NOYNOY TO MAKE ANNOUNCEMENT ON DILG POST SOON — PALACE
The dimmed prospect of recovering Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo alive became evident three days after a light plane carrying Robredo crashed off the coast of Masbate as President Aquino’s spokesman Edwin Lacierda said an announcement likely touching on a probable caretaker official at the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) would be announced soon.
Lacierda did not categorically mention a replacement for the DILG Secretary who remains missing after three days of massive search and rescue operation in an area off Masbate Coast where his plane was believed to have crashed.
He, however, noted that the President will be “making further announcements concerning the DILG at the proper time.” Lacierda said normal operations at the DILG continue amid the ongoing search and rescue operations for Robredo and the two pilots of the ill-fated Piper Seneca plane.
“We advise the public that the priority of the authorities at this time is the ongoing search and rescue efforts for Secretary Jesse Robredo and his companions. We assure the public that the normal operations of the DILG and its attached agencies continue, and are unhampered by the ongoing rescue effort,” added Lacierda.
As this developed, President Aquino left Masbate coast and went to Naga City where he met Robredo’s wife and three daughters. From Naga City, the President flew back to Manila in anticipation of rites commemorating the assassination of his father, the late former Sen. Ninoy Aquino.
Before he left Masbate, Aquino directed Transportation and Communications Secretary Manuel Roxas II, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, Budget Secretary Butch Abad and Liberal Party (LP) secretary general Cavite Rep. Emil Abaya to stay and supervise the search and rescue operations.
Aquino has been in Masbate since Sunday evening and stayed there overnight.
The military also deployed additional divers in Masbate, bringing to almost 400 troops who are involved in the massive search and rescue operations for Robredo and the two aircraft pilots.
Col. Felix Castro, commander of the Army’s 903rd Brigade and operations chief of the newly-formed Task Force Kalihim, said that scuba divers from the Army’s elite Special Forces arrived in Masbate
“We have narrowed down (the search), we are looking at the area where a paper from the aircraft was recovered. So, we are focused on that specific area,” said Castro.
“We are (still) in search and rescue, there is no change…because there is no clear proof,” added Castro.
According to Castro, military and volunteer divers are taking turns in diving into the area.
The 29-man SF contingent, led by Capt. Jerry Jaucian, is composed of 13 combat divers highly-skilled in deep-sea diving and 16 support personnel.
“We have almost 400 personnel directly involved (in the search and rescue operations) exclusive of the support personnel on the ground,” said Castro.
Aside from the SF scuba divers, two Navy Seal teams, which are capable of trimix (diving using the combination of oxygen, nitrogen and helium), are also involved in the massive search and rescue operations for Robredo and pilots Capt. Jessup Bahinting and student-pilot Nepalese Kshitiz Chand.
Military assets involved in the operations are five ships, two Islander planes and a helicopter from the Navy, and three Sokols and two Hueys from the Air Force.
Robredo’s aide Jun Abrasado was recovered injured along the vicinities of the crash site between Ticao Island and Baybay Point in Masbate Saturday.
Aquino initiated the creation of Task Force Kalihim at the command center in the Lasala Hotel in Masbate City for a coordinated search and rescue efforts to locate Robredo.
Aquino also ordered the Task Force officials to tap the help of the barangay officials in the coastal villages surrounding the crash site and the Ticao island in the search and rescue efforts.
Col. Ogie Gaite, operations officer of Task Force Kalihim, said that aside from the two sonar gadgets already submerged under the crash site, a robotic offshore vehicle (ROV) was also borrowed from the US Navy and is expected to arrive in Masbate anytime Monday afternoon to augment the on going massive and expanded search and rescue activities.
Military helicopters expanded the areas they were surveying while divers scoured the seas near the central island of Masbate.
So far parts of the aircraft, including a wing, have been found, but the fuselage remains missing.
Roxas, who is also monitoring the search, conceded, “there has been no positive news”.
“We don’t want to give the wrong impression. We are still on a search-and-rescue (mission),” he told reporters in Masbate.
