Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana clarified Wednesday that Vice President Leni Robredo did not board any military aircraft to go to typhoon-hit Catanduanes and other areas for her relief missions.

def - VP Robredo did not ride military aircraft for typhoon-response — Lorenzana
Department of National Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana
(MANILA BULLETIN FILE PHOTO)

“I requested the Philippine Air Force to confirm through their flight manifest and they reported that there was no instance that Vice President Robredo boarded any military aircraft in going to Catanduanes,” Lorenzana said in a statement.

Prior to this, chief presidential legal counsel Salvador Panelo falsely claimed in his television program over state-run People’s Television (PTV) that Robredo used a C-130 transport plane to go to Catanduanes.

Salvador was reportedly quoting Lorenzana when he made the remark.

But the Defense Chief stated that only relief goods from the Office of the Vice President (OVP) were transported via a jibed mission of the Philippine Air Force from Legazpi City, Albay to Catanduanes last November 3.

The PAF did not also use a C-130 plane but a Huey UH-1H transport plane, Lorenzana added.

Lorenzana said he has already sent his apologies to Robredo “for making a comment based on an erroneous report” submitted to him.

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) said that flight missions for the use of government officials in the performance of their official functions may be allowed.

“That is a military aircraft. Hence, it’s use is for military purposes only and according to priorities. But there can be specific flights that we do outside of purely military purpose if it is related to or in pursuit of (the) AFP mission,” said Major Gen. Edgard Arevalo, AFP spokesperson.

Arevalo said among these cases include airlift of civilian disaster responders and volunteers, and relief goods belonging to civilians but are intended for victims of calamities and disasters. 

“In all cases, however, that use must be with proper request, coordination, and approval, and subject to availability of the aircraft,  priority, weather, and other safety considerations,” he noted.

In coordination with the military, Robredo has been at the forefront of the government’s typhoon-related response after the country was hit by multiple storms earlier this month.

She visited the provinces in Bicol Region which were battered by super typhoon Rolly, and conducted relief missions in areas in Northern Luzon which were devastated by typhoon Ulysses.

She also provided timely updates on her social media accounts of her coordination with the military in responding to requests for rescue of typhoon victims.

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