Smoke billows from the wreckage of a Philippine Air Force C-130 transport plane after it crashed on July 4 near the airport in Jolo town, near Sulu province. (Photo: AFP)
The head of the Catholic Church in the Philippine military has led prayers for victims and offered condolences to the families of the more than 50 people who died when a transport plane crashed in the south of the country on July 4.
Bishop Oscar Jaime Florencio, the military ordinary, celebrated Mass on June 5 for the victims’ eternal repose and for their families.
The Philippine Air Force C-130 plane with 96 passengers on board overshot the runway and crashed at Sulu airport in Mindanao. It was carrying troops heading to conduct counter-insurgency operations in the south.
Fifty-two were killed including four civilians while 47 passengers were injured in the country’s worst air accident in recent memory.
“I want to express my deepest sympathies and condolences to the victims’ families. May the Lord console your hearts. Know that your loved ones died while serving the country,” Bishop Florencio said in his homily.
“I urge Philippine authorities to handle the investigation and retrieval of the victims’ bodies with necessary care and diligence.”
I also pray for those who were injured. May the Lord, the healer of all, grant them fast recovery
Authorities said they had recovered 49 bodies but had the grim task of identifying them.
“The critical thing now … is the identification, not only of those who perished but also those of their next of kin so we would know who to give assistance to,” armed forces spokesman Major-General Edgard Arevelo said.
Bishop Floresco said the victims’ families deserve more than a heroes’ burial but all the benefits the armed forces could give to their loved ones because the victims died a “heroic death.”
“They [military men] deserve nothing more than accolades and praise. But more than the praise they deserve, the country should likewise ensure the future of their children and the benefits due to their family,” Bishop Florencio added.
Investigators said on June 6 that it is still unclear why the plane crashed and that they hoped to learn more now that the plane’s black box flight recorder had been recovered from the crash site.
Bishop Florencio also issued a circular calling on all military chaplains in the country to offer Masses for those who died and were injured.
“I also pray for those who were injured. May the Lord, the healer of all, grant them fast recovery,” the prelate said.