ARMY CHIEF Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner issued a directive on Friday to start the composition of the general court-martial for the administrative charges against Brig. Gen Jesus Durante III, his deputy, and five enlisted personnel on the murder of Yvonnette Chua Plaza in December last year.
“Nag peprepare lang kami pero merong pre-trial investigation pa (We are just preparing but there’s still a pre-trial investigation,” he said.
The 10th Infantry Division Board of Inquiry already submitted its report to Brawner. “Now, I will give it to my staff, to the judge advocate general and provost marshal so they can present to me their recommendations upon review,” he added.
“But I already issued orders to create a general court-martial, but there are still no charges (against the suspects),” he added.
In a phone interview, Brawner said they are still looking for members for the court-martial proceedings. But he is optimistic that they can finish the search within the week.
The 10th ID Board of Inquiry also recommended a court-martial against Durante and the other suspects.
In a separate interview, Colonel Xerxes Trinidad, the Army Public Affairs (ACPA) chief and spokesperson, said the court-martial would be formed in anticipation of the administrative charges against the two officers and five enlisted personnel.
“Upon submission of the results by the BOI (Board of Inquiry), the Army JAG and Army provost marshall will review the finding and initiate the preliminary investigation to identify the violations,” he said.
He said the victim’s family can still pursue a case against the suspects although the police Special Investigation Trask Group Plaza already filed cases before the City Prosecutor’s Office.
“The administrative case that will be filed in the GCM (general court-martial) is separate from the criminal cases filed in civilian courts,” he added.
In a statement, “The Army believes in the country’s judicial system. The Army assures full cooperation and coordination with our law enforcement authorities.”
Moreover, Trinidad 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,” he added.
Brawner, in an interview over DZBB on Thursday, said the court-martial proceedings might take place simultaneously with the civilian court proceedings for the members of the Army.
“We are doing our own investigation, and we formed a board of inquiry to look into the truthfulness of the allegations against our officers and enlisted personnel,” he added.
To facilitate the court martial proceedings, Brawner said the military would ask the civilian court for custody of Durante, former commander of the Presidential Security Group during the term of former President Rodrigo Duterte, and the other soldiers tagged in the crime.
“We are not going to pamper our personnel, but instead, we will be following the procedures of the military justice system,” he said.
“Bibigyan po sila ng pagkakataon na sila naman po ay mag file ng counteraffidavit nila from their personal lawyers or pwede rin pong tumulong yung ating mga lawyers. But, of course, susundin po natin yung proseso ng ating batas,” he added.
Durante, also the former commander of the 1001st Infantry Brigade, and his deputy, Col. Michael Licyayo, are restricted to Army headquarters while the investigation is ongoing.
“We do not tolerate these wrongdoings. Whatever the rank, pare-pareho ang treatment natin,” he said.
“We tell our soldiers not to follow illegal orders like killing a person in this case. But then again, this has to be established in court that aspect they were ordered by General Durante,” he added.
Based on the initial report, as shown on CCTV, two men on a motorcycle shot Plaza in front of her rented house in Green Meadows subdivision in Mintal, Tugbok District.
Durante’s name first caught the attention of investigators after he denied his involvement following the report that Plaza posted on social media pictures showing some bruises on the face and blaming the military official for it. The same post was eventually taken down.
But a witness identified the alleged soldiers involved in the killing as Sgt, Delfin L. Sialsa and Cpl. Adrian N. Cachero. A civilian, Noel H. Japitan, was also named accessory to the murder after he was instructed to dismantle the motorcycle.
Also tagged in the crime are Licyayo, SSg. Gilbert P. Plaza, PFC Rolly Cabal, PFC Romart Longakit, another unknown civilian and a man identified only as Master Sergeant.
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