President Rodrigo Roa Duterte extended his condolences Monday to the families of those who perished in the crash of a military plane in Patikul, Sulu, over the weekend, promising assistance to those who died and to the injured.
“I commiserate with you. I am as sorrowful as you. And as Commander-in-Chief, ako ‘yong pinaka — pinakanasasaktan sa buhay na nawala,” President Duterte said in a brief speech during his visit to Zamboanga City where some of the dead soldiers lie.
“I am at a loss of words so that I will end up here, or else I will end up crying also like you.”
The President said the soldiers “died for our country and, for that, I am very grateful”. He promised to extend all help needed by the families of those who died and for those who are still recuperating in the hospitals, adding the soldiers did not die in vain.
The chief executive also promised to raise money for the benefit of the members of the military before he steps down as president.
He mentioned the sale of a portion of Fort Bonifacio that will be used to put up a bank for the soldiers and to pay for the benefits when they retire.
“I hope we finish this before I make my exit na malagyan kayo ng isang GSIS for your mga — lahat na, retirement and everything, and you have your own bank. Ang ano lang nito is I will sell a part of Bonifacio,” he said.
“We are still working at it pero gusto ko lang maiwan, gusto kong maglagay ng malaking pera para sa Armed Forces of the Philippines.”
“Iyan lang ang mabawi ko sa sundalo ko lalo na ‘yong namatay, that they will — their families will be protected, that their families will be comfortable at ‘yong daily living and education of the children will be assured.”
He assured the soldiers that as long as he is the chief executive, he “will add more benefits for your family.”
During the event, President Duterte also posthumously conferred the Order of Lapu-Lapu, rank of Kalasag, on some of the soldiers who died in the plane crash.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) reported that 47 military personnel were killed when a Philippine Air Force C-130 plane crashed in Sulu on Sunday. All 96 passengers have been accounted for, it said.
Aside from the soldiers who died in the mishap, three civilians on the ground were also killed, bringing the overall death toll to 50, the AFP said.
Forty-nine military personnel and five civilians were also injured.
The C-130 aircraft overshot the runway at Jolo airport then crashed in Patikul town. The military plane was carrying troops to help fight insurgents in the island. PND