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Prominent Philippine army general accused of being “mastermind” behind murder of woman seeking to blackmail him

The Philippine military said Wednesday it had sacked a prominent army general after police said he was the “mastermind” behind the murder of a woman who was seeking to blackmail him. Brigadier-General Jesus Durante, the former chief of then-Philippine leader Rodrigo Duterte’s presidential security force, ordered the killing of a woman outside her apartment last month, police said on Wednesday.

Durante was sacked as commander of the 101st Brigade after he was named as a person of interest in Yvonette Chua Plaza’s murder, Philippine army chief Lieutenant-General Romeo Brawner said.

The victim had “very sensitive information against General Durante and she proceeded to blackmail the respondent,” regional police chief Brigadier-General Benjamin Silo told a news conference.

Silo called it a “crime of passion” and authorities said that the gun used to kill Plaza, a businesswoman and model, was a military-issued firearm, Rappler reported.

The army vowed to carry out an investigation.

Police said they had asked state prosecutors to file criminal charges of murder and obstruction of justice against Durante, the deputy commander of the brigade, and a sergeant in the same unit.

They also recommended the filing of murder, theft, and other charges against several other suspects, including four other soldiers in Durante’s military unit, which is based in the southern Philippines.

An eyewitness to the shooting, which occurred outside the victim’s Davao City apartment, identified the gunman and the driver of a motorcycle used by the killer, a police statement said.

The suspects, who have since been arrested, turned over the handgun used in the shooting and gave testimony implicating the top two officials of the army brigade in the murder, the statement added.

Durante is not the only prominent public figure in the country accused of ordering a recent murder. The Philippines’ top prison official, Bureau of Corrections Director General Gerald Bantag, is accused of plotting the killing of a radio journalist.

Bantag was suspended by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. last October amid an investigation into the death of an imprisoned gangster, Jun Villamor, whom a confessed gunman identified as the person who asked him to kill radio commentator Percival Mabasa for 550,000 pesos ($9,650).

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