Favila charged in Yongco slay

Seventy-three days after Arbet Sta. Ana Yongco, a private prosecutor in the parricide case against cult leader Ruben Ecleo Jr. was brutally killed in her own home, Michel Favila, an Ecleo follower, was finally charged yesterday for her murder.

After the police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group which investigated the murder filed the complaint with the city prosecutor’s office, Judge Simeon Dumdum Jr. of the Regional Trial Court promptly issued a warrant for Favila’s arrest.

Favila, a member of the Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association which considers Ecleo as supreme master, had matched descriptions of the killer provided by witnesses to the Yongco murder last October 11.

Shortly after the murder, Favila, who denied he was the one who shot Yongco dead, turned himself in to the NBI in Palawan and was brought to Cebu where he has been in NBI custody since.

With his arrest, Favila was removed from NBI custody and detained at the Bagong Buhay Rehabilitation Center, the same facility where Ecleo had been committed while awaiting trial for the murder of his wife Alona Bacolod prior to being granted bail

Favila’s lawyer Orlando Salatandre, also the lead counsel for Ecleo, filed a motion for the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus but this did not stop the court from issuing a warrant for Favila’s arrest.

The petition for the issuance of the writ was filed by Salatandre before another judge, Pampio Abarintos, who scheduled a hearing for the on December 29 yet.

NBI regional executive officer Nelson Bartolome said as custodian of Favila to whom the petition for the issuance of a writ of habeas corpus was directed, they would still appear at the hearing but would explain that it is already moot and academic because Favila has already been charged and transferred from their custody to the BBRC.

An 11-page resolution approved by a panel of prosecutors from the Department of Justice in Manila was sent by fax to the office of the city prosecutor yesterday afternoon. The resolution said despite the denial of Favila and some inconsistencies in the statements of witnesses, the panel still found probable cause to charge him after he was positively identified as the gunman.

Another Ecleo henchman, also now in custody of the police, had been identified by a witness as the man who drove Favila away in a motorcycle after the killing.

The henchman, Nestor Carrol, was arrested with seven other members of the Ecleo-led PBMA at a police checkpoint in Lapulapu City in a van full of high powered weapons, prompting police to suspect they were on a mission.

Followers of Ecleo have been known to freely give up their lives to protect the interests of their master.

When Ecleo was arrested by a large posses of police and soldiers at his enclave in Surigao, more than 20 of his men were killed trying to prevent his capture. On that same day, a lone PBMA member was killed by police in Cebu after he massacred almost the entire family of Ecleo’s dead wife.