As the brass band played a funereal tune for the pilots and crew that were presumed dead following the downing of the C-130 cargo plane, the Philippine Air Force (PAF) seemed eager to rush the closure of the tragic crash. Against the collective hope of relatives that their loved ones would be back, the pilots and crew were given posthumous Distinguished Aviation Cross awards and their grieving loved ones, P60,000 each as financial assistance.
“This is now the closure. Otherwise, we are prolonging the agony [of the families]… I cannot afford to give them false hopes. It was my tough decision to declare [that there could be no more survivors] based on what were recovered,” said PAF chief Lt. Gen. Pedrito Cadungog. Inquirer (08/30/08, Quismundo, T.)
But what has really been recovered? Is this the way we treat the missing? On the bases of a few personal effects, bits of human tissue, and location of the ill-fated plane, PAF has almost totally ruled out sabotage and terrorism because “tight” security measures,” were in place before the plane took fight. Was it true?
Soon after the crash, the military immediately suggested mechanical error, and at worst human error. This unfairly ascribed the “error” to the “dead” pilot and crewmen who couldn’t deny or prove it. With no convincing evidence, the military authorities had been asking the public to take their word for it.
It is misleading and downright faulty to rule that the missing persons died. Where are their remains? A few slivers of human flesh whose owner(s) isn’t identified do not automatically mean the person(s) died. It’s possible they could be still there—-waiting, badly injured in a remote island. There are many instances when missing persons return after sometime, no matter how hopeless their situation may be before their disappearance.
For the cause of truth and credibility, authorities must not rush into judgment. Search and rescue have been done for only 4 short days. With no time to wait, PAF authorities do not help themselves nor the missing persons’ family in “closing” the incident so quickly. So long as shortcuts in the investigation do not dispel doubts, the case isn’t closed.
What the military can do is to work on the root of the mysterious crash and gather evidence. DNA testing must be done on human tissues found to clarify from whom they came from. Investigators must collaborate with witnesses to help build a credible conclusion. Whatever impels the military to be too fast on conclusions is something the establishment knows by heart. =0=