Aquino later left the island to meet Robredo’s wife in Naga City, south of Manila, but Roxas asked the public not to speculate on what that meant, adding they still had no new developments in the search.
Helicopters are now searching a wide area of sea and surrounding islands while special equipment was deployed to allow divers to reach a depth of 300 feet , where the fuselage might lie, Roxas said.
“We are hoping we might spot something on an isolated coast somewhere,” he added.
The US government has offered to send a special “remote operating vehicle” to reach places too deep for divers while three foreign volunteers trained in deep diving are also assisting, Roxas said.
Asked when the government would give up its search, Roxas replied: “It will happen when it happens.”
In Manila, Aquino’s spokesman Edwin Lacierda stressed that the government was still functioning despite the tragedy, stressing that Aquino had the time to go to Masbate because Monday was a public holiday.
Robredo is a key leader in the government’s reformist programme and as interior secretary is in control of the country’s 143,000-strong national police force, which has long been dogged by accusations of corruption and abuse.
With the rescue operations for Robredo entering its fourth day today, lawmakers from both the administration and opposition camp crossed partylines as they continued to hope against hope, praying that the Cabinet Secretary may still turn out to be alive.
In a telephone interview, Suarez said the entire minority bloc in the House of Representatives is praying that Robredo could still be found alive and returned safely to his family.
“”I and the rest of the minority congressmen are praying that Secretary Robredo could still be found alive. We’re still not losing hope,” said Suarez.
Former President, now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal – Arroyo, also issued a statement thourh her spokesman, Elena Bautista-Horn.
“The former President is praying for the safety of Secretary Robredo and joins his immediate family in prayers,” said Horn. “She has high hopes that the good Secretary will eventually be found, out of harm’s way. She is enjoining the nation as well to help by praying and to do whatever they can to help in the search and rescue operations now on-going.”
“Let us have faith that we can come across this tragic event and that Sec. Jesse will be blessed to survive,” she added.
Davao City Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles called on the people not to lose hope and instead continue praying for the the Interior and Local Government Secretary.
“Secretary Robredo is the most righteous member of President Aquino’s cabinet. It will be a great loss to Aquino government” .
This is according to Lingayen Archbishop Emeritus Oscar Cruz whom he considers as the most respectable Cabinet member.
Bishop Cruz even said he knew him very well as he was supporter of his crusade against jueteng.
Cruz however expressed hope that through the help exerted to find him and miracles from god they will still find the secretary alive.
The combined operatives of the search and rescue teams have been conducting its operations for more than 72 hours.
In his latest report, Masbate Mayor Socrates Tuason said there has been no sign of the wreckage and the missing cabinet members—and pilot Jessup Bahinting and Nepalise co-pilot Kshitiz Chand.
“Even the exact place where the flight manifest was recovered”, Tuason lamented. The manifesto has the names of Robredo, Abrasado, Bahinting and Chand that was recovered in waters 750 meters off the shore.
Robredo’s security aide, Chief Inspector Jun Abrasado survived the crash when he managed swim and was rescued by fishermen. He sustained minor injuries. After minor medications, he joined the search and rescue operations.
The police, military, and other concerned agencies including the local search and rescue teams in Masbate and American divers have created “Task Force Kalihim” to look for Robredo.
Robredo’s family, relatives and supporters are keeping their hopes and faith that the Interior Secretary will be rescued alive.
On Monday, Robredo’s eldest daughter, Jessica Mae “Aika”, faced the media and thank the media and the public for their supports of their father.
Aika is still hoping that her father was just somewhere and safe but she admitted that she is also “realistic” noting that her father has been missing for almost three days now.
Earlier, sonars detected a “disturbance” on the sea floor indicating a possible trace of the missing plane.
“Divers being deployed to investigate. Choppers scouring coast off Ticao Island and PAF (Philippine Air Force) choppers doing Masbate south, southeast coast,” Roxas tweeted.
He said that aside from the flight plan, the only trace of the plane recovered so far was its right wing. Pat C. Santos and Charlie V. Manalo