CAAP execs face graft raps
- Perseus Echeminada (The Philippine Star) - September 24, 2012 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - A special investigator of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines has filed graft charges against top CAAP officials for allegedly attempting to cover up reports of irregular processing of pilot licenses and aircraft operations permits that contributed to plane crashes, including the one that killed Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo.

Cesar Lucero, in a complaint filed with the Office of the Ombudsman on Sept. 20, charged former and incumbent CAAP officials of grave misconduct, gross neglect of duty, grave abuse of authority, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, gross incompetence and obstruction of justice.

Among those he named as respondents are CAAP director general William Hotchkiss III; his deputy, Capt. John Cu-Unjieng Andrews; former CAAP chief Ramon Gutierrez; former assistant director general for flight standards inspectorate service, Capt. Elmer Peña; former airworthiness department officer-in-charge Ariel Concepcion; former airworthiness inspector Danilo Pantaleon; airworthiness inspectors Fernando Abalos and Judy Armenio; CAAP consultant and licensing and certification department officer-in-charge Capt. Armando Ricohermoso; Capt. Nomer Lazaro, check pilot; Capt. Romualdo Bachini, the consultant designated principal operations inspector of Aviatour Air, which owned and operated the ill-fated Piper Seneca plane Robredo had ridden in.

Lucero also asked the Ombudsman to immediately issue a preventive suspension order against the incumbent CAAP officials.

He filed the complaint after Hotchkiss imposed a 90-day suspension on Sept. 13 on Lucero for conducting a separate probe of the plane crash that killed Robredo and issuing a media statement on his initial findings.

Hotchkiss also accused Lucero of violating a July 30 memorandum regarding media relations and press releases.

According to Lucero, CAAP officials attempted the coverup when they made public statements that there had been no foul play in Robredo’s death despite an ongoing investigation being conducted by the Department of Transportation and Communications.

He said he submitted documents to prove that the plane that ferried Robredo was used both in training and commercial flights.

Lucero also said this is the third time an Aviatour plane had crashed. In April 2011, a Piper Seneca sold by Aviatour to Capt. Reynaldo Garcia crashed in Baguio. Lucero alleged that Aviatour bought a used engine and assembled the Seneca locally.

He said Aviatour imported used aircraft parts for a Cessna and the Seneca, then assembled them. The Cessna crashed at the Camiguin airport last March while the Seneca crashed with Robredo onboard.

Lucero also alleged that a Beechcraft plane that crashed in Parañaque in December 2011 had expired insurance and its engine’s serial number had been changed.

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