MANILA - Cult leader and former lawmaker Ruben Ecleo Jr. is believed to be behind the massacre of his slain wife's family in 2002, the Metro Manila police chief said Thursday, citing reports from Cebu where the crime happened.
National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) chief Maj. Gen. Debold Sinas cited receiving calls from "friends" in Cebu City who "expressed elation" over Ecleo's arrest in San Fernando, Pampanga on Thursday, saying the long-time fugitive was also wanted for the killing of four relatives of his slain wife Alona Bacolod.
"[It's a] very big case sa Cebu City, some of our friends called us, tracked and expressed elation for the arrest of Ruben Ecleo... According to reports may kinalaman siya pero (he was involved but) no case filed... pero (but) everybody knows sa Cebu na siya prime suspect," said Sinas in a press conference.
Ecleo, who was presented to media, said he had nothing to do with the killings.
"Hindi ko po alam kung sino 'yon," he said, repeatedly responding "wala, hindi" to questions on whether he was involved.
He also denied killing his wife, but said he was owning up to it as he was already convicted in court.
"Hindi ako gumawa pero kasi inakusahan ako at na-prove na kaya aminin ko na. Wala na tayong magawa," said Ecleo, whose response in his native Visaya was translated to Tagalog by Philippine National Police chief Police General Archie Gamboa.
(I did not do it but I was accused and it was proven so I admit it. There is nothing I can do.)
Earlier reports showed that Bacolod's family- her parents, sister and brother- were killed in June 2002, six months since Ecleo strangled her to death inside their home in Cebu City.
Her body was dumped at a ravine in Dalaguete town south of the city and found three days later. Ecleo was convicted for her killing in 2012, but he was not at the sentencing.
The man behind the Bacolod family massacre, meanwhile, Rico Gomolon, was killed by pursuing police in Mandaue City shortly after the crime.
He was a member of the Dinagat Islands cult Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association, where Ecleo is supreme leader. Bacolod's surviving relatives believe Ecleo masterminded the killings.
Ecleo, with driver and cult follower Benjie Faran, were arrested at dawn Thursday in San Fernando, Pampanga, following six months of police surveillance.
He was taken into custody on the power of an arrest warrant issued against him over a 2006 graft conviction.