Businesswoman Yvonette Chua Plaza had “sensitive information” she planned to use against her reported lover, Army Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante III, before she was killed last December in Davao City, a spokesperson for the Police Regional Office-11 (PRO-11) said Thursday.
Murder, obstruction of justice, and theft complaints were filed Wednesday against Durante—the chief of the Presidential Security Group under President Rodrigo Duterte—and nine others, PRO-11 spokesperson Police Major Eudisan Gultiano said in a television interview.
Only eight of the respondents, most of them soldiers, were identified by name, including Durante, according to Gultiano. Two were John Does identified only as “Junior” and “Master Sergeant.”
On Wednesday, PRO 11 director Brig. Gen. Benjamin Silo Jr. said they had sufficient evidence to charge Durante with murder and obstruction of justice in the killing of Plaza.
Gultiano said four of the suspects — Staff Sergeant Gilbert Plaza, Sergeant Delfin Sialsa Jr, Corporal Adrian Cachero, and Noel Japitan — have surrendered to authorities and now are under their custody.
Asked about the possible motive for the crime, the PRO-11 spokesman said: “We have identified a motive, like the sensitive information allegedly being used by Yvonette Plaza against General Durante.”
Gultiano, who did not specify the nature of that information, added that Durante and Plaza have an intimate relationship, and that the
Army general had reportedly admitted to jealousy based on the confessions and testimony of the other suspects.
Durante has yet to respond to the charges as of press time.
In a separate interview Thursday, Philippine Army commander Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. assured that no special treatment would be given to Durante.
“We do not tolerate any wrongdoings or criminal acts of any of our soldiers, be they officers or enlisted personnel, our treatment of them, if they err, are the same,” Brawner said in a radio interview.
“When we learned from reports that Gen. Durante is a person of interest, we immediately had a conference and decided to relieve him from his post as commander of the 1001st Infantry Brigade so that the investigations will be impartial, although our actions are SOP (standard operating procedure),” the Army chief added.
Brawner said they respect the judicial system and will allow the legal process to take its course.
He said Durante and his deputy Col. Michael Licyayo, who was also implicated in the case, are already being held at PA headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Metro Manila after being relieved from their posts.
“That is our SOP especially for criminal cases, they are relieved of their posts immediately but they will be placed in PA custody,” he added.
Brawner also said these Army personnel would also be charged under the military justice system. (See full story online at manilastandard.net)
“There will be a court martial and we will have custody of them, we have a custodial center where they will be kept for safekeeping while their case is being heard,” the PA chief added. (See full story online at manilastandard.net)
He also said the court martial proceedings will proceed along with the criminal case filed against the personnel.
Sialsa, who is slapped with a murder and theft complaint, made an extrajudicial confession that he was the gunman who shot Plaza.
Cachero, also charged with murder and theft, admitted to being the driver of the motorcycle that was used as the getaway vehicle after the shooting, Gultiano said.
Some of the suspects identified Durante as the “mastermind,” according to the spokesperson.
Brawner said the Army will allow the involved personnel to submit a counter-affidavit and tap their own lawyers.
The PA commander said that it is not normal in the Army for a
commander to use his men for illegal activity.
Most of the suspects are personnel of the 1001st Infantry Brigade, which was led by Durante before he was removed from the position.
Durante earlier denied involvement in the killing of Plaza, saying his name was being dragged because of a Facebook post made by Plaza in April 2022.
“Yvonne was a friend. My name is being dragged based on an FB post made last April 2022 wherein I allegedly hurt her. She later retracted the post and issued a statement that I did not in any way harm her,” Durante had said.
“I am deeply saddened by her demise and condole with her family and friends. I, myself, demand justice for Yvonne,” he added.
Plaza was found dead outside her residence on December 28, 2022. The shooting was caught on CCTV.