PALACE  ILL-FATED  CHOPPER  TOOK  OF  AGAINST  ADVICE

MANILA, APRIL 17, 2009
(MALAYA) BY REGINA BENGCO and JAY CHUA - THE ill-fated Bell 412 presidential helicopter carrying four of President Arroyo’s aides and four others took off from the Loakan airport after the facility had been ordered closed for the day.

The plane was reported missing on April 7. The wreckage was found the following day at the boundary of Ifugao and Benguet.

Loakan airport authorities had advised the chopper against taking off at such a late time but the pilot, Maj. Rolando Sacatani, insisted.

"We will take off. Bahala na kami," Sacatani was quoted by airport officials as saying.

Officials said the helicopter, with tail number 1946, was used to ferry presidential son and Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo in the early afternoon. It landed at the Mansion House, the presidential residence in Baguio City, at 3 p.m. before proceeding to Loakan to pick up the presidential aides.

Rep. Arroyo’s use of the presidential chopper surfaced during initial investigations into the crash.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said, "I will have to check on it."

The helicopter took off from Loakan airport at 4:16 p.m.

Killed in the crash were Press undersecretary for operations and media relations Jose Capadocia, Appointments Secretary Marilou Frostrom, Presidential Management Staff assistant director Perlita Bandayanon, presidential senior military aide Brig. Gen. Carlos Clet, pilot Maj. Rolando Sacatani, co-pilot Capt. Alvin Alegata, Clet’s aide Quarter Master 3rd Class Demilyn Reyno, and crewman Sgt. Roe Gem Perez.

Remonde, during the necrological services for Capadocia Tuesday night, said the Office of the Press Secretary was "still in a state of denial."

Capadocia’s cremated remains were interred at the Loyola Memorial Park in Marikina City yesterday morning.

Remonde, during Tuesday night’s tribute, apologized to the Malacañang Press Corps for not being attentive to the media’s needs, saying the OPS was "still adjusting" to the loss of Capadocia.

"He was really irreplaceable as undersecretary for media relations," Remonde said.

President Arroyo has appointed TV host and actress Cecile Kristen O’Brien, more popularly known as Baby O’Brien, as press assistant secretary.

Remonde administered the oath of office to O’Brien yesterday.

O’Brien is supposed to hold office in Capadocia’s room.

O’Brien was 1961 Miss Pink Camay Girl and co-host of Dance-O-Rama with the late actor Pete Roa. She is the daughter of actress Sigrid von Giese (a.k.a. Paraluman) and mother of actress Rina Reyes.

Remonde has described O’Brien as "a veteran news person (and) will be very easy to work with."

Remonde, during the tribute, said he and other Palace officials kept a positive attitude about finding survivors in the crash, even while bodies were starting to be brought in. He said even when all the eight bodies had been accounted for, the tragedy still did not sink in.

Top presidential security aide, 4 other military men in fatal chopper crash, buried at Libingan (From the Office of the Press Secretary, Malacanang)

LIBINGAN NG MGA BAYANI, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City – The late Brig. Gen. Carlos Clet, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s top security aide, was laid to rest with full military honors here today with the President joining his family, friends and Philippine Military Academy (PMA) classmates in bidding him eternal repose.

Eight Palace aides – five of them militarymen led by Clet – died in a helicopter crash in the forested boundary between Benguet and Ifugao provinces in the Cordilleras on Holy Tuesday (April 7), the same day that the country commemorated the 67th Araw ng Kagitingan.

Earlier on that fateful Holy Tuesday -- before the evening crash of the Bell 412 helicopter that claimed the lives of those on board – Clet had escorted the President to the Day of Valor rites at Mt. Samat in Pilar, Bataan.

A member of PMA Class ’80, Clet was buried at high noon (April 16, Thursday) as a helicopter dropped rose petals onto the General’s Row where the President once again consoled his wife Joselyn and their children, and the late Army general’s friends and PMA classmates who trooped to his burial to pay their last respects.

Maj. Rolando Sacatani and Capt. Alvin Alegata (PMA ’94), who also perished in the Bell 412 crash, were buried earlier today (Thursday) at another section of the Libingan.

After Clet’s burial, President Arroyo proceeded to the two pilots’ resting place and consoled their grieving spouses, Rachelle Sacatani and Arlene Alegata, and other members of the Sacatani and Alegata families.

All the chopper-crash victims from the military, including non-commissioned officers PO3 Demilyn Reyno (Phil. Navy) and Sgt. Roegem Perez (Phil. Army), were buried here at the Libingan.

Deeply saddened by the demise of her most trusted aides, a grieving President Arroyo had earlier honored their remains with an overnight vigil at Malacanang’s Heroes Hall on April 9 (Holy Thursday).

An evening mass was also held for the victims on the 9th-day (“pa-siyam”) of the tragic crash at Malacanang’s Rizal Ceremonial Hall yesterday (April 15, Wednesday).

The Malacanang “Pasiyam” – concelebrated by Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal and three other priests – was attended by the victims’ families, friends and co-workers.

Also in attendance were First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde, former press secretary and now Presidential Legal Counsel Jesus Dureza, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales and other ranking government officials.

The civilian victims of the Holy Tuesday crash were all top aides of the President, namely, Appointments Secretary Marilou Frostrom who was buried in Cebu; Press Undersecretary Jose Capadocia, who was interred at the Loyola Memorial Park in Marikina, and Asst. Director Pearlie Bandayanon who will be buried in Davao.

From Photo page of Office of the Press Secretary: http://www.news.ops.gov.ph/photo.htm


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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