Cebu Pacific Air (CEB) has reprimanded one of its pilots who posted on social media claiming that Vice President Leni Robredo requested for priority landing, causing a diversion of flights at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport last month.
The CEB management refused to identify the pilot involved, but it stated he is currently under disciplinary review in accordance with the company rules and standards.
“Since becoming aware of the social media post by one of our pilots in reference to a flight of Vice President Leni Robredo, I confirm that the pilot has made it clear to us that he had no basis for his claim and was purely speculative and careless on his part,” said Capt. Sam Avila, CEB vice president for Flight Operations.
The pilot, in a post that went viral, claimed his flight was diverted to Clark International Airport in Pampanga last month due to Robredo’s alleged request. However, there were no reported flight diversions at the NAIA in April.
The Office of the Vice President (OVP) categorically denied the false story. In a statement, the OVP said “this never happened and is a malicious fabrication.”
“During her entire tenure as Vice President, VP Leni has never asked to be prioritized for taking off or landing when traveling by air. Any claim to the contrary is a lie. It is alarming that almost a week after the elections, the disinformation and fake news being spread on social media against VP Leni continue unabated.”
Avila noted that the pilot’s post “should not have been published,” as Cebu Pacific has strict social media policies covering its employees, something that the pilot himself recognized.
He noted that the pilot who made the claims against Robredo is now under disciplinary review, “in accordance with our Company rules and standards.”
Avila said while the pilot posted his commentary on his own accord, a post he has since removed, “on behalf of Cebu Pacific, and as Head of our Pilot Group, I take command responsibility and apologize unreservedly to the Vice President and the general public for the actions of our pilot.”
He said as professional aviators and free citizens of the country, they are free to express opinions, but they are also expected to carry out their roles and duties with utmost discernment and caution.
“Cebu Pacific has very strict social media policies covering all of its employees and such a post should not have been published. This is recognized by the said pilot himself,” Avila said.
In a statement, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines said it sees the issue as an internal matter that must be discussed by the airline and the concerned pilot.
“CAAP would like to clarify that Air Traffic data, sourced out from the Air Traffic Service are included in the Authority’s confidentiality clauses as this information has its security implications,” it stated.
CAAP spokesperson Eric Apolonio said a memorandum was issued by the agency on Presidential movements in 2016, ensuring smooth and safe operations in all CAAP-managed airports, including NAIA.
“As the country’s national aviation authority, responsible for keeping air traffic organized and safe, CAAP will always uphold safety and security over personal and political angles. CAAP hopes for a peaceful conclusion regarding the matter,” said Apolonio.