Monday, June 4, 2012

PNP readying plan to arrest Ecleo in Surigao stronghold

MANILA, Philippines - Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Nicanor Bartolome yesterday admitted that ousted Dinagat Islands congressman Ruben Ecleo Jr. is in his home in Surigao del Norte, the stronghold of his religious cult. Bartolome said the PNP is drafting a plan to arrest Ecleo, convicted for the 2002 killing of his wife Alona and who has been dropped from the roster of the House of Representatives after the Supreme Court upheld his Sandiganbayan conviction on at least three cases of violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. Bartolome said the plan to arrest Ecleo includes measures that would prevent any bloodshed, similar to the violent incident on June 18, 2002 when a policeman and 16 cult members were killed in a three-hour siege on the Ecleo stronghold. The bloody gun battle took place after some 2,000 members of Ecleo’s Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA) barricaded his hilltop mansion to prevent police from arresting him for his wife’s killing. Ecleo subsequently surrendered, and in 2004, posted P1-million bond to seek treatment for a heart ailment. Bartolome said the plan will be based on police standard operating procedures. Ecleo founded the PBMA and its members look up to him as their “supreme president” or “supremo.” According to reports, the group has five million members around the country. Ecleo is one of the high-profile fugitives, for whom authorities have put up bounties for their arrest. Bartolome said the PNP has recommended an additional P300,000 reward each for the arrest of Ecleo, former Palawan governor Joel Reyes and his brother Coron, Palawan Mayor Mario Reyes. The Reyes’ brothers, accused of masterminding the killing of broadcaster and environment advocate Gerry Ortega in January 2011, have a price of P1.55 million on their heads, while Ecleo has P150,000. Bartolome said the government is offering P1-million bounty for the arrest of former military general Jovito Palparan, accused of kidnapping and torturing UP students Sherlyn Cadapan and Karen Empeno in 2006. - By Cecille Suerte Felipe