CEBU CITY -- Justice Secretary Leila de Lima directed the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to help in the hunt for Dinagat Island Representative Ruben Ecleo Jr., who was sentenced to life in prison for killing his wife in 2002.
“I have a directive that when it comes to high-profile cases, the NBI will help the PNP (Philippine National Police),” de Lima told reporters.
Ecleo has been in hiding since last year after he was convicted by the Sandiganbayan of three counts of graft regarding questionable infrastructure projects during his stint as mayor of San Jose town, Dinagat from 1991 to 1994.
Last Friday, the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Cebu City convicted Ecleo of parricide for the death of his wife Alona Bacolod-Ecleo.
As thanksgiving for the court’s decision, the Bacolod family and members of the Crusade Against Violence (CAV) heard mass at the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral Monday morning.
Thelma Chiong, CAV Visayas and Mindanao chairperson, said the RTC’s decision lifts the morale of other families seeking justice.
She noted that Ecleo’s conviction came after a 10-year trial, under seven judges and amid the “death of 25 people.”
Alona’s parents and two siblings, as well as private prosecutor Arbet Sta. Ana-Yongco, were killed in the course of the trial.
"Nangayo mi og kadaugan, nagdahom gyud mi kadaugan ni sa Ginoo,” Chiong told reporters Monday. “Naa gyu’y hustisya ning kalibutana (We asked for this; this is God’s victory. There is justice in this world).”
Chiong said CAV has been working with the police in prosecuting the case. She added that it is now up to the police to serve the arrest warrant on the Dinagat Island congressman.
Niño Bacolod told reporters that they have not received threats since the promulgation of the verdict last Friday.
He said he hopes their lives will return to normal and that they will be able to live in peace.
Ecleo’s lawyer, Orlando Salatandre, said though that his client will appeal the RTC’s decision before the Court of Appeals.
Chiong said the group will continue helping the Bacolods even though the lower court has convicted Ecleo.
CAV, formed in 1999, is a non-profit organization that helps victims of heinous crimes and their families. (Virgil Lopez/With BAP of Sun.Star Cebu/Sunnex)