Attempts to bribe Ecleo judge bared

CEBU CITY — At least three attempts have allegedly been made to bribe the judge handling the parricide case against cult leader Ruben Ecleo Jr.

A well-placed and highly credible source at the Palace of Justice at the provincial Capitol said the alleged bribe attempts were made on three occasions between Dec. 15 and 30.

The source claimed the attempts were made by female members of the Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA) which regards Ecleo, who stands accused of killing his wife, Alona Bacolod, in 2002, as its supreme master.

The source said the alleged PBMA members bluntly asked Regional Trial Court Judge Geraldine Faith Econg inside her chambers how much she wanted for her to stop hearing the case.

“Their request was simple: stop hearing the case so it could be transferred to Manila, claiming it was easier there,” the source said in Cebuano.

Ecleo has a pending petition with the Supreme Court to have his trial moved to Manila, claiming the Cebuanos’ “extreme hostility” toward him.

While Ecleo rules from the PBMA enclave in San Jose, Dinagat, Surigao del Norte, he maintains a house in Banawa, Cebu City and it was there where he allegedly killed his wife, then a medical senior at a local university. Her body, placed in a garbage bag, was dumped in a ravine in the southern town of Dalaguete. Ecleo has denied the charges.

Econg refused to comment on the alleged bribe attempts, but police Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Bureau chief Pablo Labra II confirmed the judge called him on Dec. 30 to report an alleged attempt by PBMA members to bribe her.

“She called last Dec. 30 to inform me of an incident in which she was approached with offers of a bribe,” Labra told The Freeman.

Labra said he offered Econg a police security escort, but the judge refused. Still, he said he would insist on providing her with a security detail in light of the alleged bribe attempts.

The source said the PBMA rings which the three women wore when they saw Econg separately were a dead giveaway of their affiliations.

The Freeman repeatedly tried to contact Ecleo’s legal counsel, Orlando Salatandre, but the calls to his cellular phone all went unanswered.

RTC Executive Judge Simeon Dumdum Jr. admitted that being approached by parties of interest is not new to judges but it is really up to the judges whether they succumb to the temptation or not.

Nevertheless, Dumdum promised to review security measures at the Palace of Justice to ensure security for the judges.

The Freeman also learned that Judge Ireneo Lee Gako Jr., who previously handled the case, allegedly received death threats after he refused similar bribe attempts.

Gako eventually inhibited himself from hearing the case in the aftermath of the killing of lawyer Arbet Sta. Ana-Yongco, the private prosecutor in the case, by an alleged PBMA gunman.

PBMA members have been known to go to extreme lengths to protect Ecleo. During his arrest in the PBMA enclave on Dinagat Island, more than 20 of his followers were killed trying to keep him from being arrested by a team of more than 200 policemen and soldiers.

On the same day of his arrest, almost the entire family of his murdered wife was wiped out by a lone PBMA gunman in Cebu City. The gunman was later killed by pursuing policemen.

Last month, eight PBMA members yielded a virtual arsenal of high-powered weapons and grenades when they were intercepted at a police checkpoint in Lapu-Lapu City.

One of those arrested, Nestor Carrol, was a bodyguard of Rep. Glenda Ecleo, the cult leader’s mother.

A witness has identified Carrol as the driver of the getaway motorcycle Michel Favila, the main suspect in the Yongco killing, rode after her murder right in her own home.


(Listed if other than Religion News Blog, or if not shown above)
Freeman News Service, via The Philippine Star, USA
Jan. 7, 2005
Fred Languido
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Religion News Blog posted this on Thursday January 6, 2005.
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