Cebu Pacific says viral post bashing Robredo 'purely speculative' but will be addressed 'internally'

Franco Luna - Philstar.com
Cebu Pacific says viral post bashing Robredo 'purely speculative' but will be addressed 'internally'
This undated photo shows a Cebu Pacific carrier.
STAR / File

MANILA, Philippines (Updated 5:20 p.m.)   Without divulging any details, budget carrier Cebu Pacific on Tuesday refuted the now-viral post by a pilot bashing Vice President Leni Robredo but said it would resolve the matter internally.     

To recall, the pilot in his post alleged that Vice President Leni Robredo had requested for her flight a month ago to be given priority landing at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport which caused flight diversions. The post has since been taken down. 

In a statement issued Tuesday morning, Captain Sam Avila, Cebu Pacific VP for Flight Operations apologized to the public as he refuted the claims made in the post, saying the pilot himself admitted these were baseless. 

"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," he wrote. 

"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."

Sought for comment, CAAP spokesperson Eric Apolonio told Philstar.com in a phone call that priority landings have always been a common practice given to heads of state, but President Rodrigo Duterte suspended this privilege in 2016. 

"They can stop any flights if they want to. For Vice President and other heads of states, they also have priority, but that is upon request of the air operator," he said, adding that while priority landings were no longer protocol, heads of state were still given "priority." 

"As far as what the pilot said in his social media post, we cannot confirm nor deny anything because we will have to check if there was air traffic during that time," he said.

Asked about the lack of recorded flight diversions online, Apolonio said: "That's probably just semantics in my opinion that it was diverted. Actually, the pilot should know that if they requested priority landing they will really be given."

"But the information should be in advance; it doesn't work that way if you're already in the air and you request a priority landing," he added in Filipino. "It's really between the pilot and the airline. They should investigate it first. As of this moment, we're not involved in the issue."

FROM INTERAKSYON: Fact check: Cebu Pacific pilot’s viral claim vs Leni Robredo

In a tweet, Senate President Tito Sotto pointed out that the “pilot does not know there are three persons in [government] that are given landing and take off priority in all PH airports as CAAP knows," namely the president, vice president, and Senate president. 

A fact check by Interaksyon found that no flight diversions have been recorded at Manila’s airport for both Singapore Airlines flights and Qatar Airways to Manila throughout April.

Avila in his statement Tuesday also added that the pilot in question is currently under disciplinary review. Apolonio said the CAAP would stay hands-off on the disciplinary proceedings involving the pilot. 

In an earlier statement, Cebu Pacific said that while it "respects freedom of speech and expression and does not prevent its employees from having or expressing their own political beliefs," it is also governed by the Data Privacy Act of 2012 and our Company’s Code of Discipline. 

"Sensitive company information and operational details must not be disclosed publicly – even when factual and more so, if erroneous to prevent the spread of disinformation," Cebu Pacific wrote in its statement. 

"We also have a robust Social  Media Policy which has clear guidelines on how our employees should behave on social media because they are stewards of our brand and everything that we value as a company."

CAAP: It's an internal matter

In a statement sent to reporters later Tuesday afternoon, the CAAP also distanced from the incident and said it "sees the issue as an internal matter that must be discussed by the airline and concerned pilot."

It also clarified that Air Traffic data, sourced out from the Air Traffic Service "are included in the Authority's confidentiality clauses as this information have (sic.) its security implications."

It did not provide any details on the incident and was still unable to confirm if the incident happened, instead claiming that it "hopes for a peaceful conclusion regarding the matter." 

The CAAP also furnished to media a copy of the memorandum dated July 28, 2016 operationalizing President Duterte's policy "that Presidential plane shall queue in the same manner as regular flights."

"The CAAP, pursuant to the Presidential directive hereby dispenses and shall no longer implement the observance of the quasi-emergency during "take-offs and landings of Kalayaan Flight," the memo reads.

Any aircraft that carries the president automatically adopts the callsign "Kalayaan One." 

Will the CAAP still be able to investigate the incident on its own? "It's been a while. Imagine all the records of that, we'll have to back track all of it just to prove whether it happened or not during that time as claimed by the pilot," Apolonio said. "It's subject for inquiry and we're [still] checking to see if it's true."




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