Former lawyer of PBMA leader Ecleo cries harassment
This was how veteran lawyer Orlando Salatandre Jr. described the accusations leveled against him by a retired policeman and member of the Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA) over how he handled the case of cult leader Ruben Ecleo Jr.
In an interview, Salatandre said he did his best to prove Ecleo’s innocence but to no avail.
“Many people know how I worked hard for that case. I mean business in every case that I do,” he said.
Senior Insp. Atilano Fabella recently expressed his intent to ask the Supreme Court to declare a “mistrial” and to allow the presentation of evidence for and against Ecleo.
Early on, Fabella also filed three disbarment charges against Salatandre and the latter’s co-counsel Giovanni Mata for allegedly mishandling the case which led to the conviction of Ecleo.
Fabella said the two lawyers were liable for “negligence and lack of fidelity, care, and devotion to the cause of their client.”
He particularly cited the failure of the two lawyers to move for the complete physical identification of the identity of the female cadaver whom he said was indubitably not that of Alona Ecleo.
But the Integrated Bar of the Philippines’ Commission on Bar Discipline dismissed two of Fabella’s disbarment complaints. One is still pending before the commission.
In a decision issued in Feb. 2015, IBP Commissioner Felimon Abelita found no sufficient basis to hold Salatandre and Mata liable.
“Apart from calling the charge as incredible, respondents also raised their good reputation, more specially respondent Salatandre, in their defense,” he said.
“Complainant may be is a fanatic member of PBMA whose head was convicted of parricide. Or maybe, the complainant is a law graduate who has not passed the Bar exams, the reason why he prosecuted complaint by himself,” the commissioner added.
Another IBP commissioner, Eduardo Ang Jr., also dismissed the other disbarment case against Salatandre and Mata.
Fabella is set to hold a press conference on Wednesday.
In April 2012, Ecleo was sentenced to reclusion perpetua (at least 30 years imprisonment) when Judge Soliver Peras of Regional Trial Court Branch 10 pronounced him guilty of parricide for killing his wife Alona on Jan. 5, 2002, in their residence in Forest Hills, Guadalupe, Cebu City.
Ecleo was also ordered to pay the heirs of his wife P25.65 million in damages and attorney’s fees.
The case was elevated to the Court of Appeals but Associate Justice Gabriel Ingles of the appellate court’s 20th division affirmed the lower court’s ruling and denied Ecleo’s notice to appeal.
The appellate court also made final and executory Ecleo’s conviction. Ecleo has been a fugitive since an arrest warrant was issued against him in 2011 after he skipped three scheduled hearings in Cebu.
A nationwide manhunt for Ecleo is ongoing.
In August 2012, then President Benigno Aquino III offered a P2 million reward to anyone who can give information that can lead to Ecleo’s arrest.
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