Robredo asked for Naga flight to attend child’s awarding ritesCebu Daily News
Being good friends, Capt. Jessup Bahinting couldn’t refuse a request by Interior and Local Governments Secretary Jesse Robredo for a special afternoon flight to Naga City last Saturday.
“Capt. Bahinting and Robredo are good friends so he couldn’t say no when his friend asked him to use his private plane to go home,” Aviatours flight school director Capt. Antonio Jureidini said.
Another pilot was to take Robredo to Naga City but since they were friends, Bahinting himself piloted the six-seater Piper Seneca plane owned by his company Aviatours Air, Jureidini added.
The whereabouts of Bahinting, Robredo and a Nepalese flight student remain unaccounted for as of yesterday.
Search and rescue operations were expanded in Masbate City following the arrival of President Benigno Aquino III there yesterday.
Based on information acquired from the Public Affairs Division of the Mactan Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIA), Secretary Robredo was already booked on the Cebu Pacific flight 5J572 that left for Manila from Cebu at 3:50 p.m.
The secretary reportedly wanted to catch the earliest available flight to give a treat to his youngest daughter, Jillian, who had won a bronze medal in an international mathematics contest recently held in Singapore.
Although he was booked on a commercial flight back to Manila at 4 p.m. after a series of activities in Cebu City, Robredo decided to return to Naga earlier by taking a chartered flight.
Robredo’s wife, Maria Leonor or “Leni,” a lawyer confirmed the reason her husband wanted to return home that day.
Leni said her husband had called her up about the plan. She referred the Inquirer to Julian Lavadia Jr., a childhood friend of Jesse’s, for the details.
Lavadia said Leni had told her husband in an earlier phone conversation not to bother coming here because Jillian would have already been given local recognition for her achievement before he could reach Naga.
“If the awarding had been done, he would give her daughter a blowout,” Robredo was quoted as telling his wife.
It was just like him to have wanted to do that, Lavadia said. In spite of his demanding job, Robredo always found time to attend to his children’s personal needs. The Robredos have three daughters—Aika, 23; Patricia, 18; and Jillian, 13.
Lavadia said Robredo would tutor his children in school assignments whenever he had time.
Aside from Robredo and Bahinting, the other passengers were the secretary’s aide Senior Insp. Jun Abrazado and Nepalese student pilot Kshitiz Chand.
The aviation police office said two flight plans were submitted prior to takeoff.
Aviation police office said two plans were submitted prior to actual take off at 3:06 p.m. Saturday from the Aviatours hangar in the General Aviation Area of the Mactan Cebu International Lapu-Lapu City.
The 2:30 p.m. first flight plan filed at 1:45 p.m. was bound for Naga City, Robredo’s hometown in Bicol province.
The Legazpi-bound flight plan was filed 2:35 p.m. with a 3 p.m schedule.
Robredo eventually took the first route but on a later flight.
Capt. Bahinting’s youngest daughter Sarah Lynn told Cebu Daily News that their company is open to investigation.
Despite the absence of a suspension order from Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), Aviatours decided to suspend its flights “out of respect.”
Jureidini said the Piper Seneca plane was bought years ago from the US and has never encountered any problem.
He said Sarah Lynn, Jessup’s daughter, is now in Masbate City with one of their pilots Nelson Napata and two other company staff.
“They took the roro vessel from Kawit (Medellin, Cebu) to Masbate last night,” he said.
The emergency status declared in Masbate due to President Aquino’s presence prevented them from taking one of their private planes.
“With the declaration, only military planes are allowed to fly for Masbate since the president is there,” he said.
Jureidini, human resource manager Michelle Ferol and eight pilots were monitoring the situation at their school’s aviation area.
While they remain positive, Jureidini said flight school personnel and students are preparing for the worst.
“We are prepared in case our team from Masbate calls for retrieval operations. It’s not easy to lose a good boss and a friend,” he said.
Jureidini got teary-eyed as he described Bahinting as a person who never lost his temper from the day they met in 1973. “I have been waiting for people to ask me about him (Bahinting) so that I can tell them how great this person is,” he said.
Bahinting earlier lent his private Cessna plane to transport cobra anti-venom and saved the life of Cebu City zoo keeper Ronaldo Aventurado, Jr.
Flight school utility staff only had good words to describe his boss since 2007.
“He is very religious, he would invite his employees to join Bible studies and prayer meetings,” Jerry Vicente said.
Cebu City Traffic Operations Management Chair Sylvan Jakosalem described Bahinting as an ace pilot.
Jakosalem said Bahinting piloted the plane since Robredo’s trip “was a VIP flight.”
“They usually ask the owner for the top pilot of that airline to fly the plane,” he said.
Jakosalem said Bahinting keeps a number of aircraft in his hangar and that he assumes that all are regularly maintained since Bahinting arranges for executive transportation.
But even with regular maintenance and brand new condition, planes may still conk out.
Jakosalem said the six-seater Piper Seneca plane, built in the 70s, is one of the most widely used aircrafts all over the world.
Bursing Rota, a close family friend, said Capt. Bahinting is a very generous person. The Bahinting family held a prayer vigil inside their home last Friday night.
“We thank all for their love, prayers and continuing prayers for my dad and our family,” said the younger Bahinting.
Her mother Margie Matas-Bahinting, said she is in their home in Talisay City in company of her “support group.”
The Bahinting family refused interviews at their Talisay City home.
Capt. Bahinting’s two children Jemar and Dan are now based in the US.
Aside from being a pilot, Capt. Bahinting is the senior pastor of the Divine Grace Fellowship in Lapu-Lapu City.
Before starting their aviation business, the Bahintings lived in Cagayan de Oro from the early 1980s to 1991 where he worked full-time as a church pastor of the Worldwide Church of God (WCG). /Jessa Chrisna Marie J. Agua and Katreena Bisnar, Correspondents with Reports from BenCyrus G. Ellorin and Inquirer