Exhumed body matched that of Ecleo’s wife — expert

Cebu City, Philippines — A forensic expert who autopsied an exhumed body believed to be that of Alona Bacolod, the murdered wife of parricide suspect and cult leader Ruben Ecleo Jr., said the cadaver bore similarities to that of Alona.

University of the Philippines forensic pathologist Dr. Raquel Fortun, testifying in court, said the external physical aspect of the body matched or had similarities with that of Alona Bacolod as described to her by her four siblings — Ricky, Josebil, Angelito and Rhea — whom she interviewed last March 8.

This testimony contradicted the contention of the defense that the body of a woman found inside a black garbage bag dumped at a ravine in Dalaguete town three years ago and on which Fortun conducted a reautopsy after exhumation is not that of Alona.

Fortun echoed findings of a previous autopsy that the woman the prosecution claims to be that of Alona Bacolod did not die of natural causes but of asphyxia by strangulation, as evidenced by its protruding tongue and an eyeball misplaced from its socket.

Fortun nearly failed to make it to the witness stand as the 19th prosecution witness in the celebrated trial when Ecleo lawyer Orlando Salatandre moved to bar her testimony.

Salatandre contended that Regional Trial Court Judge Geraldine Faith Econg never ordered a reautopsy when she granted a prosecution motion to have the body exhumed only for purposes of DNA testing and have the dentures examined.

Prosecution lawyer Fritz Quinanola countered that Salatandre himself and another defense lawyer, Giovani Mata, were present during the exhumation and never objected to the examination, making their objection now " moot and academic. "

Salatandre then moved to suspend the hearing, saying the defense panel needs to bring the matter to the Court of Appeals, but Judge Econg denied the motion and ordered Doctor Fortun to take the stand, promising to Salatandre that if a higher court issues a favorable ruling for the defense, she would order that the testimony of Fortun stricken off the records.

Econg said that even if her order did not specifically mention a reautopsy, it can be inferred that no DNA testing or dental examination can be undertaken without having to examine the body itself.

The body believed to be that of Alona was exhumed last March for further autopsy .

The exhumation was aimed at erasing doubts on the identity of the woman found stuffed in a black garbage bag dumped at a ravine in Dalaguete town.

The prosecution claimed it was the body of Alona but the defense team said the identity of the dead woman was still vague.

Ecleo had denied having killed his wife, stuffing her body in a garbage bag and dumping it at a roadside in Dalaguete, Cebu on Jan. 5, 2002. He had said that he loved his wife and could not have killed her.