Cult members bullying witness/police

Cebu Daily News/July 10, 2002
By Tonton A. Antogop

Members of the Philippine Benevolent Missionary Association (PBMA) in Coro, Dalaguete are allegedly preventing a key witness to the murder of Alona Bacolod-Ecleo to testify in court.

Sources from both the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG-7) and the Crusade Against Violence tagged Coro barangay Captain Florencio Peralta as among those who were allegedly preventing the witness from testifying.

Peralta, a PBMA member since 1978, denied the allegations.

While he admitted having talked with Luis Delposo, he said he never told the fisherman not to testify on what he saw last January 5, 2002 when Alona's body was dumped in sitio Botong.

"Wala gyud ko maghimo ana, wala koy gipugngan nga tawo nga mu-testigo (I did not do it, I did not prevent anybody from testifying)," Peralta, 32, told reporters.

He said the police could have erred in considering Delposo as a witness, claiming he saw Delposo on the night Alona's corpse was supposedly dumped.

Peralta said he saw Delposo attending a benefit dance that night, as among their activities of the annual town fiesta.

"Diha ra gyud siya sa amu-a, wala sa lugar nga didto gilabay (He was in our place not in the area where the bag was dumped)," Peralta said.

CIDG-7 regional officer Edwin Diocos refused to confirm or deny Peralta's alleged influence on Delposo but surmised Delposo is afraid for his safety.

"Sa tingin ko takot lang talaga yung matanda (I believe the old man is afraid)," Diocos told Cebu Daily News.

Reports reaching the CIDG indicated that about 100 families in barangay Coro are PBMA members, although Peralta said they are only about 50.

Diocos believed Delposo knew more than merely seeing the garbage bag containing Alona's body being dumped in a ravine.

If Delposo would not cooperate, Diocos admitted they could not force him to become a witness.

"Ang atin lang doon talaga ay pakiusapan siya (The most we can do is to persuade him)," Diocos said.

The CIDG had earlier talked to Delposo and his 14 year-old son, the person who first saw the garbage bag and reported the matter to his father.

The bag was dumped under a tree near the roadside in sitio Botong where Delposo's hut is located.

Asked whether the controversial case against their supreme master Ruben Ecleo Jr. has affected their organization in the area, Peralta admitted some have left and only about twenty households have remained with the organization.

He said he will continue being a member of the PBMA, saying their supreme master could always be replaced.

"Mura ra man na siya ug (Like any) business firm, mahimo ra man na siya ilisan (he could always be replaced)," he said.

Ecleo is now detained at the Bagong Buhay Rehabilitation Center (BBRC) while awaiting trial of the parricide case.

He surrendered last month after about 16 of his armed followers were killed in an encounter with the authorities at his hilltop mansion in San Jose, Dinagat Island, Surigao del Norte.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.