(UPDATED) Photos of Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino landing his chopper in the middle of the track at Ultra Philippine Sports Complex in Pasig City have been making the rounds on social media.
Various online articles say Dino landed just to take a bathroom break, causing outrage among netizens, who pointed out that a running event for youth appeared to have been interrupted by President Rodrigo Duterte's appointee.
A video sent to Rappler shows Dino indeed stepping out of a helicopter in the middle of the race track. Youth athletes still wearing their running clothes and race numbers can be seen stopping to watch the chopper. Some are taking videos on their phones as Dino emerged from the chopper, preceded by a member of his staff.
Dino then walks across the field and is approached by actor Phillip Salvador, who's wearing a red shirt and shades. Salvador then points Dino to an area in the sports complex, for which the presidential assistant then heads before the video ends.
What exactly was Dino doing in Ultra on Tuesday, January 8? Was he aware that he was interrupting students' activitity? More importantly, was his chopper supposed to land on the field in the first place? (Rappler learned later that the chopper landed without the sports complex's permission. Read our January 10 story here.)
His chief of staff, Jonji Gonzalez, said Dino was there to pick up other individuals who would be attending the launch of the Malasakit Center in Batangas with former presidential aide Bong Go, who is running for senator.
“He (Dino) was just told that the chopper will pick up other passengers. While waiting for the others to board the chopper, he took his only chance to go to the restroom before their onward destination,” Gonzalez told Rappler in a message.
Gonzalez also said Dino “had no way of knowing that there was any ongoing event in Ultra.”
Education Secretary Leonor Briones said this was the same explanation that Dino gave her when she spoke to him on the phone in front of journalists on Wednesday, January 9,
Briones said she “wasn't aware” of any sports event at Ultra at the time.
Students can routinely go to Ultra for practice.
Gonzalez has yet to reply to Rappler’s query on who Dino picked up from Ultra. But a video of the Malasakit Center launch in Batangas City shows Salvador was also present, wearing the same shirt he wore when he met Dino at Ultra.
Rappler gathered from a source privy to the operations of the Philsports Arena that the chopper carrying Dino did not have clearance to land on the track. In the last 20 years at least, the source was not aware of any chopper landing at Ultra. – with a report from Ralf Rivas/Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.