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Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

CAAP should start investigation of Cebu Pac accident asap---in interest of riding public and truth. Fr. Joel Tabora too harsh and condemning about it, whereas reelected Rep. Karlo Nograles offered constructive criticisms, like true politician. P-Noy’s presence in Serendra area right after deadly explosion complicated problem for security, but that may be his way of returning Ayalas’ faithful support of Aquinos.


Lance Gokongwei,
Cebu Pacific President & CEO 
Fortunately no one was killed or seriously injured in the skidding of the Cebu Pacific’s new Airbus 230 plane in Davao Airport last Sunday evening, although definitely there must have been terribly tense moments which could have triggered heart attacks because of a justified fear of imminent death.

Angry reactions have been raised against the plane's crew over frightfully delayed reactions---beginning with the pilot who was said to have taken 10 minutes before emerging from the cockpit and explaining to the passengers what happened, and how flight attendants just “froze” instead of moving fast to avert a crisis as smoke filled the cabin.

It was reported that it took all of 25 minutes before the emergency plane doors could open and that the plane’s passengers had to be helped out by the crew of another airline.  

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I have ridden Cebu Pacific many times, but I have never obtained a free ride from it nor received any PR envelop; hence my comments here won’t be construed as payment for favors owed.  At this point I think that we should all wait for the investigation which should commence right away as to what really caused the accident and what really happened inside the plane---in the interest of the public and of truth.

Cebu Pac’s top honcho, Lance Gokongwei, facing this latest crisis in his company, opined to the media that his crew acted quite professionally; at this point, however, with all the adverse publicity about the accident he would have few true believers. But I like the fact that this young executive always seems ready to confront the bar of public opinion in times of crisis---no matter how tough it is, unlike some of our public leaders.

I recall admiring young Gokongwei  when he unflinchingly led the company’s  tough response to a Cebu Pac accident near Samal Island in 2007, and a year later I expressed my sentiments to his mother about her son when I was introduced to her at a cocktail party.

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I think the public should wait for the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) investigation to be completed as we may not know all the facts that actually happened in those desperate smoke-filled moments inside the plane. For instance, did the pilot take many minutes before emerging from the cockpit because he was trying to put out a fire inside his compartment? Did he lose his bearings in the Davao airport that dark rainy night on account of lights on the ground that had conked out, as some reports noted?

I was not surprised at reports that the flight atendants “froze” in panic, as I have always thought this airline’s fetching crew members seem far too young and probably still untrained--- unlike PAL’s stewardesses who are older and doubtless more seasoned.

But all pilots are trained to handle crisis situations and they don’t get a license unless they have the requisite man-hours.  It could be that the Cebu Pac pilot could have been trying to handle a bigger crisis inside the cockpit, such as perhaps preventing actual explosion of the engines. Or when the plane jarred sharply, doors could have jammed.

The public's imagination could really run wild on the accident, which is why CAAP should complete its task asap.

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Fr. Joel Tabora, S.J., President of the Ateneo de Davao University, had issued a very strong statement denouncing the inaction of the pilot and crew about the safety of their passengers, and announcing his school’s boycott of the airline.
Davao Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles
It’s unclear from Fr. Tabora's statement whether he was on board himself or it was one or another from the school. I can understand his sentiment, but I thought it was too harsh, merciless and rather unchristian---in contrast to the statement of Davao Rep. Karlo Alexei Nograles who offered constructive criticisms that virtually articulated the same sentiments but without the fangs, obviously meant to help rather than to destroy.  But then, one could reason that Karlo is a politician.


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Cebu Pac is also being accused in some quarters as being too aggressive in its expansion program (it projects to fly to Russia later this year) and that its crew is overworked.  I imagine there is some truth to this criticism, but this may be the problem of the taipans who are not like you and me.  They have to continue keeping up with the joneses in their exclusive sphere of the world and this is really tough.

But also in fairness, it must be pointed out that Cebu Pac has for years been servicing missionary outposts in our many islands where PAL has refused to venture, and its aggression has forced PAL to drop its rates.

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Standard columnist Jojo Robles raised a good point in his “Lowdown” column today when he pointed out that President Aquino’s act of rushing to the Serendra premises in Global City, Taguig, right after the horrific blast resulted in “endangering the scene crime scene with his and his overabundance of security people’s presence.” 

I agree wholeheartedly with Jojo that P-Noy complicated the problem last Saturday night by rushing there right away, when DILG Secretary Mar Roxas, who had every reason to be there, being the boss of the PNP, was already there coordinating government moves.  It must have been hellish for the security people for P-Noy to show up at a time when no one had any idea as yet whether the super-powerful explosion--- which had sent an entire wall crashing down on an Abenson delivery van, instantly killing three workers inside---was just a solo act or a deadly series of terroristic attacks.

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But I can understand P-Noy’s eagerness to show up asap at Serenda, for it’s a huge development project of the Ayalas who have been staunch supporters of the Aquino family for over three decades. Without the Ayalas by his side, pulling the strings of the Makati Business Club, P-Noy would not have been able to successfully tie up support of the business community despite the horde of issues hounding his administration.  In fact the Ayalas were credited with arranging the Davos World Economic Forum’s side-appearance for the President in Switzerland months back.  

With the powerful explosion remaining a mystery until now, the huge Serendra development project could be in jeopardy as buyers of the still-empty apartments there could be scared to come in---either in fear of terrorism or serious structural flaws and violations in their construction.

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Perhaps it’s time to swallow national pride and call in help from those who were able to solve the much-tougher mystery of the Boston Marathon bombers in just three days---to the cheers of the entire world. 

Recall that until now the earlier blast in the Ayala-owned Glorietta Shopping Complex also in Makati remains unresolved, with the Ayalas plainly disputing police findings of a gas leak in the mall complex.  This predicament of the police/NBI here would never have happened to Scotland Yard or the FBI.

Quite pitiful is the real victim of the blast, 63-year old Angelito San Juan, a senior data architect at Amar Honda Co. in Terrence, California, who flew in to attend a wedding and decided to stay a few more days at the Serendra unit owned by his family friends, perhaps enjoying the country of his birth (which answers why his lease was from May 31 to June 9).  Now he lies confined in St.Luke’s Hospital with serious burns all over his body.

Let’s pray for Mr. San Juan's early recovery.


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