Ruben Ecleo Jr., former Dinagat Islands congressman and “supreme master” of religious group Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association, is now under police custody after several years of being convicted of graft and his wife’s murder.
The National Capital Region Police Office arrested Ecleo along with his driver Benjie Fernan at around dawn in San Fernando City, Pampanga. The police told reporters that the two were brought to Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City for “investigation and proper disposition.” Ecleo’s driver was also arrested for obstruction of apprehension and prosecution of criminal offenders.
Authorities seized the religious leader’s Toyota Grandia, at least PHP170,000 (US$3,459) in cash, along with fake IDs and jewelry.
Ecleo, now 80, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2012 after a Cebu City court found him guilty of parricide. Ecleo was at large when the court ruled him responsible for the killing of his wife, Alona Bacolod-Ecleo, inside their Cebu City home in 2002. Alona was strangled to death, and her body was subsequently dumped in a ravine at a nearby town. The court also ordered Ecleo to pay PHP25 million (US$508,667) in damages to his wife’s family.
Before that, the Sandiganbayan also sentenced Ecleo to 31 years jail time after he was convicted of graft in 2006 over anomalous construction deals he entered into when he was the town mayor of San Jose, Surigao del Norte in the early 1990s.
Ecleo’s church, which was founded in the ’60s by his father Ruben Ecleo Sr., claimed to cure its members of various illnesses including cancer. The church has also reportedly collected millions of pesos in “entrance fees” from its members and claimed that it can transfer healing powers to its constituents.
Prior to his arrest, Ecleo had a PHP2 million (US$40,701) bounty on his head. He was considered the top most wanted criminal on the Interior Department’s list.