Rights group urge prosecution of Durante, soldiers involved in murder of businesswoman and probe of other possible violations

Human rights alliance Karapatan said that Philippine Army 1001st Brigade commander Gen. Jesus Durante III and soldiers under hisacimmediately prosecuted under civilian courts, as the group urged for an independent investigation on other possible violations of the said men.

On January 25, 2023, the special investigation task group of the Philippine National Police office in Davao region identified Durante, also former Presidential Security Group commander during the term of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte, as the mastermind in the killing of Plaza.

“Gen. Durante and these soldiers purportedly under the 1001st Brigade should be charged under civilian courts, instead of facing court martial proceedings, and jailed in regular detention facilities, not placed in the custody of their fellow military. The killing of Chua is gruesome crime, a possible expression of how machismo in the military is in full play and how powerful men in uniform commit murders with impunity,” said Karapatan Secretary General Cristina Palabay.

Karapatan said that Durante’s unit, the 1001st Brigade of the Philippine Army, had been documented to have been also involved in the killing of Lumad school volunteer teachers Chad Errol Booc and Gelejurain “Jurain” Ngujo II, community health worker Elgyn Balonga, and their two accompanying drivers in New Bataan, Davao de Oro, as well as in the killing of 70-year old New People’s Army commander Menandro Villanueva in Mabini, Davao de Oro.

“We received reports that Villanueva was captured on December 25, 2021 in Davao de Oro by elements of the 1001st Bde,” said Palabay. “Durante, however, announced that Villanueva died in an alleged armed encounter 12 days after his arrest,” she said.

“International humanitarian law, which governs armed conflicts, prohibits attacks on non-combatants like Booc and killing or inflicting harm on captured or wounded combatants (hors de combat) like Villanueva,” said Palabay. “Ironically, despite the fact that Philippines has signed and ratified more treaties on IHL than any other country in Southeast Asia and in spite of having ratified a law, Republic Act No. 9851, that punishes violators of IHL, there are constant reports of IHL violations by the AFP, such as the bombings of communities, the killings of civilians on the pretext that they are armed combatants, and the murders of hors de combat like Agaton Topacio and Eugenia Magpantay, Ericson Acosta and Joseph Jimenez, Julius Giron, Alvin Luque, and Jorge Madlos, to name a few,” decried Palabay.

“State authorities have also been treating Durante with kid gloves, allowing him to roam freely within an AFP camp instead of locking him up in a police detention facility like others suspected of similar crimes,” she added.

“With the involvement of 1001st Brigade in Chua’s killing, it is imperative that independent investigations into other cases where Durante and his men were involved should be conducted,” said Palabay.