Messages of grief pour in for workers’ diplomat
Messages of grief and sadness poured in over the weekend for Philippine Ambassador Domingo Lucenario Jr. who died in a helicopter crash in Pakistan on Friday together with the ambassador of Norway and five other passengers. .
Even critics of the government’s foreign policy hailed Lucenario as a “sincere public servant and the Filipino workers’ diplomat.” Members of the militant group Migrante had kind words for Lucenario, who was described as “open-minded and willing to listen to the grievances of the people.”
“He was looking for ways to address the immediate needs of our fellow Filipinos overseas even if he was constrained by the limitations of his position,” Eman Villanueva, a member of Migrante and Bagong Alyansang Makabayan in Hong Kong, said in a post on the social networking site Facebook.
The Taliban terror group had claimed responsibility for downing the helicopters with a surface-to-air missile but crash survivors and the Pakistan’s government said it was a mechanical problem that caused the aircraft to spin out of control.
The wives of the Malaysian and Indonesian ambassadors died in the crash together with the pilot and two Pakistani crew members. Twelve passengers, among them, the ambassadors to Malaysia, Argentina and the Netherlands, survived.
Lucenario’s family and a team from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) left the country on Saturday afternoon to pick up his remains home.
Groups in Afghanistan, the Samahan ng Filipinos and the Pinoy Bunker/Filipinos in Afghanistan, also expressed their condolences.
They said Lucenario was their link to the DFA and “the eyes and ears of the Philippine government in Afghanistan” which does not have a single DFA official on duty.
“In Kabul, over 300 Filipinos are attached to UN offices like the Unicef, WHO, World Bank, IMF, International Red Cross and ministries of the Afghan government,” the group noted.
Lucenario, a multi-awarded diplomat, was in the government service for more than 35 years.
DFA Undersecretary Rafael Seguis said Lucenario’s death was a loss to the Philippine foreign service.
The cause of the crash is still being investigated. The Associated Press obtained a video showing Taliban fighters with a surface-to-air missile claiming they used a similar one to shoot down the helicopter. The video, posted on militant websites, included a message from the Pakistani Taliban claiming they fired a missile from a distance of 3 kilometers.
“The missile hit the tail rotor,” a written message in Urdu says at the video’s start.
Earlier, Pakistani military officials said technical failure caused the crash and dismissed the Taliban claim as opportunistic.
Testimonies of survivors released by the Pakistan Air Force on Saturday also bolstered government and eyewitness statements that the disaster was an accident rather than an act of terrorism.
Malaysia’s envoy—who was himself injured in the crash—described how the journey had gone according to plan until they were due to land at their destination in the northern Gilgit-Baltistan region.
“After arriving at Gilgit everything went well except for the last few minutes, when the helicopter went into a spiral, round and round and round, and it hit the ground,” Hasrul Sani Mujtabar said.–With reports from AP and AFP
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