A new chopper with my friend and close brother Quezon governor Raffy Nantes reportedly exploded in mid-air yesterday. Raffy, a very diligent and hard-working man, was burned beyond recognition. Witnesses say, the chopper exploded just 300 meters above the ground. When it crashed, it hit two houses. Raffy was killed along with his two bodyguards and the pilot. A kid was also killed when the chopper hit their homes.
Was it an accident? The Philippine National Police (PNP) is conducting a deeper probe. How in the hell would a brand new Robinson 44 type helicopter crash in that way?
The helicopter is priced at US$ 430,000 or roughly 20 million pesos. The R-44 is a single-engine helicopter, with a semi-rigid two bladed main rotor and a two-bladed tail rotor and a skid landing gear. It can accommodate four people in its enclosed cabin. Its tail rotor direction is reversed compared to the R-22 for improved yaw control authority. On the R44, the advancing blade is on the bottom.
The R-44 is trusted by governments, private companies and individuals due to its performance. However, in the Griffin Helicopter accident database, the R-44 has been involved in 82 fatal accidents between July 1993 and November 2009 from a total of 289 incidents involving the R-44. According to incidents listings, accidents normally happens in two-week old R-44's.
In the case of Nantes' R-44, it was purchased prior to the elections and has flown several hundreds worth of flight hours.
Two things--when Nantes died, he was facing two problems--accusations that he was involved in drug smuggling and his electoral loss to Danny Suarez, son of Quezon Congressman Danilo Suarez.
There are persistent reports of involvement of politicians in the drug smuggling trade in Quezon. In the 90's, we heard of the killing of former Congressman Punzalan. Punzalan's killing was reportedly undertaken by drug triad members, shortly after the discovery of their shabu labs and cavans of shabu in the province.
However, investigation showed that Punzalan's assasination was political rather than drug-related. He was reportedly assasinated by his political enemies. The NPA (New People's Army) however, admitted that they were the ones behind the Punzalan assassination.
A few days before the elections, Nantes was accused by some PASG (Presidential Anti-Smuggling Group ) agents of being the one behind the illegal drug smuggling activities in Quezon. This report published in the Manila Bulletin accused Nantes of complicity.
I don't believe it. Fact was, Nantes' name was cleared by the PASG director himself. Besides, Nantes hates drugs. He always tell our fellow brothers to avoid drugs and channel their energies to other pursuits.
Nantes came from a poor family. His rose from poverty is more phenomenal than Villar's. He just sold industrial batteries. After his college days at the NU, Nantes struggled hard to fight poverty. He told us how he toiled hard to sell industrial batteries.
His hard work paid off when he got his first clients. And the rest is history.
Poll Fraud in Quezon
Before he died, Nantes called his friend, Atty. Romeo Macalintal. Nantes wants to file a post-election protest. Nantes claims that the Suarez's camp initiated a vote-buying operation. You can read the report here.
Close contacts in Quezon province however, say that the reason why Nantes lost his gubernatorial run was simply due to his political isolation. When Nantes severed his ties with the Tanadas and the Suarezes, who were previously his political allies, the embattled governor lost considerable amount of allies and territories. It was a wrong political move on the part of Nantes.
Macalintal claims that Nantes' called him and said that they were scheduled to meet in Manila yesterday. The election lawyer said the meeting was actually scheduled today (Tuesday), but Nantes insisted. After an activity in an elementary school, Nantes left. He rode the helicopter and it exploded mid-air.
Was politics behind the killing? Previous to this, several poll-related killings happened in Quezon. Was this an election-related violence?
Was there a set-up for the assassination of Nantes? Observe that a similar pattern existed between Nantes' and Punzalan's killings. They were both accused of being behind the drug trade before they died. (Ironically, some believed that Nantes' was behind Punzalan's killing. It was never proven. Fact was, Nantes filed a libel case against two Quezon-based journalists for accusing him of masterminding Punzalan's death.)
Or Raffy's death was just an accident?