By: Emme Rose Santiagudo
OFFICIALS of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) in Western Visayas were “no shows” in the legislative inquiry conducted by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) of Guimaras on Aug 14, 2019 to shed light on the Iloilo Strait tragedy that claimed 31 lives last Aug 3.
Survivors of three ill-fated pump boats – Motor Bancas Chi-Chi, Keziah, and Jenny Vince – pointed out lapses committed by the PCG, especially during the rescue operations hours after the triple capsizing incidents.
Guimaras Vice Governor John Edward Gando confirmed in a phone interview on Wednesday that only the survivors of the tragedy, pump boat association officers, and other key provincial officials attended the legislative inquiry in aid of legislation.
Gando expressed his frustration, particularly on the PCG which failed to attend the inquiry without any prior notice.
“Ang Marina, kahapon we were informed nga nag-abiso sila nga indi sila ka-attend kay may inquiry man kuno dira sa Iloilo City. Ang PCG wala gid ya abiso, in fact nag-exert pa effort kaina nga i-contact pero wala sing may nagsabat,” he said.
According to Gando, they invited Commodore Perlita Cinco, PCG-Iloilo station commander; and Marina Regional Director for Western Visayas Rizal Victoria to clarify policies that were employed during the incident.
“Gin-invite naton sila because at that time sila ang na-assign but we leave it to the PCG kun sin-o tani ila mapadala, kun mapadala sila ila representante. Wala man problema kay may mga questions on policy nga gusto klaruhon namon kag sang mga survivors,” he lamented.
Supposedly, Gando said PCG’s answers will guide the provincial government in making recommendations and measures to prevent similar incidents from happening again.
“Gin-forfeit sang PCG ang ila oportunidad nga maka eksplikar kay hindi naman namon pwede pabalikon ang mga survivors. This is the only legislative inquiry nga ginpatigayon namon kay daw puno naman kami kagina sang detalye,” he added.
Meanwhile, based on the testimonies of the survivors, Gando said that it is clear that there were lapses on the part of the PCG.
“Ang ila testimonya consistent, daw nagwa nga nangin inutil gid ang PCG and ang panawagan kagina hustisya ilabi na gid atong si Maam Grandeza,” he said.
Gando was referring to Ma. Nieves Grandeza, who lost her fiancée, Romeo Baguio Jr. and their three-year-old son, Jay Arvien Baguio, when MB Jenny Vince capsized.
Seven members of the Baguio and Janson families also died in the incident.
Meanwhile, Gando added that once they convene their regular session next week, they will decide on filing a resolution to seek help from the Office of the Ombudsman for the possible filing of administrative cases against officials.
“They can run but they definitely cannot hide. Basi makit-anay man kami gihapon sa congressional inquiry or at the Ombudsman,” he said.
‘WE WERE NOT INVITED’
On the other hand, PCG Region 6 commander Commodore Allan Victor Dela Vega, explained that they failed to attend the legislative inquiry of the SP of Guimaras because they did not receive any invitation from Gando.
“First and foremost, walang invitation from Vice Governor Gando na nareceive ako. We were not invited. Kung sakaling nainvite kami, I will send a representative in case or I will attend it,” he said.
But at the same time, Dela Vega said that he was in a similar inquiry in aid of legislation conducted by the Sangguniang Panlungsod of Iloilo City on Wednesday.
“I was in a similar inquiry at the City Council of Iloilo at 10 a.m. this morning. I will attend that if there is an invitation kaya lang I was also in a separate inquiry,” he said.
Meanwhile, he added that Cinco was advised by her lawyer not to attend the hearing since she has been a subject of a separate investigation by Marina Central Office.
“Since, she was being investigated, she was advised to not attend the hearing and I think she already wrote to Gando,” Dela Vega said.
To recall, a PCG-Marina joint investigation is ongoing to probe the tragic Iloilo Strait incident.
Pending the result of the investigation four PCG officials and two from Marina were relieved from their posts last week.