Private prosecutor in slay of cult leader’s wife killed

The lawyer representing the family of the slain wife of cult leader Ruben Ecleo Jr. was shot dead inside her office here on Monday morning.

Arbet Sta. Ana Yonco was working inside her office on Sikatuna Street at 8:30 a.m. when two armed men barged in and shot her in the head, police said. The suspects fled on board a motorcycle.

Yonco was brought to the Perpetual Succor Hospital where she died a few minutes later.

Yonco is the private prosecutor in the parricide case against Ecleo, “supreme master’’ of Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA). Ecleo is accused of strangling to death his wife Alona Bacolod, 27, on Jan. 5, 2002. Her body was found three days after inside a garbage bag in a ravine in Dalaguete town, Cebu.

Ecleo was arrested five months later in his family’s mansion on Dinagat Island in Surigao del Norte province after a fierce encounter between his followers and policemen. Sixteen PBMA members were killed.

At the height of the gun battle on June 18, 2002, one of Ecleo’s followers shot and killed Alona’s parents and two other members of the Bacolod family in Mandaue City, Cebu. Policemen gunned down the assailant shortly after the attack.

Surviving members of the Bacolod family blamed the carnage on Ecleo, a charge that the cult leader has denied.