Police on Wednesday tagged Brigadier General Jesus Durante III as the mastermind in the killing of businesswoman Yvonette Plaza in December 2022, according to a radio report.
A report by GMA Super Radyo Davao's Jaycel Villacorte on Super Radyo dzBB said the Special Investigation Task Force Plaza, which held a press conference in Davao City, also identified six more soldiers as suspects in the killing.
Region XI police chief Police Brigadier General Benjamin Silo was quoted as saying that the killing was a "crime of passion," a term echoed by the chief of the Davao City Police Office.
“Based sa investigation natin siyempre 'yung crime of passion,” said Davao City police chief Police Colonel Alberto Lupaz in Jandi Esteban’s GMA Regional TV One Mindanao report which aired in “24 Oras” on Wednesday.
Durante and eight others are facing murder charges.
A screenshot of CCTV footage showed one of the suspects pointing a gun at the victim while the other was waiting on their getaway motorcycle.
The police identified the motorcycle-riding suspects as Corporal Adrian Cashero and Private First Class Delfin Sialsa, both members of the 1001st Brigade.
They both gave statements to the authorities, with Sialsa pointing to Durante as the "mastermind."
Cashero, for his part, said that 1001st Brigade deputy commander Colonel Michael Licyayo gave them the victim's address.
The authorities also said they found evidence from the victim's laptop and cellphone that Plaza and Durante had a relationship.
“The affidavit of our witness saying that the victim has a very sensitive information against General Durante. And she used it to blackmail the respondent. So I think we have a very strong case against the mastermind,” said Police Regional Office 11 director Brigadier General Benjamin Silo Jr.
“After the creation of the SITG, the NBI helped in gathering some of the evidence like electronic evidence cellphones, laptops. We got some witnesses to prove that there is really a relationship of the respondent Durante and the victim of this case,” said National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) Region 11 director Arcelito Albao.
In Manila, Philippine Army chief Lieutenant General Romeo Brawner Jr. said Durante, who once headed the Presidential Security Group (PCG), has been relieved as commander of the 1001st Brigade amid the ongoing investigation.
"The Philippine Army will not condone any criminal act committed by its personnel," he said.
"As such, Brigadier General 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," Brawner added.
"The Army assures the public that this incident is not service-related."
Durante earlier denied involvement in the killing of Plaza, saying his name was being dragged because of a Facebook post made by Plaza in April 2022.
"Yvonne was a friend. My name is being dragged based on an FB post made last April 2022 wherein I allegedly hurt her. She later retracted the post and issued a statement that I did not in any way harm her," Durante had said.
"I am deeply saddened by her demise and condole with her family and friends. I, myself, demand justice for Yvonne," he added.
Plaza was found bloodied and lifeless outside her residence on December 28, 2022. —Joviland Rita and Richa Noriega/KBK/BM, GMA Integrated News