Filipino-Indon family also dead
It’s summer break in the Netherlands and the entire family of Irene Pabellon-Gunawan was looking forward to a vacation in the Philippines.
But they never got to Manila.
Gunawan, 54, her Indonesian husband Budy Janto Gunawan and their children Sherryl Shania, 20, and Darryl Dwight, 15, were among the 298 people aboard a Malaysia Airlines jetliner that was shot down near the Russian border in strife-torn eastern Ukraine on Thursday.
Malacañang on Friday joined other governments in demanding a “thorough and swift inquiry” into the shooting down of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17.
Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma issued a statement saying the Philippine government was “one with the international community in calling for a thorough and swift inquiry” into the attack on MH17.
Coloma also said the government sympathized with the families of the Gunawans.
The Gunawans were traveling from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur on MH17 with 294 others on Thursday when a surface-to-air missile struck the Boeing 777-200ER over Grabovo, near Ukraine’s border with Russia.
The missile was believed to have been fired by pro-Russia Ukrainian rebels.
The attack on the Malaysian jetliner angered governments around the world, with the United States leading in demanding an “unimpeded” international inquiry.
US President Barack Obama warned evidence among scattered debris must not be tampered with.
The United Nations Security Council called an emergency session to discuss the disaster.
Assistant Foreign Secretary Charles Jose, spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), told a news briefing that the families had been informed about the downing of the Malaysian plane.
Jose said that based on their passport applications in Manila, Gunawan and her family lived in the Netherlands.
He said the Gunawans were identified through the manifest of MH17.
“We are prepared to extend the necessary assistance to the relatives of the three victims either by facilitating their visit to the site or the repatriation of the remains,” Jose said.
He said, however, that the DFA had no information as to whether the bodies of the Gunawans had been found.
The Inquirer learned about the identities of the Gunawans from Amsterdam-based actor Pieter van Overbeeke, who spoke fluent Filipino and did acting jobs for independent filmmakers in the Philippines.
Overbeeke and Gunawan were friends and worked together at Malaysia Airlines in Amsterdam.
“They were bound for the Philippines for a vacation. It’s summer break here,” Overbeeke said.
He said Pabellon, Gunawan’s maiden name, was from Lucena City in Quezon province.
On her husband’s Facebook account, some of the messages posted expressed sympathy and condolences.
“Dear Budy, the world will be much, much sadder place without your kindness and your happy smiles,” one post said.
“RIP my dear friend Budy Janto Gunawan n family . . . you will be miss so very much,” another post said.
“Thank you for the music, Buddy and Irene . . . . will miss you!!!” still another post said.
In his profile picture, Budy is shown playing an electric guitar.
The route flown by MH17 has been declared safe by the International Civil Aviation Organization, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
In the Philippines, only Philippine Airlines (PAL) operates flights to Europe, and the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (Caap) inquired about the path of the flag carrier’s Manila-London flight.
“We just wanted to find out their routes. We were later told the Ukraine airspace was not on their flight path,” Rodante Joya, Caap acting deputy director general, said in a phone interview.
Joya said PAL had been given advisories in the past on potential dangers in conflict areas in Europe, including the Ukraine-Russia border.
“The point in their flight route nearest to the area where the Malaysian plane was shot down was 950 kilometers away,” Joya said.
PAL later issued a statement saying its Manila-London flights do not use airspace over the Ukraine-Russia border.
The Manila International Airport Authority also issued a statement saying Kuala Lumpur is the only destination of Malaysia Airlines flights from Manila.
Among the passengers aboard MH17 were 12 Indonesians, and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono said yesterday that if the plane was shot at with military weapons, it was a violation of international law and “even the laws of war.”
“Because of this, if the investigation proves that this is what did indeed happen, Indonesia hopes those responsible are sanctioned and handed a heavy punishment,” Yudhoyono said in a televised press conference.
He urged Indonesians to avoid flights over war and conflict zones, including Ukraine, the Ukraine-Russia border and the Gaza Strip.
Mourning in Australia
Australia, which said 28 of its nationals were aboard the doomed flight, also wants a full investigation, with Prime Minister Tony Abbott urging Russia to cooperate fully with any inquiry.
“As things stand this looks less like an accident than a crime,” Abbott told Parliament, following an emergency meeting of the government’s national security committee.
Abbott, who called it a “grim day for our country,” said flags would be flown at half-staff today on all government buildings as a mark of respect.
A service marking a national day of mourning would be held at a later time “when the families of those who have lost their lives have had time to comprehend this horrific event,” he added.
“Shocked and saddened to hear about the crash,” said Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong on his Facebook page.
Singapore’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it stood in solidarity with its neighbor Malaysia, which is still reeling from the loss of MH370 due to unknown causes in March.
“It is important that a full and transparent investigation take place to establish what caused the crash,” the ministry said of the downing of MH17.
New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully also called for a full investigation as he confirmed one citizen was on MH17 and had been traveling with her Dutch husband.
A British woman who was a longtime resident of New Zealand was also among the victims, he added.
“We call for independent investigators to be allowed access to the crash site,” McCully said in a statement.
Most on board MH17 were Dutch, but aside from the Gunawans, there were also 43 Malaysians, nine Britons, four Germans, one Canadian and one from Hong Kong, as well as the Australians.
Sadness across Asia Pacific
The loss of a second Malaysia Airlines plane within six months left Asia-Pacific nations shocked and saddened.
In March, Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, also a Boeing 777-200ER, vanished en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing with 239 people aboard.
That plane is thought to have veered off its route and crashed in the Indian Ocean but no sign of it has yet been found. With a report from AFP