MANILA — Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana on Wednesday said Vice President Leni Robredo did not use any government plane when she distributed aid to typhoon-hit Catanduanes, adding he already apologized to her on the matter.
The statement of Lorenzana comes after Presidential Chief Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo admitted he had released wrong information about Robredo, which purportedly came from a text message sent to him by Lorenzana.
“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,” said Lorenzana in a statement.
He, however, said there was a jibed mission using an Air Force UH-1H helicopter which carried relief goods from the Vice President's office to Catanduanes from Legazpi City, Albay on Nov. 3, apparently for residents hit by Typhoon Rolly.
“Secretary Lorenzana said he has sent his apologies to the Vice President for making a comment based on an erroneous report submitted to him,” the statement read.
Robredo’s camp on Tuesday said she called Panelo out for peddling "fake news,” and said the accusations hurled against the Vice President regarding her use of a C-130 for aid distribution were lies.
Panelo also said he already aired his apology to Robredo for reacting to the false information.
He also explained that he was only “expressing his opinion” on the text message sent to him by Lorenzana that carried the wrong information.
“It came to that portion where Sec. Lorenza was telling [former BCDA president Arnel] Casanova that she went to Catanduanes riding in an aircraft C-130. That’s why I made an adverse comment on that,” he said during an interview on ANC.
AFP clarifies protocols on using PAF aircraft
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), meanwhile, said while its aircraft are intended for military use, the transportation of relief goods for typhoon and calamity victims is not prohibited.
"Its 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 AFP mission," the AFP said in a tweet.
Military Spokesperson Maj. Gen. Edgard Arevalo also sees nothing wrong if the Vice President borrows military assets for relief missions.
"Wala naman po tayong problema doon. Puwede naman po natin siyang tulungan. Of course, kailangan natin ng coordination na initial na kailangang gawin," Arevalo said in a video.
(There is no problem there. We can help her but it should be done with proper coordination with the AFP.)
Video courtesy of AFP PAO
Airlift of civilian disaster responders and volunteers is also allowed, the military said.
Government officials' flight missions "in pursuit of their office and functions" may also be permitted.
— with a report from Zhander Cayabyab, ABS-CBN News