Cult member: Ecleo didn't hide after wife's death

Cebu News, Philippines/November

Cult leader Ruben Ecleo Jr. didn't go into hiding following the death of his wife on Jan. 5, 2002, according to one of his followers.

This was what the defense team tried to prove during yesterday's resumption of the trial on the parricide charges against Ecleo.

Rene Catana, 58, a former chapter president of the Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA), said Ecleo openly visited their group in barangay Libertad, Bogo, northern Cebu two days after Ecleo's wife Alona died.

In his testimony in court, Catana said Ecleo met with him to discuss problems about a parcel of land where a PBMA headquarters was constructed.

He said a PBMA member wanted to use a portion of the lot which is owned by Catana's family.

But the prosecution noted several inconsistencies in Catana's testimony.

During cross-examination, prosecution lawyer Alfredo Sipalay said Catana's statement is not consistent with what Ecleo narrated in court.

In an earlier statement, Ecleo said he was invited by Catana's group for a late New Year's celebration.

Catana said he didn't mention the late New Year's celebration in his testimony because the problems they talked about with Ecleo were more significant.

Catana was presented by defense lawyer Orlando Salatandra since Ecleo was not available for cross-examination.

Ecleo was discharged from the Makati Medical Center last week, said his lawyer.

Ecleo failed to attend the hearing last Oct. 27 after he was confined in a hospital due to unstable blood pressure.

Salatandre said his client was advised by his doctor to rest but will be available for cross-examination on Nov. 24.

Ecleo, who is presently the congressman of the lone district of Dinagat Island in Surigao del Norte, is facing parricide charges for allegedly killing her wife Alona on January 5, 2002.

He was granted a P1 million bail on 2004, claiming that he has a significant heart disease.

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