Philippine police file murder charges against Duterte’s former military aide

Dennis Jay Santos
Davao City, Philippines
Philippine police file murder charges against Duterte’s former military aide Soldiers march during the 121st founding anniversary of the Philippine Army, at Taguig city in Metro Manila, March 20, 2018.
Romeo Ranoco/Reuters

Updated at 7:49 a.m. ET on 2023-01-26

Philippine Police filed murder charges Wednesday against seven soldiers, including a general who was a military aide to ex-President Rodrigo Duterte and headed his bodyguard, in connection with the slaying of a model-turned-businesswoman last month.

Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante III, Col. Michael Licyayo and five other soldiers under their command, were charged for participating in the killing of Yvonette Chua Plaza in southern Davao city on Dec. 30. A civilian helper and another man identified only as a “master sergeant” were also charged in the case with obstruction of justice. 

Police said Durante planned the killing of Yvonette Chua Plaza, who was slain by two unidentified attackers in front of her home in Davao city. In a social media post last April, Plaza had accused Durante of hurting her.

“Based on our investigation, it’s a crime of passion,” Col. Albert Lupao, the Davao City police chief, told a press conference on Wednesday.

In light of the allegations, military officials announced Wednesday that Durante had been relieved of his command of the 1001st Brigade, an army unit based in Davao.

“The Philippine Army will not condone any criminal act committed by its personnel,” Army chief Lt. Gen.  Romeo Brawner told reporters.

Durante previously served as commander of the elite Presidential Security Group, the detail guarding Rodrigo Duterte who ended his term as president in June 2022.

Durante earlier had denied involvement in the killing of Plaza, saying the victim had retracted her social media post against him before her death. He said Plaza was his friend and that he was saddened by her demise.

Brig. Gen. Benjamin Silo, the police chief for the Davao region, said the motive behind the murder was extortion.

Silo said the victim had “very sensitive information against Gen. Durante and she proceeded to blackmail the respondent.”

Police said a witness had identified a soldier as the triggerman and another soldier as the driver of the get-away motorcycle. Both men confessed to the crime, surrendered evidence, and named other suspects, police said.

“At that point, we were able to connect the leads and identified the mastermind,” said a report by a special investigation group tasked with looking into the killing. 

Durante could not be immediately reached for comment about the filing of the cases against him and his co-accused.

This story has been updated to include the name of the chief of police for Davao city.


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