Retired cop seeks reopening of Ecleo parricide case, claims mistrial
CEBU CITY — A retired police officer who is a member of the Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA) is seeking the reopening of the parricide case filed against its cult leader and former Dinagat Islands Rep. Ruben Ecleo Jr.
Atilano Fabella, a former senior inspector, planned to ask the Supreme Court to declare a “mistrial” and to allow the presentation of evidence for and against Ecleo.
“I believe there were insufficient evidence to convict him (Ecleo). He is innocent. He can’t do that to her wife,” he said in a phone on Saturday.
Fabella, who is based in Palo town, Leyte, will hold a new conference in Mandaue City on Monday to elaborate his claims.
In 2014, he filed a disbarment complaint against Ecleo’s lawyer Orlando Salatandre Jr. and Giovanni Mata at the Supreme Court for allegedly mishandling the case, which led to the conviction of his supreme master in 2012.
Fabella said the two lawyers were liable for “negligence and lack of fidelity, care, and devotion to the cause of their client.”
“Those two lawyers failed and refused to move for the complete physical identification of the identity of the female cadaver who is indubitably not that of Alona Ecleo. They likewise refused to offer the DNA examiner for the confirmation of the negative DNA results,” he said.
“The DNA result, if only being offered, would definitely support the truth that there was no commotion and struggle that transpired, and if taken into serious consideration would further weaken the circumstantial evidence presented by the prosecution,” he added.
Fabella also claimed that aside from his lawyer’s fees, Salatandre collected a total of P20 million from PBMA members to ensure the acquittal of Ecleo – something which he failed to do.
“Attorney Salatandre should be held liable for malpractice and gross misconduct,” he said.
“Ruben Ecleo did not ask me to do this for him. The rule of law instructed me to do so,” he added.
Sought for comment, Salatandre said Fabella actually filed three disbardment cases against him, but two of which were already dismissed by the Supreme Court.
He brushed aside accusations that he was not faithful in handling Ecleo’s case.
“Those who covered that case for years know me. And you know that if I am given a task, I give it my all. I am simply doing my work,” Salatandre, who has been a lawyer for 34 years, said.
He said Fabella belonged to a faction of the PBMA that might have been angry with him.
In April 2012, Ecleo was sentenced to reclusion perpetua (at least 30 years imprisonment) after Judge Soliver Peras of Regional Trial Court Branch 10 pronounced him guilty of parricide for killing his wife Alona on Jan. 5, 2002, in their residence in Forest Hills, Guadalupe, Cebu City.
Ecleo was also ordered to pay the heirs of his wife P25.65 million in damages and attorney’s fees.
The case was elevated to the Court of Appeals. Bbut Associate Justice Gabriel Ingles of the appellate court’s 20th division affirmed the lower court’s ruling and denied Ecleo’s notice to appeal.
The appellate court also made final and executory Ecelo’s conviction.
Ecleo has been a fugitive since an arrest warrant was issued against him in 2011 after he skipped three scheduled hearings in Cebu.
A nationwide manhunt for Ecleo is ongoing.
In August 2012, then President Benigno Aquino III offered a P2 million reward to anyone who could give information that could lead to Ecleo’s arrest. /atm