A former member of the House of Representatives and religious cult leader was arrested Thursday over his wife’s killing and corrupt practices, police said, ending a years-long manhunt.
Ruben Ecleo Jr., 63, was head of a group called the Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association when the remains of his wife, Alona Bacolod-Ecleo, were found decomposing in a ravine in Dalaguete, Cebu in 2002.
Ecleo, also known as Manuel Riberal, was arrested months later in a police raid on his home on the island of Dinagat, during which 17 people were killed.
Ecleo obtained temporary liberty in 2004 and won a Congress seat in 2010 – waved as an example of an infamous culture of impunity in the country, where the rich and powerful were rarely held to account.
In 2012, a year after he stopped attending the trial, a Cebu court convicted him of parricide and sentenced him to 30 years in prison.
Manila police described Ecleo as the “#1 Top Most Wanted Person” in the Philippines, who has a P2-million bounty on his head, based on a warrant issued by the First Division of Sandiganbayan.
The Sandiganbayan convicted him in 2006 and sentenced him to 31 and a half years of imprisonment in connection with the irregularities over the construction of the public market and town hall, and repairs of his cult’s building in San Jose, Dinagat Islands when he served as mayor there.
A police report said he was arrested Thursday at a gated housing enclave in Angeles City, 88 kilometers north of Manila, where he had been living under another name.
His driver, Benjie Relacion Fernan, was also detained for trying to obstruct Ecleo’s arrest, police added.
In 2006, another court convicted Ecleo of corruption committed when he was a town mayor in Dinagat in the early 1990s.
Police said they used an arrest warrant issued over the graft case to detain Ecleo after a lengthy stake-out.
Ecleo became leader of his religious group, which claims millions of adherents, after the 1987 death of his namesake father, who had founded the group in 1965. With AFP
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