Cult leader Ruben Ecleo’s arrest looms as court junks his plea

Philippine Daily Inquirer/October 4th, 2011

The warrant for the arrest of cult leader and Dinagat Island Rep. Ruben Ecleo stays. The Sandiganbayan First Division has denied Ecleo’s appeal to suspend the warrant for his arrest for his graft conviction, which he said deserves a second look from the court.

It also considered moot his offer of a P3-million bond to suspend his warrant and to show that he would not flee the country.

According to Sandiganbayan, his graft conviction was final and executory, which was why the court was duty-bound to execute the ruling and order his arrest.

“Considering that once a decision or resolution becomes final and executory, it is the ministerial duty of the court or tribunal to order its execution, it is the bounden duty of this court to execute the judgment herein," said the Sandiganbayan resolution adopted on Sept. 21.

“The issuance of the warrant of arrest and writ of execution are merely acts in discharge of that duty," the antigraft court said.

In 2006, Sandiganbayan found Ecleo guilty of three counts of graft in connection with irregularities in construction projects in the Surigao del Norte town of San Jose, where he was mayor from 1991 to 1994.

The court sentenced him to 18 to 31 years in jail and ordered him to pay the state P2.8 million.

With the judgment having become final, the court ordered the ruling executed and ordered Ecleo arrested in February this year.

Ecleo, however, filed several petitions to quash the arrest warrant, including one in which he offered to pay a bond of P3 million.

He had lamented that his arrest warrant prevents him from attending sessions in Congress and deprives his province of representation. He had also questioned his guilty verdict, saying it lacked basis.

But in its Sept. 21 resolution, Sandiganbayan’s First Division rejected Ecleo’s argument that the Commission on Audit report that was the basis for the filing of charges against him was not yet considered final because there was no notice of disallowance and a certificate of settlement of balance.

It was also unmoved by his contention that he has a pending petition at the Supreme Court questioning his conviction.

According to the Sandiganbayan, the high court had already rejected Ecleo’s two petitions questioning his graft conviction. It also noted that the petitions were filed after Sandiganbayan’s decision in the case had become final.

It added that it could not allow Ecleo to question the ruling after it had become final and executory. Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones. Subscribe and get several chances to win tickets to the Black Eyed Peas concert in Manila as well as tickets to Stomp. Promo details. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

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