VILLARUEL'S SON FIRST PILOT TO LAND AFTER TOWER SIEGE

MANILA, NOVEMBER 10,  2003  (STAR) The pilot of Philippine Airlines (PAL) Flight PR103 from Los Angeles, California must have been preparing for his approach to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) when the air traffic controller diverted his flight to the Mactan International Airport in Cebu.

PR103’s pilot Capt. Paul Michael Villaruel was diverted by an air traffic controller in a backup tower so he must not have known that some men had seized the usual air control tower and that police special weapons and tactics (SWAT) teams had already laid siege.

Much less could he have known that his father, former Air Transportation Office (ATO chief Panfilo Villaruel, was one of the men who seized the air traffic control room and was killed by police in the siege.

The flight was scheduled to land at the NAIA at 4 a.m. so it was not until dawn that he must have discovered in Cebu that his father had already been killed after he and a former Navy commando seized the air control room, complaining about government corruption.

That was the tragic twist in the three-hour drama at the NAIA yesterday after the former ATO chief and his aide were killed at the view deck of the NAIA air control tower.

Days before the incident, dwIZ reporter Raul Esperas reported that the slain ATO chief was seeking an audience with Defense Secretary Eduardo Ermita, a former colleague in the military and a fellow protégé of former President Fidel Ramos.

Esperas said he saw Villaruel, among with one of his three daughters, at a party of the Department of National Defense (DND) press corps.

GMA-7 network broadcaster Arnold Clavio was the first to get in touch with Villaruel when he took over the control tower and was interviewing the former ATO chief when he was killed by policemen.

Clavio confirmed that Villaruel told him during the live interview that he had many important matters to discuss with the officials of the Arroyo administration.

Early morning watchers and listeners of GMA’s Channel 7 and dzBB were even able to hear the gunshots that felled Villaruel and Navy Lt. (sg) Richard Gatchillar.

Clavio said he personally knew Villaruel and that he used to help the former ATO chief in promoting the air transport devices that Villaruel invented.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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