Cult leader lords it over in jail

Treated Like 'Royalty'

Inquirer News Service/June 23, 2002
By Jolene Bolambot

Cebu City -- Cult leader Ruben Ecleo Jr. is guaranteed to feel at home in his prison cell at the Bagong Buhay Rehabilitation Center (BBRC) here.

His cell mates are so awed by the presence of the "supreme master" of the Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA), they fan him to sleep and put themselves out to be of assistance.

Wearing a white sleeveless shirt and shorts and looking as if he was enjoying his stay, Ecleo on Saturday received his first visitors - relatives, staffers and members of the PBMA's local chapter.

Some 82 PBMA members trooped to the BBRC at 8 a.m. Saturday to see Ecleo who welcomed his visitors with hugs and kisses, his seven cell mates hovering around fanning him with native fans.

Ecleo has made one request of his jailers - that he be given an electric fan to fight off the heat in the cell. Some of his followers burst into tears as they embraced him. Others mopped up his sweat and helped him to change into another white shirt.

His brother, Ben Glen, brought Ecleo's 4-year-old daughter, Benna. The name is taken from the first names of Ecleo and his wife, Alona Bacolod.

Ecleo is facing parricide charges for the killing of Alona whose decomposing body was found stuffed into a garbage bag in Dalaguete town, about 8 km south of Cebu City, on Jan. 8.

Police attempts to serve an arrest warrant on Ecleo precipitated the bloodbath in his Dinagat island stronghold last Wednesday that left 19 of his heavily armed followers and one lawman dead.

Police said they would will file charges of illegal possession of firearms, murder and attempted murder against him and his followers for the death of one policeman and the wounding of two others.

The cult leader also faces multiple murder charges for the massacre of Alona's family last Tuesday.

"I miss my children so much. My Benna went to see me this morning and she told me, 'Daddy, I love you, I miss you.' I said to her 'I miss you too, but I have to stay here.' I almost cried," he said.

Besides Benna, Ecleo has two sons by Alona--Hero, 10 and Ludwig, 7.

Like Ecleo's other children from other women, the three live with Ecleo's mother, Surigao del Norte Rep. Glenda Ecleo on Dinagat island.

He will not let his mother visit because of the heat in his cell. His mother was not used to the heat, he said.

Ecleo likened his condition in jail as being like that of a newlywed--adjustments have to be made.

He said he slept well because his inmates fanned him until he fell asleep.

"They are nice. Most of the time they are OK. They assist me. I enjoy being with them because we talk a lot. We're having such a good time," he said.

He said he offered to help them in their legal battles once he gets out.

"They are innocent, I can feel their sincerity. I have to be out of here before I can help them. I feel sorry for them," he said.

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