Rarely would one witness such an awesome array of Philippine government air assets assembled at one time — not even during a disaster! Exhibited in a recent set of photos making the social media rounds is what seems to be an armada of no less than five helicopters escorting presidential sister Kris Aquino to a campaign sortie. The photos along with a video were allegedly “leaked” and uploaded onto Facebook.
Various Facebook users who have since shared the photos and video allege that these were taken last Tuesday in Dalaguete, Cebu. One user who studied the images closely observed that these choppers — “three Bell 412s and a UH 60 Blackhawk” — are superior “twin engine versions of the single engine UH 1H now deployed to the frontlines”. He also stated that two helicopters would normally have been enough to transport a VIP to a site such as Dalaguete but that Malacanang “wanted two ‘decoys’ in addition to the two ‘primaries’.”
These lend credence to what many other people observe — that the massive scale of the set of equipment deployed to transport Kris Aquino represents an astounding mis-allocation of scarce Philippine government resources for an end that does not serve the interests of the Filipino public.
Former North Catabato Governor MannyPiñol also shared the photos on his Facebook profile and wrote:
Today, I saw four photos posted in the freedom wall by a Facebook user which showed Presidential sister and actress Kris Aquino landing in Dalaguete, Cebu to join a Liberal Party campaign using not one, but five government helicopters.Immediately, my blood boiled because two weeks earlier, a forest fire broke out in Mt. Apo destroying virgin forests with centuries-old red cedar trees.The government sent one helicopter to drop water on the firezone to no avail.
The Bell UH-1H “Huey” helicopters which are the workhorses of Philippine Air Force support for counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism as well as disaster response operations of the Armed Forces of the Philippines are 1970s-vintage helicopters of a family of Hueys widely used during the Vietnam War. These can transport up to 13 troops and have been used extensively for rapid deployment and medical evacuation (medevac) sorties to combat zones and disaster areas.
The Bell 412 “Griffin” series of helicopters used by Kris Aquino for her campaign trip are high-performance choppers delivered to the Philippine military in 2015as part of the modernisation programme of the Department of National Defense (DND). Some of these were configured for VIP transport and deployed as part of the Presidential Airlift Wing while others were configured for combat utility.
While the need for decent VIP transport for local and foreign dignitaries is understandable, this unnecessary extravagance — specially surrounding a trip of dubious public benefit — only further degrades public confidence over the way their taxes are spent. Kris Aquino, for one, has been relatively mum about politics over the last several months since campaign period started, until recently. It is likely that the poor showing of the Liberal Party (LP) bet for the presidency, Mar Roxas and his sidekick Leni Robredo, has prompted the party machine to switch into high gear for the homestretch.
Perhaps, when push comes to shove and all the cards are on the table, hiyatakes a backseat to desperation. Kris Aquino, it seems, is the ace the LP had reserved specifically for such desperate times. Fortunately for the LP it also has a flight of shiny high-performance choppers to play that card. LP wins, Filipinos lose.