[PHOTO AT LEFT - Mark Jimenez was a no-show, but a US air force F-16 fighter jet arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport yesterday. NAIA grass cutters are shown pushing the F-16 out of the runway after it made an emergency landing due to problems with its hydraulics system. Photo By RUDY SANTOS]

MANILA, November 23, 2005 (STAR) By Rainier Allan Ronda - A missile-armed United States Air Force F-16 fighter jet heading to Misawa, Japan was forced to make an emergency landing at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) runway after encountering problems with its hydraulics system. The pilot was unharmed.

NAIA operations head Octavio Lina said the jet — which was flying from Singapore to Japan in tandem with another F-16 — requested an emergency landing because of hydraulics problems. The other plane did not experience any difficulties but also landed at NAIA. US Embassy Press Attaché Matthew Lussenhop said the fighters belonged to the 35th Fighter Squadron, 14th Fighter Wing.

The troubled F-16 bearing serial number WW824 and piloted by Capt. Justin Dupuis flew low over NAIA as it taxied for touchdown at the emergency runway at around 11:13 a.m., surprising passengers and people at NAIA Terminal I with the rushing roar of its engine.It even caught the attention of airport reporters who were awaiting the expected arrival of former Manila congressman Mark Jimenez on a Korean Airlines flight from the United States. "They came from Singapore en route to their camp in Misawa, Japan," Lina told local radio station dzBB. "This was the nearest place they could land."

Philippine Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Restituto Padilla said the plane did not sustain any visible damage, and the pilot was unharmed. The fighter jet, hampered by a hydraulic problem that affected the performance of its landing gear, came to a halt several hundred meters after touching down in the middle of NAIA Runway 06. Unable to steer the plane, Dupuis popped his head out of the fighter’s cockpit canopy looking for his requested tow truck.

However, instead of a tow truck, some 30 MIAA personnel assigned to cut the grass at the runway area came to the pilot’s immediate rescue, pushing the F-16 manually about 2,000 feet into the Old Balagbag Terminal hangar of the aviation firm Ages within 30 minutes as Dupuis watched from his perch in the cockpit. Because the plane could not be steered, the grass cutters had to manually turn the wheels of the aircraft and direct it toward the hangar. As a result of the F-16’s emergency landing, two international flights — a Cathay Pacific trip to Hong Kong and a China Airlines flight to Taipei — were delayed from taking off for several minutes. An incoming cargo plane of Nippon Airways was also diverted to the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport at Clark Field in Pampanga.

It was learned that Dupuis had radioed the Manila Air Control Tower of his intention to land in Manila immediately after he detected problems in the jet’s hydraulic system when he was 250 miles west of Manila at an altitude of 25,000 feet. The F-16 was part of a five-plane formation of F16 jet fighters that flew out of the Payalebar US Air Force Base in Singapore and was bound for the US air base in Misawa, Japan, or 400 miles north of Tokyo in Japan’s Aomori prefecture. Dupuis had requested towing assistance immediately upon landing, air controllers said. One of the F-16s, piloted by Capt. Seward Matwick, came out of the formation to escort the crippled fighter while the other three jet fighters proceeded to Clark Field.

It was learned that upon landing, Dupuis and Matwick had expressed their intention to stay near their jet fighters overnight until the needed repairs were undertaken. The pilots requested Ages officials to set up an air-conditioned tent to serve as their accommodations. In an interview with airport reporters, Matwick said the F-16 fighters were not a military mission when the malfunction occurred. "No, we’re not on a mission, we simply landed in Manila because this was nearest to us when we found the trouble," he said. — With Pia Lee-Brago, AP

Mark Jimenez a no-show; prison time extended By Rainier Allan Ronda The Star 11/23/2005

Former Manila congressman Mark Jimenez was not able to make it home from the United States as expected yesterday.

The much-publicized homecoming of Jimenez has been deferred to next month after it was learned that the former Manila lawmaker allegedly committed an infraction while in US federal prison serving his sentence on tax evasion and election-financing offenses. Reports said the release of Jimenez, or Mario Crespo, from the US Bureau of Federal Prisons had been reset to Dec. 13. ABS-CBN North America bureau chief Ging Reyes reported yesterday that Jimenez, who was originally scheduled for release last Nov. 5, would have to wait a few more weeks before being released from the Federal Correctional Institution in Allenwood, Pennsylvania.

