DAVAO CITY - The special investigation task group (SITG) of the Police Regional Office in Davao Region (PRO-11) identified Wednesday a high-ranking official of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) as the mastermind in the killing of businesswoman Yvonette Plaza.
Brig. Gen. Benjamin Silo Jr., PRO-11 director, said they have sufficient evidence to charge Brig. Gen. Jesus Durante III, the Army's 1001st Infantry Brigade (1001IBde) commander, for murder and obstruction of justice in the killing of Plaza.
Plaza was shot at close range by motorcycle riding in tandem gunmen in front of her rented house at Green Meadow Subdivision in Tugbok District here on Dec. 28, 2022.
Based on the testimonies of two witnesses, Silo said Durante masterminded Plaza's killing because the victim was trying to blackmail the Army official with "sensitive information." He did not elaborate.
"These two extrajudicial confessions have interlocked, so I think we have a very strong case against the mastermind," Silo said in a press briefing here.
Silo was referring to the testimonies of the gunman, Sgt. Delfin Sialsa Jr., and another unnamed witness.
Sialsa and five other soldiers under the 1001Bde have been charged with murder, along with a certain Noel Japitan, who was allegedly instructed to dismantle and change the color of the motorcycle used in Plaza's killing.
Police also charged with murder Col. Michael Licyayo, the deputy brigade commander of 1001IB, who allegedly instructed Sialsa and the other suspects to kill Plaza.
Silo said Licyayo also provided the logistics to carry out the murder.
The other suspects are identified as Staff Sgt. Gilbert Plaza, the alleged team leader, Cpl. Adrian Cachero, the motorcycle driver, Cpl. Rolly Cabal and Cpl. Romart Longakit who allegedly acted as lookouts, Alias Jr., and Alias Master Sergeant who allegedly modified the barrel of the caliber .45 used in the killing.
Crime of passion
Meanwhile, National Bureau of investigation-Davao Region (NBI-11) Director Arcelito Albao, described the killing as "a crime of passion."
"We have witnesses to prove that there is really a relationship between the respondent Durante and the victim (Plaza) of this case," Albao said.
Albao said as part of the SITG, NBI-11 helped in the gathering of evidence - electronic evidence, cellphones, laptops and witnesses.
Relieved from posts
Brig. Gen. Allan Hambala, assistant commander of the 10th Infantry Division (10ID), said Durante and Licyayo have been relieved from their posts and the soldiers involved have been detained inside the 1001Bde headquarters in Davao de Oro.
"This is not in line with our profession, this is not service related, so anybody regardless of his rank or designation, if they commit wrongdoings or any crime we will not tolerate it. We will not condone any of our personnel," Hambala said.
Administrative proceedings are also ongoing against the soldiers involved, he added.
In a statement Wednesday, Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr., commander of the Philippine Army, assured the AFP will not condone any criminal act committed by its personnel.
"The Army ensures the public that this incident is not service related," Brawner said. (PNA)