Manila, Philippines – Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. announced last night that Dinagat Islands, Surigao del Norte Rep. Ruben Ecleo Jr. has been dropped from the roster of the House of Representatives.
Belmonte said the order took effect May 31 and was based on the Supreme Court’s dismissal of Ecleo’s plea to overturn the 2006 guilty verdict handed down by the Sandiganbayan First Division on Ecleo’s three counts of anti-graft charges.
Prosecutors who secured Ecleo’s other conviction for parricide here Cebu City were happy with the expulsion.
A Cebu City Regional Trial Court (RTC) convicted Ecleo of parricide last April for the killing of his wife Alona Bacolod on Jan. 5, 2002. He was meted the penalty of reclusion perpetua or 20 to 40 years in prison and a fine of P26.3 million by Cebu RTC Judge Soliver Peras.
Peras also dismissed Ecleo’s notice of appeal last month after he failed to attend the court promulgation of his parricide case in April 13.
“The final appeal in the third case looked pro forma to us with scant chance of being granted,” Belmonte said referring to Ecleo’s appeal on the Sandiganbayan case.
House Majority Floor Leader Neptali Gonzales II said the decision need not be announced on the floor and it was up to the secretary general to strike out Ecleo’s name from the list of members.
The “supreme master” of the cult group Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA), Ecleo faces from 18 up to 31 years imprisonment and a fine of P2.8 million for irregularities in his construction projects as mayor for San Jose town in Surigao del Norte back in the 90’s.
“It’s long overdue. It’s time to clean up their (Congress) ranks from people who are convicted and with questionable morality,” said lawyer Kit Enriquez, a member of the prosecution team in the Ecleo parricide case.
He said there is also a need to arrest Ecleo, former congressman of the lone district of Dinagat Island in Surigao del Norte.
“They (law enforcers) should be brave enough to go to Dinagat. We believe he’s hiding there,” Enriquez said.
“It is important to arrest Ecleo so justice will be served completely,” he added.
A special task force was formed by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group to catch Ecleo and other known fugitives – former army general Jovito Palparan Jr., Palawan Governor Joel Reyes and Corona Mayor Mario Reyes.
The Philippine Nation Police has put up a P450,000 bounty on Ecleo’s head./Reporter Ador Vincent S. Mayol And Inquirer.Net