Ex-PSG chief, 7 others charged with murder

The victim’s MacBook was found to contain email messages between her and Durante, as well as intimate photos

Brig. Gen. Jesus P. Durante and Yvonnette Chua Plaza.

Charges of murder and obstruction of justice over the killing of businesswoman-model Yvonnete Chua-Plaza have been filed against former Presidential Security Group chief Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante III, authorities announced yesterday.

Plaza was shot dead in front of her rented apartment at the Green Meadows Subdivision in Barangay Tugbok, Davao City last 30 December 2022.

Members of the “kill team” and the gunman himself, personnel of the Army’s 1001st Army brigade, pointed to Durante as the “mastermind,” said Brig. Gen. Benjamin Silo, Police Regional Office 11 chief.

“Based on the extrajudicial confession of the respondents, there was an admission there that General Durante appreciated the killing when the gunman reported to him directly,” Silo said.

Silo said the gunman told probers that he got the clear impression that the Army general gave the go-signal to kill Plaza and that it may have been motivated by jealousy.

Durante and Plaza, as established through their online conversations and the Army officer’s own video statements uploaded on social media, were alleged to be paramours.

The Philippine Army said Wednesday it will not condone criminal acts committed by its members.

“As such, Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante has been relieved as commander of the 1001st Brigade, after being named as a person of interest in the murder of Yvonnette Chua Plaza, to give way to an impartial and thorough investigation,” Philippine Army chief Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. said in a statement.

“The Army ensures (sic) the public that this incident is not service related,” he added.

In a press conference, Special Investigation Task Group Plaza said the police, in coordination with the National Bureau of Investigation and the 10th Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army, filed the charges against Durante and his alleged cohorts.

Also charged with murder and obstruction of justice were Col. Michael Licyayo, and SSg. Gilbert Plaza. Accused of murder with theft were Sgt. Delfin Sialsa Jr. and Cpl. Adrian Cachero, while charged with murder were Pfc. Rolly Cabal, Pfc. Noel Japitan, and one John Doe.

A still unidentified master sergeant was impleaded for obstruction of justice.

The cases filed against the suspects were docketed under XI-02-INV-23-A-0333 (theft); XI-02-INV-23-A-0332 (murder) and XI-02-INV-23-A-0333 and XI-02-INV-23-A-0334 (obstruction of justice).

The police established that Plaza was gunned down by two men onboard a motorcycle who thereafter fled, leaving the victim lifeless when found by first responders of Barangay Sto. Niño.

SITG Plaza identified SSg. Plaza as the team leader of the operation to assassinate the woman, and Licyayo as the man who gave the direct order to kill the woman.

The Armed Forces turned over the suspects to the task force, with Sgt. Sialsa confessing that it was he who shot the victim dead, investigators said.

Cachero told probers he was the one who drove the getaway motorcycle after the shooting. Pfc. Longakit and Pfc. Cabal were identified as the operatives who cased or did the surveillance on the woman.

One Noel Japitan served as the caretaker of the group’s safe house and also the one who painted the get-away motorcycle from black to red before disassembling it, SITG Plaza said during its press briefing.

Licyayo directly supervised the planning and killing of the victim, according to investigators citing witnesses’ statements.

SITG Plaza added that an alias “Jr” participated in the killing and that the still-to-be-identified master sergeant was the one who altered and modified the barrel of the caliber .45 pistol used in the crime.

A “Link Analysis” matrix prepared by the task force said Plaza posted on her Facebook account “that she was maltreated by Durante,” with photos showing the facial and other injuries she sustained.

The victim’s MacBook was found to contain email messages between her and Durante, as well as intimate photos. The matrix cited “information used by the victim to blackmail Durante” as a possible motive for why she was ordered killed.

Personal belongings of Plaza taken by the gunman and his driver included her handbag, smartphone, credit card, and identification card were burned by the suspects, the police said.

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