President Rodrigo Duterte has conveyed his condolences to the loved ones of the soldiers who died in a helicopter crash in Bukidnon on Saturday afternoon.
In a televised address on Monday night, Duterte said he wanted to visit the remains of seven men who died while resupplying troops fighting communist rebels in Bukidnon.
“I would’ve wanted to go there. I thought yesterday nasa isang kampo lang. ‘Yon pala, pinadala na mga labi nila sa mga pamilya nila, so, I decided to forego the trip. But just the same, let me express my deepest condolences sa mga asawa ninyo,” Duterte said.
“I share your grief. Alam ko kung gaano na ang sakripisyo ng sundalo para sa bayan. They died as heroes,” he added.
After his address, Duterte offered a one-minute silence for the soldiers who died in the crash, adding that they would be given the Order of Lapu-Lapu, a national order of merit conferred by the Philippine president to government officials and private individuals in recognition of service.
He also promised aid to the families of the fatalities.
“My message to their families is you will not be abandoned. Aalalayan ko kayo,” Duterte said.
The soldiers, four Philippine Air Force crewmen and three passengers assisting the mission — a soldier and two militiamen — died after their UH-1H helicopter crashed near Barangay Bulonay in Impasug-ong, Bukidnon at around 2:30 p.m.
The crew was supposed to deliver goods for the Philippine Army’s 8th Infantry Battalion in Pantaron mountain range, but their aircraft had an “engine trouble.”
They spotted smoke trailing from their aircraft and radioed back that they were executing a turn. Their helicopter suddenly nose-dived towards a row of houses but its pilots steered the helicopter and crashed on an open field instead.
The incident was the fourth Air Force helicopter crash in six months, three of which involved UH-1H and UH-1D models, which serve as the main workhorses of the Air Force.