Cebu lawmaker said he offered to help in Robredo search but was shooed off Masbate airportBy Leila B. Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Cebu Representative Tomas Osmeña on Wednesday criticized the seeming lack of order in the search and rescue operations for Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo after his plane crashed on Saturday, saying that he hired a private plane to help but was waved off.
Osmeña, who described Robredo as a good friend for 20 years, said there was apparently little interest in the help he offered and that President Benigno Aquino had to personally handle the operations himself.
During the hearing at the House of Representatives on the budget of the Department of National Defense, Osmeña said he rented a twin-engine plane and flew to Masbate City on Sunday after Robredo’s plane crashed. He said he would have left the night before but he could not have landed at Masbate City Airport then.
Given 5 minutes
Osmeña said he finally arrived in Masbate at 6 a.m. on Sunday. He said the control tower allowed him to land, but was told to keep his engine running. He was given five minutes.
He said he talked to the military and the Presidential Security Group (PSG) members who were present and told them that he wanted to participate in the search for his friend.
“I said, ‘assign me a search area.’ They said, ‘just take off,’” he said. “It’s not that they rejected it; They didn’t care,” he later said during an ambush interview with reporters.
At that time, the PSG was preparing for the President’s arrival. Osmeña said he had to take off before Mr. Aquino arrived.
PSG took over
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin explained during the hearing that at that time, the PSG had taken over the area and controlled the air movements. Gazmin also said officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) had not been aware of Osmeña’s arrival.
“Precisely, no one was aware of anything. Nobody knew what was going on,” Osmeña retorted.
He also said he asked for the location of the crash site, but was not given precise information. He decided to fly over the area anyway, and later headed back home. “I flew around. They wouldn’t even tell me where the crash site was,” he said.
“Just think when the President of the Republic has to act like a foreman during the rescue operations. It doesn’t speak very highly of the leadership of the AFP. Anyway, I would just like to bring that to your attention,” he said.