The report quoted Philippine Consul Lourdes Legaspi as saying that the US Bureau of Federal Prisons had reset Jimenez’s release to Dec. 13 because of an infraction. Legaspi did not elaborate but the misdemeanor could have been a violation of prison rules. US authorities said Jimenez would be turned over to the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) after his release. They said the ICE would schedule Jimenez’s return to the Philippines after serving the additional sentence. Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay, on the other hand, claimed Jimenez is now out of jail and spending quality time with his family before returning home. "Mark is going to take his own sweet time as to when and where to come home. Probably, his supposed arrival today was his original plan," Pichay said.

Pichay, one of the lawmakers who accompanied Jimenez in his extradition to the US on Dec. 26, 2002, claimed he received the information from the former Manila lawmaker’s son Marcel.

"I believe he (Jimenez) won’t be deported. His son did not say when Mark will come home but I would be informed of their plans," Pichay added. Pichay pointed out the US authorities cannot immediately send Jimenez home to the Philippines "considering that he is an immigrant and has already served his jail term."

Divided attention

Journalists waited for hours for the expected arrival of Jimenez from the US at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) despite reports that the former Manila congressman had not boarded the flight that would supposedly take him home. The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) said a copy of the passenger manifest of Korean Airlines Flight 621 from New York showed no Mark Jimenez or Mario Batacan Crespo onboard.

Still, journalists waited it out hoping for the chance that Jimenez might emerge after the flight landed at NAIA at around 11 a.m. yesterday. Instead, the attention of the media was diverted by the emergency landing of a US air force jet that had lost its electronic and hydraulic controls. Another US fighter jet also landed nearby. The jets, which came from Singapore, landed at the NAIA runway at around 11:10 a.m. They were on their way to Japan when one of the jets developed technical trouble in midair, forcing them to make an emergency landing.

The National Bureau of Investigation also conceded they were at a loss as to the sudden change of Jimenez’s return. The NBI had facilitated the extradition of Jimenez to the US following the request of the US government.

NBI Interpol chief Ricardo Diaz said they immediately got in touch with Kevin Peters of the US Department of Homeland Security-ICE after learning that Jimenez was a no-show at the NAIA yesterday. "He (Peters) tried to call up their office in the US but it was still nighttime (there)," Diaz said. Diaz quoted Peters as saying that there was no change in schedule. "Kami kasi umaasa lang sa US Embassy (We are only relying on the reports from the US Embassy), But I assure that I will look for answers... We will (soon) have an explanation," Diaz added.

The US Embassy in Manila also claimed they had no information on the exact arrival date of Jimenez. US Press Attaché Matthew Lussenhop said the embassy would look into why Jimenez did not arrive yesterday as scheduled despite the US Department of Homeland Security’s notification to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) about his deportation. "We will look into what happened. The embassy will look into the issue," Lussenhop said. Diaz, on the other hand, pointed out Jimenez is already a free man, having served his prison sentence in the US.

He said Jimenez, a former adviser of deposed President Joseph Estrada, would not be arrested when he returns to the country. Jimenez, a former member of the 12th Congress, was extradited to the US on Dec. 26, 2002 on charges of tax evasion and conspiracy to defraud the US and commit election-financing offenses. Jimenez was found to have illegally contributed millions of dollars to the campaign kitty of then President Bill Clinton. A US Federal Court sentenced Jimenez to 27 months of imprisonment and was ordered to pay the US government $1.2 million in damages. Jimenez had accused former justice secretary Hernando Perez of extortion, saying Perez had demanded $2 million from him in exchange for approval of a contract with the Argentine firm IMPSA.

The IMPSA deal was approved just two days after President Arroyo was installed to power in January 2001. The former Manila congressman claimed he gave P8 million to the Lualhati Foundation of Mrs. Arroyo and her husband First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo. Both have denied the allegations. On the possibility of Jimenez reviving the issue of his alleged P8-million contribution to the Lualhati Foundation, Pichay said this was unlikely since the use of the money had already been explained by former airport chief Edgar Manda, who was running the foundation.

As for the bribery case that the former Manila congressman filed against Perez, the Surigao lawmaker asked, "What is there to fear?" — With Jess Diaz, Pia Lee-Brago, Evelyn Macairan

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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