By Priam Nepomuceno

Philippine Army commander Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. (Photo courtesy of Bea Bernardo, PTV)

MANILA – Philippine Army (PA) commander Lt. Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. on Wednesday said copies of the charges have already been served to the two ranking officials implicated in the murder of businesswoman and model Yvonette Plaza in Davao City last Dec. 28.

“The pre-trial investigation is still ongoing and we (have) already (given) a copy of the charges to both (Brig.) Gen. (Jesus) Durante (III) (formerly of the 1001st Infantry Brigade) and Col. (Michael) Licyayo and they have given their counter-affidavits already,” Brawner said in an interview with reporters.

“So our Provost Marshal and our Judge Advocate in the PA are (now) studying the affidavits of these two respondents,” he added.

The two are charged in the military court for violating Articles of War 96 and 97. Article 96 is known as “Conduct Unbecoming an Officer and a Gentleman” while Article 97 refers to “Conduct Prejudicial to Good Order and Military Discipline”.

Conviction under Article of War 96 will result in the dismissal of the guilty party from military service. Those found guilty of violating Article of War 97 shall be tried by court martial and punished at the discretion of the court.

He also said it is possible that other charges could still be filed against the suspect officers and enlisted personnel involved.

Enlisted personnel implicated in the case were identified as Staff Sgt. Gilbert Plaza, Corporals Adrian Cachero, Rolly Cabal and Romart Longakit. Also tagged were a certain “Alias Jr.” and “Alias Master Sergeant”.

“Basically these are the Articles of War 96 and 97 but there might be other charges also not just against these two officers but also against the enlisted personnel, so we are still in the phase where (we) are conducting the initial investigation or pre-trial investigation,” the PA chief added.

Boosting mental health programs

Meanwhile, Brawner said he wants an assessment of the mental health programs being conducted by the PA following the Feb. 11 shooting incident at the 4th Infantry Division headquarters in Cagayan De Oro City which resulted in the deaths of five soldiers, including the alleged perpetrator.

“That was a very sad incident but I ordered an honest-to-goodness assessment of our mental health programs, we already have mental health programs in the PA but my question is are these being implemented properly by our units,” he added.

One thing the PA chief wants to check is the recruitment process to determine whether there are gaps.

“So one thing that we are looking into also is on the proper recruitment procedures for our new recruits, we have to make sure that all of them will pass the neuro-psychiatric examination but we all know that even if they pass, the soldiers pass the neuro-psychiatric exam sometimes, they experience trauma and they might go through a lot of stress,” he added.

Brawner said the PA is now working on programs that would help soldiers “de-stress” themselves and cope with the emotional problems that they are encountering. (PNA)