a woman. We’re dealing with people who have no moral scruples, whose value for life is nothing. We’re dealing with people who think they own BBRC (Bagong Buhay Rehabilitation Center),” Osmeña said.
Other people share the mayor’s suspicion.
Josebil, Niño and Ricky Bacolod, Alona’s brothers, said they believe Ecleo has a lot to do with Yongco’s murder although they said this is merely their suspicion.
Thelma Chiong of the Crusade against Violence also said they believe it is only Ecleo who is capable of pulling such an act.
Chiong said only the Ecleo camp is against the motion for inhibition Yongco filed against Regional Trial Court Branch 5 Judge Ireneo Lee Gako Jr.
While lawyers and judges would not want to speculate, talks were rife in the Marcelo Fernan Hall of Justice that Yongco’s murder has something to do with the Ecleo case.
Court employees and even lawyers who requested anonymity said Ecleo’s camp is the only group “capable of doing it.”
Why only now?
But Ecleo’s lawyer believes it is too premature to link his client to Yongco’s death, considering that the investigation has not been completed yet.
Defense lawyer Orlando Salatandre Jr. even said Ecleo was in Surigao on Monday and will issue a statement today to deny any knowledge or involvement in the killing.
Salatandre added that while some PBMA members do not like Yongco, killing her now is already too remote.
“If they wanted to kill her, why only now when the case has already died down? They should have done it before when the case was still at its climax,” Salatandre said.
Because of this, the Ecleo camp is challenging anyone who could show proof that Ecleo had a hand in Yongco’s death.
Like Salatandre, Regional Trial Court Judge Fortunato de Gracia Jr. believes Ecleo could not have masterminded the murder.
“It could not be Ecleo. What will he benefit if he does that? He will only stir the hornet’s nest. All the attention will be focused on him again when he is enjoying his life in Manila.
“If he (Ecleo) is in his logical frame of mind, then he is not the perpetrator. He is enjoying (a free) life. Why should he do it?” he said. (LCR/GN/GAN)