As families cling to slim hopes: Arroyo, PAF give cash assistance
- Jose P. Sollano () - August 28, 2008 - 12:00am

Despite the pall of gloom that shrouds the Mactan Benito Ebuen Air Base in Lapu-Lapu City, family members of the crew of the ill-fated C-130 cargo plane that crashed the other night in Davao, hold on to very slim hopes that their loved ones are still alive.

Support from other family members, friends, the Philippine Air Force and even the presidential palace are also in place.

Lt. Gen. Pedrito Cadungog, commanding general of the PAF, met with the kin of the pilots and crew of the plane yesterday morning.  That cargo plane was based in Mactan under the 222nd Squadron of the 220th Airlift Wing.

Cadungog told relatives that aside from sharing their grief, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is giving the family of each crew member P250,000.

This will be on top of the P200,000 that the PAF would be giving to each family.

Cadungog said that the families are supposed to only get P100,000 each from the PAF, but he will double the amount.  On top of this, the families will also receive six months pay of each of the crew aside from the other benefits mandated by law.

As this developed, the government has announced that it is speeding up the acquisition of more aircraft considering that only one C-130 plane, the workhorse of the PAF, remains operational.

Gloomy Future

While there may be benefits that are due them, the families of the crew are wary about their future.

One of the matters raised during the meeting with the Air Force chief, who also hails from Cebu, is their staff in the Airmen’s Village inside the base.

Rules state that once the family member leaves the service, he will have to give up the government-provided residence.

Cadungog said that he will look into this matter and also how the PAF can help provide scholarships for the children.

He also assured them that all efforts are being exhausted to find the bodies despite the fact that some relatives remain hopeful that their kin, who were in the plane could still be alive.

Reports from television networks show that some body parts have been recovered from the area where the plane is believed to be submerged after the crash.

Also recovered were parts of the aircraft, personal effects and documents.

Martin Languido, father-in-law of Staff Sergeant Felix Pedro Patriarca, told The Freeman that while he is hoping the latter is still alive, his main worry is the future of his grandchildren.

Languido was left to tend the residence of Patriarca at the Airmen’s Village while the airman’s wife, Carmencita, attended the mass and meeting with Cadungog.

“Ang ako lang gayud nga nagul-an karon, mao ang kaugmaon sa akong upat ka mga apo nga gagmay pa kaayo,” (I am very sad about my grandchildren since they are still very small) said Languido.

Retired Air Force 2nd Lt. Marianito Lobrigas, brother of Technical Seargent Enrique Constantino Lobrigas, said they are still waiting for the results of the search and rescue operations.

Three members of their family joined the PAF.

Marianito said that one of the main concerns of his brother is where his family would go once he retires from the service.

Melinda San Miguel, mother-in-law of Staff Sergeant Petronilo Fernandez, has echoed the same concern on the future of her two grandchildren.

She however hopes that despite the fact that an identification card owned by Fernandez has been found, the soldier is still alive.

Mostly From Cebu

Six of the nine people on board the C-130 plane that crashed were from Cebu.

Armed Forces of the Philippines-Central Command spokesperson Major Christopher Tampus said while the nine crewmen were all based at the Mactan Benito Ebuen Air Base in Lapu-Lapu City, only six were Cebuanos.

The plane’s pilot was Maj. Manuel Zambrano, Jr. a decorated officer of the PAF and was in fact the recipient of the Field Grade Officer of the year award during the recent PAF anniversary celebration.  Zambrano had logged over 4,000 flying hours.

The co-pilot, Capt. Adrian de Dios, of class 1999 of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA), had logged over 1,000 flying hours.

The crew members were identified as TSgt. Lobrigas, SSgt. John Arriola, SSgt. Patriarca, SSgt. Gary Diñoso, SSgt. Patricio Claur, Jr, SSgt. Aldrin Ilustrisimo, and SSgt. Fernandez.

Tampus said that the Centcom has also sent doctors and psychologists to assist the family members.

Meanwhile, Police Regional Office-7 director, Chief Supt. Ronald Roderos, suggested that the Centcom write the Regional Disaster Coordinating Council, which he chairs, to request the services of the Interpol for a DNA test to help identify the bodies.

Acquisition

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said the Department of National  Defense (DND) had accelerated talks with the US government on the acquisition of new C-130 planes.

“They (DND) are making contact with our partners in he US (government) under the (1951) Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) to acquire air assets and the US would understand this. I’m sure both sides are making moves already,” Ermita said.

He said the said aircraft are expensive “but the Americans know that we urgently need them so we need a special arrangement so that we can immediately acquire C-130s.”

Ermita pointed out the aircraft is used not only to ferry troops but to also to transport of relief goods, humanitarian workers and other aid during times of calamities.

Last Passengers

Army Maj. Ferdinand dela Cruz still could not believe the crash of C-130 plane that safely brought him and 70 other soldiers to Davao City last Monday.

“Right now, I am still not in my elements. I still couldn’t believe it.

Our flight was so smooth and the pilots and the crew were in a jolly mood,” Dela Cruz told The STAR.

Dela Cruz, who is a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class 1992, is an officer of the Army K-9 unit that handles the K-9 tracker dogs.

Dela Cruz and two of his men boarded Monday afternoon the ill-fated plane at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City. He said they took the C-130 to ferry their cargo of two K-9 tracker dogs and 20 bags of dog food.

From Villamor Air Base, Dela Cruz said, they went to Nueva Ecija to pick up troops from Fort Magsaysay then proceeded on a smooth flight to Davao City.

Dela Cruz noted said pilot Zambrano and his co-pilot were in a jolly mood throughout the flight, as they seemed to be laughing and cracking jokes with the flight navigator who was also in the cockpit.

“The mood was very light and they seemed to be happy. They were jolly,” Dela Cruz said. with Niña Chrismae Sumacot and Philippine Star News Service/NLQ

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