Rep. Ecleo misses trial anew

DINAGAT Island Rep. Ruben Ecleo Jr. skipped the parricide trial against him yesterday, citing health reasons.

Lawyer Orlando Sala-tandre, who represented Ecleo, said his client was advised by his doctor to rest because of his heart ailment.

The Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA) leader was confined at the Makati Medical Center for the last three hearings, which started after he testified in court.

Medical certification

Upon seeing that Ecleo was still absent, Regional Trial Court Vice Executive Judge Soliver Peras ordered Salatandre to present his client’s medical certificate and medical records in the next hearing.

Peras also ordered Salatandre to present the doctor attending to Ecleo’s health, so he can attest to Ecleo’s condition.

Alexander Bacolod, 49, the third witness for the defense, was presented yesterday.

Bacolod, a resident of San Jose town in Dinagat Island and a PBMA member since 1970, is the first cousin of Ecleo’s wife Alona, whose body was found on Jan. 8, 2002.

Bacolod told the court that on Jan. 8 of that year, Ecleo sought his help to find Alona.

His accounts

Bacolod, a draftsman who previously worked for the town’s municipal planning and development office, heard about his cousin’s disappearance in Cebu while working.

He said he sought Elpidio, Alona’s father and his uncle, to clarify matters.

But upon arriving in Elpidio’s house, he said he met Ecleo, who was also asking his father-in-law about Alona’s whereabouts.

It was then, he said, Ecleo enlisted his help and gave him P3,000 for the task.

After talking to Ecleo, Bacolod said he returned to town and hired three “habal-habal” drivers to search three towns in the province.

The next day, he heard talks from co-workers that Alona’s body was found below a ravine in Dala-guete, Cebu.

Bacolod said he feared for Ecleo’s safety when he heard in a radio report that the PBMA supreme mas-ter’s brother-in-law Ben had accused him of murdering Alona.

He said he visited Ecleo in San Jose and told him what happened.

Cross-examination

Bacolod said Ecleo cried when he heard about Alona’s death.

He said he warned Ecleo not to return to Cebu as he may bear the brunt of his brother-in-law’s ire.

After his testimony, private prosecutor Kit En-riquez told the court they want to cross-examine Bacolod in the next hearing, as it was only yesterday that the latter was presented by the defense. Bacolod was also not included in the original list of witnesses, he said.

Lawyer Democrito Bar-cenas, Enriquez’s co-counsel, said Bacolod’s appearance was no big surprise, as his membership in the PBMA gave him away.

Aside from Bacolod, the defense panel will also present three other witnesses, including Ecleo and his and Alona’s eldest son Hero. (sun-star)

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