MANILA (UPDATE) - Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Gen. Dionardo Carlos on Tuesday said the chopper that crashed in Quezon was on a mission to fetch him from Balesin Island where he spent some private time over the weekend.
"I regret that the accident happened and never wish harm to my personnel nor losses to the organization," Carlos said in a statement.
The H125 Airbus helicopter, which flew from Manila, crashed in Real town on Monday morning, killing a police personnel and injuring two others. PNP spokesman Col. Jean Fajardo said that according to one of the pilots, they felt a strong wind hit the chopper, triggering the crash.
An investigating task group, composed of personnel from the PNP and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, has been formed to determine the exact cause of the accident, said Fajardo. The investigation will be thorough, Carlos said for his part.
The police chief said he flew on Sunday afternoon to Balesin, which is part of Quezon's Polillo town, for some private time. Prior to that, he was in Baguio City to attend the PMA Alumni Homecoming on Friday, and then returned to the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City on Saturday afternoon, he said.
He said that from Balesin, he was set to return to Manila on Monday morning via private transport. "However, I was informed that due to unforeseen circumstances, said private transport would only be available in the evening of Monday," he said.
"This prompted me to request for an admin flight to transfer/move me back to Camp Crame Monday morning so I can perform my duties," said Carlos.
"The flight directive was allowed and issued following PNP rules and regulations," he added.
Interior Undersecretary Jonathan Malaya said Carlos is authorized to use a PNP chopper if he needs to attend an official event.
"Yung trip na yun was official business. He was not going anywhere but to his office. Basta official business naman, wala naman yan problema," Malaya said.
(That trip was for official business... If it's for official business, there's no problem with the use of the chopper.)
"Pangalawa (secondly), he is the chief of the Philippine National Police. So, he has the privilege to use the helicopters or any of the assets of the police organization," added the official.
Malaya responded also to a statement issued by the mother of artist Bree Jonson who died last year in La Union while in the company of her boyfriend, Julian Ongpin, son of Roberto Ongpin, the owner of the resort in Balesin.
Sally Jonson said, "The fact that PNP's high official are being invited at Balesin would only mean one thing - that these government officials can be bought by the Ongpins to keep their mouths shut."
The death of Bree remains under investigation by the National Bureau of Investigation, with the latter's forensic service continuing to analyze pieces of evidence they have gathered, even after a claim by the PNP that there was no foul play.
Julian, 29, is part of the probe as he was the last person seen with her before she died.
A separate charge of possession of illegal drugs against Julian, in relation to the 12 grams of cocaine recovered from their room, was junked by a La Union court, citing the police's failure to follow the chain of custody requirements under Section 21 of the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act.
The prosecution had asked the court to reconsider its ruling.
Malaya said that as far as he knows, Carlos and the Ongpins have no relations, and that anyone can go to Balesin Island luxury resort, wether they are invited or paying guests.
"It may be true that the Ongpins own the resort, but it is not a private property per se. It is a membership club, so anyone can buy shares and be a member and then that person has the privilege to invite guests as well," the DILG official said.
"Mabuti sana if the island is an Ongpin playground and only guests of Ongpin can be invited," he added.
After the crash, Carlos was flown out of Balesin using another PNP chopper. At Camp Crame, he was able to visit the injured personnel - the pilot and co-pilot of the ill-fated chopper - at the PNP General Hospital.
The PNP grounded their entire fleet of H125 Airbus Police helicopters pending the result of the probe. The ill-fated chopper is among five of the organization's H125 Airbus helicopters that were operational prior to the crash, while two others are under maintenance, said Fajardo.
Carlos need not take a leave of absence in the middle of the investigation on the crash since he is not part of the inquiry, said Malaya.
In 2020, a Bell 429 chopper carrying then PNP Chief Archie Gamboa crashed in Laguna, injuring six people onboard and killing one cop.
- reports from Wheng Hidalgo, Niko Baua, Jeffrey Hernaez and Job Manahan, ABS-CBN News