Nowhere near safe | Inquirer News

Nowhere near safe

/ 07:07 AM June 17, 2011

The decision by the Department of Justice (DOJ) to drop the Bacolod siblings and family from its Witness Protection Program is not only questionable but downright incredulous given that the trial of cult leader Ruben Ecleo has yet to be resolved.

Unless Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Soliver Peras somehow manages to resolve the homicide case filed against Ecleo, Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA) leader within this year, or unless Ecleo himself is placed behind bars the Bacolod siblings aren’t anywhere near safe.

In fact, even behind the musty confines of jail Ecleo can order his followers, all numbering at least four million around the country, to visit and possibly inflict violence on the siblings even after they finished their testimony on the case.


Nearly a decade after Alona Bacolod, Ecleo’s wife, was found dumped in a ravine in one of the hinterland barangays of Cebu City the search for the cult leader culminated in a raid at his stronghold in Dinagat Island in 2003.


Since then, Ecleo has managed to stay away from jail by posting bond and letting his lawyers resort to all sorts of legal maneuvers to keep it that way. The Bacolod family, for one, had to endure numerous delays in the trial risking safety and spending daily just to keep up and wonder whether they will be served justice for Alona’s death.

Now the national government through some weird reason dropped the Bacolods from the Witness Protection Program by saying that they already finished their testimonies. It felt perhaps that it had no more obligation to the Bacolods other than getting them to speak out against Ecleo, thinking that the cult leader no longer poses a security threat.

The program was conceived exactly for the purpose of protecting witnesses even after the case has been successfully prosecuted in court and the perpetrators placed behind bars.

It was patterned after the U.S. version, which provided the witnesses with new identities, a new address and a lifetime support system in exchange for their cooperation in the case. And the cases usually involve Mafia bosses, powerful politicians and interest groups.

The decision to drop the Bacolods was being protested by legal groups like the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) and the DOJ should reconsider. The Bacolods have nowhere else to go as far as protection is concerned.

The national government cannot stand by and abandon the Bacolods in their hour of need. Again, the Bacolods are nowhere near safe so long as Ecleo remains free and his followers continue to roam around the country, willing and able to harm the family in order to ensure their silence.

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