The helicopter that crashed in Real, Quezon on Monday was en route to fetch Philippine National Police Chief General Dionardo Carlos from his “private time” in Balesin Island after his pre-arranged private transport became unavailable.
In a statement, Carlos expressed regret over the chopper crash, which resulted in the death of a policeman and injury to two others.
At the same time, Interior Secretary Eduardo Año said Tuesday there was no need for Carlos to go on leave amid the investigation on the crash.
“He (Carlos) is still the chief PNP and it’s rightful for him to use the PNP chopper to be able to attend a forthcoming official duty when there are no other available means,” he said in a message to the government-run Philippine News Agency.
Meanwhile, Partido Reporma standard bearer Senator Panfilo Lacson said Carlos should explain his presence on the exclusive resort island.
“Let’s not prejudge CPNP (Chief PNP) Carlos, we don’t know yet on whether he has any official function there. Now if that is personal, he might have a problem. I hope the PNP can clarify that particular issue,” said the former national police chief in an interview.
Another former PNP chief, senatorial candidate Guillermo Eleazar, extended his sympathies to the family of the lone fatality in the mishap.
At the same time, Eleazar said he joined the men and women of the PNP in praying for the full recovery of the two pilots who were injured in the chopper crash.
Año also cleared Carlos of any liability and said the investigation would “focus on the cause of the accident.”
Carlos said he “never wished harm to my personnel nor losses to the organization. Rest assured that a thorough investigation is being undertaken.”
Monday’s chopper crash resulted in the death of an enlisted crew member, Pat. Allen Noel Ona, while the aircraft’s pilots, Lt. Col. Dexter Vitug and Lt. Col. Michael Melloria, were severely injured and are undergoing treatment.
The helicopter took off at 6:17 a.m. in Pasay City and was initially reported missing but was later discovered to have crashed in Real, Quezon two hours later.
Rescue teams from the PNP, Bureau of Fire Protection, and local government unit reached the crash site in Barangay Pandan around 8:05 a.m. where the three police officers were pulled out of the chopper.
The PNP has formed a Special Investigative Task Group to probe the incident.
PNP spokesperson Col. Jean Fajardo said the SITG would look into all possible angles on the crash with the assistance of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines.
Fajardo, however, maintained that Carlos was in Balesin for some “family time” and not for any political reasons.
She added that Carlos was supposed to be picked up by the helicopter for him to be able to attend Monday’s flag-raising rites and go back to work in Camp Crame, Quezon City, as the commercial flight he was about to take was unavailable.
Fajardo said Carlos would shoulder all medical expenses of the injured policemen and would provide financial assistance, especially to the family of the patrolman who died.
The PNP National Headquarters has grounded the entire fleet of H-125 Airbus police helicopters while an investigation is underway in coordination with CAAP, the Department of Transportation, and other concerned agencies.