Philippine Army (PA) commander Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. has ordered the formation of a general court martial (GCM) to try Brig. Gen Jesus Durante III and his six other soldiers over the murder of model and businesswoman Yvonette Chua Plaza in Davao City last month.
Brawner issued the order last Saturday, after the board of inquiry (BOI) from the 10th Infantry Division that investigated Plaza’s death recommended the prosecution of Durante and the six co-accused in a military court.
Plaza was reportedly shot dead by two assailants in front of her rented house at the Green Meadows subdivision in Barangay Tugbok, Davao City last Dec.
30. After Plaza’s killing, several posts on social media dragged Durante’s name, saying he allegedly physically abused her. A post of a now inactive account has pictures of Plaza, with bruises and wounds on her face.
The BOI recommendation for court martial was endorsed to the Army’s Judge Advocate (JAG) General and Provost Marshal for the conduct of a pre-trial investigation.
“A GCM was formed in anticipation for the administrative charges against the 2 officers and 5 enlisted personnel. Upon submission of the results of the BOI, the Army JAG and Provost Marshal will review the findings and initiate the preliminary investigation to identify violations in the AW prior proceeding to trial in the GCM,” Philippine Army spokesperson Col. Xerxes Trinidad told ABS-CBN News on Monday.
“The Army believes in the country’s judicial system. The Army assures full cooperation and coordination with our law enforcement authorities,” Xerxes said.
“The Army leadership will not condone such criminal acts amongst our personnel regardless of rank and position. As professional soldiers, we are committed in our core values of duty, honor and patriotism in the performance of our mandate to serve the people and secure our land.”
The GCM is the military’s highest level trial court that is responsible for trying service members for serious crimes. Once convened, the GCM is expected to look into the administrative aspect of Durante and the other soldiers’ case, and will be conducted parallel to the trial that will be done by a civilian court.
Brawner expects the JAGO and the Army Provost Marshal to submit their recommendation within the week.
Charges of murder, theft and obstruction of justice were filed in a civilian court last week against suspects in the killing of Plaza.
Cited as respondents, apart from Durante who had been relieved as commander of the 1001st Infantry Brigade, were Col. Michael Licyayo, deputy commander of the 1001st Infantry Brigade; SSgts. Gilbert Plaza and Delfin Sialsa Jr.; Cpl. Adrian Cachero; and Pfc. Rolly Cabal and Romart Longakit.
According to Trinidad, Durante, Licyayo and three Army soldiers have been placed under the Army’s custody. Two other troopers implicated in the killing remain at large.
“The two officers and 3 three EPs (enlisted personnel) implicated in the Plaza murder case are in the custody of the Philippine Army,” the Army spokesman said.
“The two officers are in HPA, Fort Bonifacio after being relieved of their post as Commander of the 1001st Infantry Brigade and Deputy Commander of the 1001st Infantry Brigade. The three enlisted personnel are under the custody of H10ID in Davao.”