3 more cultists charged with Cebu lawyer's slay

Philippine Daily Inquirer/December 14, 2004
By Jolene R. Bulambot

The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Central Visayas (CIDG 7) has charged three more members of the cult group Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA) with involvement in the killing of human rights lawyer Arbet Sta. Ana Yongco.

The CIDG 7 filed at the Cebu City prosecutor's office a murder case against Nestor Carrol, MSgt. Heracleo Rallestan and Eddie Ardita. All three were tagged as conspirators of Michael Favila, also a PBMA member and the alleged killer of Yongco.

The PBMA is headed by Ruben Ecleo Jr., the cult group's so-called "supreme master."

Yongco was the private prosecutor of the parricide case against Ecleo, who stands accused of killing his wife Alona Bacolod-Ecleo in 2002.

A separate murder case has already been filed against Favila after four eyewitnesses, including a 10-year-old girl, identified him as the gunman. His case is pending before the Department of Justice for preliminary investigation.

In this recent development, at least three witnesses identified Carrol, Rallestan and Ardita as the ones they saw together with Favila on Oct. 11, the day Yongco was shot dead inside her law office in Barangay Zapatera.

CIDG officials said the witnesses identified Carrol as the driver of the red motorcycle used by Favila. Ardita and Rallestan allegedly acted as "lookouts" of Favila.

The three witnesses went voluntarily to the CIDG 7 on Dec. 3 and 4 after they heard that eight PBMA members were arrested in Barangay Mactan, Lapu-Lapu City.

Carrol and Rallestan were among the eight suspects who were arrested on Dec. 3. They were caught in a checkpoint in Barangay Mactan in possession of several high-powered firearms, handguns, ammunition and explosives.

Charges of illegal possession of firearms, ammunition and explosives were filed against the eight suspects before the Municipal Trial Court in Cities and Regional Trial Court in Lapu-Lapu City.

Carrol and Rallestan were arrested anew on Dec. 8 by the CIDG after witnesses executed their sworn statements, officially implicating them in the Yongco murder case.

Ardita, 25, was arrested on Dec. 3 after he was charged with car theft.

CIDG officials said the other red motorcycle used as a getaway vehicle in the Yongco murder was recovered from Ardita.

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