Army takes custody of Durante over murder case

The Philippine Army (PA) confirmed Thursday, Jan. 26, that it has taken custody of Brigadier General Jesus Durante III after he was tagged as the alleged mastermind in the murder of Davao City-based model and businesswoman Yvonette Chua Plaza in Davao City last month.

Brigadier General Jesus Durante III (Malacañang file photo)

PA Commanding General, Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. disclosed that Durante was brought to the PA Headquarters in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City following his relief as the commander of the 1001st Infantry Brigade over the killing of Plaza last Dec. 28.

He said the Army “does not tolerate” any wrongdoing in their organization as he assured the public that the military will respect the results of the investigation by the Philippine National Police (PNP).

"Kahit ano pong ranggo ng ating sundalo maging opisyal or enlisted personnel ay pare-pareho po ang ating treatment sa kanila (Whatever the ranks our soldiers have, whether they are officials or enlisted personnel, we treat them the same)," the Army chief stressed in an interview with dzBB.

Aside from your proceedings for the civil case, a separate court martial will also be conducted by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) to determine the administrative liabilities of Durante.

“We will respect the judicial system. Ang narinig namin after file-an ng case si General Durante at other army personnel, bibigyan sila ng pagkakataon na sila ay magfile ng counter affidavit (What we heard after the case was filed against General Durante and other army personnel, they will be given a chance to file a counter affidavit),” Brawner said.

“We will allow them to do that. Magkakaroon ng stance from their personal lawyers or pwede rin tumulong ang ating lawyers but of course susundin natin ang proseso ng ating batas (There will be a stance from their personal lawyers or maybe our lawyers can also help them but of course, we will follow the court procedures),” he added.

Cases for murder, theft, and obstruction of justice were already filed on Wednesday against 10 suspects including Durante, according to Police Major Eudisan Gultiano, spokesperson of the Davao Police Regional Office (PRO-11).

Aside from Durante, also named as respondents in the case were his subordinates: Col. Michael D. Licyayo, deputy commander of 1001st Infantry Brigade; Staff Sergeants Gilbert Plaza and Delfin Llarenas Sialsa Jr.; Corporal Adrian N. Cachero; Privates First Class Rolly Cabal and Romart Longakit; civilian Noel H. Japitan, a certain alias “Junior,” and one “Master Sergeant.”

Brawner said Licyayo was also brought to the PA headquarters with Durante. Meanwhile, Staff Sgt. Plaza, Sialsa, Cachero, and Japitan were placed under the custody of the Davao police after their surrender.


According to police investigation, Licyayo allegedly provided details of the victim’s whereabouts to Sialso, who acted as the gunman, and Cachero, who drove the motorcycle that was used in the crime, on the orders of Durante. Japitan then allegedly dismantled and changed the color of the motorcycle used by the suspects.

The suspects issued extrajudicial confessions to admit their participation in the crime, Gultiano said.

"We confirm na may involve nga pong pera at mga privileges kasi mga sundalo ito (We confirm that there were money and privileges involved because they are soldiers)," the police spokesperson said.

Gultiano said the slain model-businesswoman had an "intimate relationship" with Durante and held a "sensitive information" that she used to blackmail the general. He said among the motives being considered was jealousy although he did not reveal further details of the ongoing investigation.

Other suspects are now being hunted by the authorities.

No private army

On the other hand, Brawner denied that the Army personnel was used as a private army of Durante, who also served as the chief of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) under the administration of former president Rodrigo Duterte.

He noted that this practice is “not normal” in the military.

“Hindi po ito normal (This is not normal), this is not service-related,” he said. “Hindi natin masabing private army but maaari niyang utusan ang mga sundalo and ‘yung mga sundalo sinasabihan natin na hindi dapat sumunod sa mga illegal orders katulad nito (We cannot say this is a private army but he can give orders to the soldiers and we are telling the soldiers not to follow illegal orders.)”

“They have to be discerning kung ano ang legal na utos sa iligal (what order is legal from illegal),” he added.

But Brawner acknowledged that some soldiers might be pressured to follow orders so they won’t be targeted by their commanders.

“Mayroon po tayong military justice system, pwede sila magsumbong sa ating liderato (We have a military justice system, they can report to our leadership). We can take action,” he said.