Army takes steps to form court martial for Durante et al

The Philippine Army (PA) has started looking for military officers that would constitute a general court martial (GCM) for the possible try of Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante III and several other army personnel over the murder of model-businesswoman Yvonette Chua Plaza in Davao City last month.

Brigadier General Jesus Durante III (Malacañang file photo)

This was confirmed by Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., PA Commanding General, on Sunday, Jan. 29.

“We have already issued orders for the composition of the GCM. Naghahanap muna kami ng (For now, we are finding) members who will constitute the GCM,” he said.

A general court martial is the military’s highest level trial court that is responsible for trying service members for serious crimes.

Brawner said a pre-trial investigation was conducted to determine if the case would warrant a GCM.

The Board of Inquiry (BOI) from the 10th Infantry Division (10ID) recommended that Durante and other army personnel must be tried in a GCM, Brawner revealed.

Brawner said that he will forward the results of the investigation conducted by the BOI to the Judge Advocate General Office (JAGO) and the Army Provost Marshal which will then give the necessary recommendations whether or not a GMC is deemed necessary.

Both JAGO, which is composed of lawyers, and the Army Provost Marshall, which is composed of military police, have investigative powers.

“At my level, kailangan ko pang ipaaral doon sa JAGO (I need the JAGO to study first),” Brawner said.

Brawner noted that he expects the JAGO and the Army Provost Marshal to submit their recommendations to him “within the week.”

Cases for murder, theft, and obstruction of justice were filed in a civilian court last week against 10 suspects for the killing of Plaza in Davao City last Dec. 28, 2023.

Named respondents were Durante, who had been relieved as the commander of the Army’s 1001st Infantry Brigade; his subordinates namely 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 striker/helper Noel H. Japitan, a certain alias “Junior,” and one called as “Master Sergeant.”

Police investigators said they have established that Durante and Plaza had an intimate relationship as they consider jealousy as a possible motive behind the killing. Plaza also allegedly held a “sensitive information” that she intended to use to blackmail Durante, police added.