Archive for the ‘Philippine Airforce’ Category

What’s common in C-130 plane crash, Sulpicio Lines’ sinking & the “MOA-ancestral domain” controversy

August 31, 2008

The Philippine Air Force (PAF) symbolic coffins of people presumed dead in a C-130 cargo plane crash bring a message. Barely a week has passed that the 9 military personnel went missing. Many think it’s too soon to dismiss them as dead, much more mourn with a posthumous memorial when no exhaustive search for their bodies have been done.

The flag-draped tribute for the brave soldiers was emotionally-moving. (Photo Credit: Philstar) The same day as the Philippine Navy (PN) announced having found the site of crash, the glum spectacle of honoring those who “perished,” went on. Nobody reported having retrieved a body. No one knows from whom the pieces of human flesh found in the crash site belong to. Only a lonely badge of “Armadong Kusog ng Pilipinas,” ID cards, and an assortment of personal effects stand as evidence of death, convincing high-ranking military officers to “close” the grim case.

Declaring a quick closure on missing persons has become too common in the Philippines. When Abu Sabaya was allegedly swallowed by the sea during a bloody confrontation with the military, a pair of sun-glasses was all that was needed to tell the world, the notorious Abu Sayyaf hostage-killer of Christian missionary Martin Burnham with a hefty cash bounty on his head, was dead. Fabled money was exchanged swiftly as the news rolled in, confusing the public with embarrassing inconsistencies in government statements and media reporting.

Many passengers of the Princess of the Stars were presumed to have passed on almost immediately when the ferry ship was found grounded near Sibuyan Islands. Similarly, the Dona Paz collision with tanker Vector brought fast presumption of deaths, including those not included in the ship manifest.

It seems the military authorities rushed beyond their call of duty by presuming these people were all dead. Military bravery and “efficient” swiftness were perhaps what they wanted to project. But they ignored the medico-legal ramifications of declaring a missing person dead—-something reminiscent of the gaffe behind the bungled memorandum of agreement-ancestral domain (MOA-AD,) tossed to the Supreme Court when Philippine peace negotiators (military men involved) didn’t do enough to ascertain the applicability and legality of giving away territorial concessions to the MILF.

The distribution of cash awards to relatives of unverified dead victims of Sulpicio Lines (Princess of the Stars.) was another thing. Without waiting if the “dead” people involved were truly among the passengers in the boat which sank at the height of Typhoon Frank, there were offers to silence the victims’ relatives with cash. For sometime now, the uproar raised by the mishap had died down quickly as the lawsuits that followed.

Certainly, there are laws governing the declaration of death of a missing person. They have serious practical applications which cover diverse issues such as settling of a decedent’s estate, the awarding of inheritance, indemnity claims, insurance benefits, the exercise of a citizen’s rights to vote, accountability for a crime or contracting marriage.

Let us take contracting marriage as an example. To the best of my knowledge the Philippine Family Code stipulates in Article 41 a 4-year wait before a missing person to be declared dead for the purpose of re-marriage. The waiting time is shortened to two years for a spouse, if the missing person presumably passed on in a sea voyage—- like the sinking of the Sulpicio Lines ferry or in a the falling of an aircraft from the sky like the missing persons of the C-130 plane crash.

At a glance, one can see how often the law is brushed aside. With out following the judicial rules, empty coffins are paraded which seem to perturb the silent public. No one raises any objection— not even the grieving victims’ relatives who took P60,000 (less than $2,000) as “financial” aids for the “death” of their loved ones. =0=

UPDATE: September 2, 2008, a day after the military’s posthumous tribute was held, 7 bodies out of 9 were allegedly recovered. Though not all bodies were complete, waiting for some time was more appropriate so taht the remains of those who perished in C-130 plane crash could be included in the memorial. In keeping with the law, a premature declaraion of death could be avoided.

Dispelling doubts & rushing “closure” in the C-130 plane crash

August 30, 2008

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=

PAF: A lone cargo plane for a thousand brave men

August 27, 2008

The Philippine Airforce (PAF) faces a significant blow in the crashing of a C-130 cargo plane in Davao, Philippines on August 26, 2008. One of only two remaining cargo planes that fly, the craft went down while on a military mission in Southern Philippines, killing its pilot and crew under yet-to-determined circumstances. It raises the possibility of terrorism or sabotage.

The C-130 is essential in ferrying military hardware and men in the country, particularly in war-torn Mindanao where Islamic separatist MILF and Moslem rebels are waging a fight. The plane serves as an over-taxed workhorse of the air for years—- one of only five, three of which are grounded for repairs.

Believed to have died, those on board at the time of the downing of the plane are as follows: Major Manuel Sambrano, the aircraft’s pilot; Captain Adrian de Dios, co-pilot; Flight Technical Sergeant Constantino Lobregas; Staff Sergeant John Arriola; Staff Sergeant Gerry Delioso; Staff Sergeant Felix Pedro Patriarga; Staff Sergeant Patricio Claur Jr; Staff Sergeant Aldrin Ilustrisimo and Staff Sgt. Perronilo Fernandez. GMA TV NeWs (08/27/08)

The PAF, its military dependents, and civilians rely on the C-130 as means of travel in the islands. With thousands of ground airmen and personnel who are battle-ready and willing to defend the country, an acute lack of equipment, like a loss of a plane, is a crashing blow to the military which needs both force and air. It raises anew the need to upgrade the air defense of the country =(Photo Credit: Pikitbulag)=0=