THEY thanked God for getting justice in court after waiting for over a decade following the murder of Alona Bacolod and other family members.
But for the Bacolod siblings, it won’t be complete unless convicted cult leader Ruben Ecleo Jr. will be jailed for the murder of his wife, Alona, their siblings Ben and Evelyn and their parents Rosalia and Elipidio.
Three of Alona’s five siblings were joined yesterday by an anti-crime volunteer group in a thanksgiving Mass at the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral with agents of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) providing security.
In Butuan City, policemen tasked to arrest Ecleo went to his stronghold in Dinagat Island but came home empty-handed.
Chief Supt. Reynaldo Rafal, Caraga police chief, said they are still pursuing leads.
Rafal also called on the powerful Ecleo political clan to intervene and help convince the lawmaker surrender peacefully.
A task force was created to arrest Ecleo to be led by the CIDG.
Ecleo’s younger sister, Dinagat Island Vice Gov. Jade Ecleo, asked her brother to surrender.
“I’m pleading to my brother to surrender because the longer he hides … the more the problem will get worse,” the vice governor said.
She said her brother can spare the Ecleo family and their followers of the burden caused by his conviction.
The Bacolod family repeated their appeal to President Benigno Aquino III to jail Ecleo for the murder of family members.
They were accompanied by the Crusade Against Violence (CAV) in the 9:30 a.m. Mass officiated by Fr. Joseph de Aquino.
Angelito voiced regret that the Bacolod family would have led “normal and peaceful lives” if Alona had not chosen to marry Ecleo, supreme master and president of the Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA).
“Dili hingpit ang hustisya. Wala pa siya nadakpi (Justice isn’t complete because Ecleo hasn’t been arrested),” Angelito said.
He said life would no longer be the same even with Ecleo’s April 13 conviction of the crime of parricide.
“We are no longer intact. It’s really different. (But) we start to move on. We have to trust in God,” Angelito said.
Angelito said they were thankful to their lawyers and the court for securing justice.
Angelito said while the family feels more at peace after last Friday’s court ruling, they’re still concerned over their security.
Chief Insp. Fermin Armendarez, CIDG-7 chief, said they will continue to secure the Bacolod family.
Fiscal Llena Ipong-Avila, head of the Witness Protection Program (WPP) of the Department of Justice (DOJ) said she will meet with the siblings to determine if they still need their assistance.
CAV founder Thelma Chiong said they held a Mass before the decision was read on Friday and wanted to complete it by giving thanks afterward with a Mass.
Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Soliver Peras of Branch 10 sentenced Ecleo to 20 to 40 years of imprisonment for the murder of his wife Alona.
Alona died by strangulation inside the Ecleo residence in sitio Banawa, barangay Guadalupe, Cebu City, on Jan. 5, 2002.
Ecleo was also ordered to pay Alona’s siblings P26.3 million in damages.
He was also convicted by the Sandiganbayan on three counts of graft for ordering the overpayment of a building project during his tenure as Dinagat town mayor.
The cult leader’s follower, security guard Rico Gumonong died after shooting down Ben and Evelyn Bacolod and parents Rosalia and Elipidio at their barangay Subangdaku home in Mandaue City. Also killed was a family’s neighbor.
Gumonong was shot down by a pursuing policeman.
The attack came on the same day Ecleo was arrested in Dinagat Island following a gun battle between police and his followers in Dinagat Island, Surigao del Norte on June 18, 2002. Ador Vincent Mayol, Reporter with Correspondents Patricia Andrea Pateña and Chito Aragon and an Inquirer report