PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa yesterday reported back to work, four days after the helicopter he was riding with seven other police personnel, including three other generals, crashed in Sta. Rosa in Laguna last Thursday.
Gamboa, wearing a sling on his right arm, told reporters he will avoid riding helicopters in the meantime and will forego with his command visits scheduled this week.
In a press briefing, the police chief dismissed speculations that the helicopter was sabotaged.
“I don’t believe so. I am personally convinced (it was not sabotage), I was inside the helicopter. Nobody in his right mind (would do that). What kind of interest he has in mind if he would do that. I strongly believe there is no sabotage,” he added.
Investigators are looking into three angles – the chopper’s airworthiness, pilot error and preparation of the landing site.
Nevertheless, Gamboa his statement that it was a mere accident was his personal opinion.
“The SITG (Special Investigation Task Group) may say I’m pressuring them. That’s my own personal opinion but let’s wait for the results of the SITG investigation,” he said.
Gamboa said he is not setting a deadline on the investigation being conducted by the SITG Bell 429. “I do not want to rush things,” he added.
Asked how he plans to travel for his out-of-town engagements, Gamboa said: “By land, but in due time, I will ride a helicopter again.”
Six helicopters in the PNP inventory, including two Bell 429 helicopters, are grounded pending the completion of the investigation into the incident.
Gamboa has cancelled his scheduled command visit to Ilocos region this week.
“My visit for this week in Region I (will be affected). As suggested by my (Philippine Military Academy) classmates, which I heeded, I should rest first. But the scheduled command visits next week will all push through,” he said.
Aside from Gamboa, also injured in the helicopter crash were PNP director for comptrollership Maj. Gen. Jose Maria Ramos, PNP director for intelligence Maj. Gen. Mariel Magaway, PNP spokesman Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac, Gamboa’s aide Capt. Keventh Gayramara, pilot Roel Zalatar, co-pilot Lt. Col. Rico Macawili, and helicopter crew Senior Master Sergeant Luis Estona.
Banac and Gayramara have been discharged from the hospital.
Zalatar and Macawili are still undergoing test and medical procedures, while Estona underwent surgery last Friday but their condition are “non -life threatening.”
Gamboa said Ramos and Magaway are still in “critical condition” at the hospital. “I invite everyone to join us in fervent prayer for the continuous healing of my classmates Maj. Gen Ramos and Maj. Gen. Magaway who remain under intensive care,” he said.
Meanwhile, Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) president and general manager Rolando Ledesma Macasaet yesterday said the state pension fund is already processing the insurance claim of the PNP for the twin-engine Bell 429 helicopter, which is covered by an insurance policy worth $7 million (about P350 million).
“Our Insurance Group is fast-tracking the insurance claim of the PNP in response to the directive of the President to cut bureaucratic red tape by streamlining procedures and requirements in the delivery of public services,” Macasaet said.
Just hours after the incident, the GSIS Insurance Group immediately dispatched its third-party insurance adjuster, Crawford & Company Philippines, Inc., to investigate the crash site and estimate the total financial damage resulting from the crash.
“We are just waiting for the investigation findings of our third-party adjuster. Once we get their final report, we will release the money to the PNP immediately,” Macasaet said.
Macasaet added that aside from the helicopter, the PNP’s insurance policy with GSIS also covers the hospitalization expenses of any person/s injured in the accident and any property damage/s resulting from the crash. The GSIS policy includes personal accident insurance (PAI) worth $100,000 (P5 million), passenger medical expenses (PME) coverage amounting to $20,000 (P1 million) and third party liability (TPL) insurance.
Republic Act No. 656, otherwise known as the “Property Insurance Act,” requires all government agencies to insure their properties, assets and other insurable risks with the GSIS, “including vessels and aircraft, motor vehicles, machineries, buildings and equipment.”