CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews / 05 July)— Major General Romeo Brawner, Jr., the new commander of the 4th Infantry Division, and his family boarded the ill-fated C-130 plane before it crashed in Patikul, Sulu on Sunday.
“”Pangalawang buhay ko na ito (This is my second life). Yesterday, July 4 , my family and I rode on the same C-130 that crashed in Jolo,” he told reporters during the turnover of command at Camp Edilberto Evangelista here Monday.
Brawner replaced Major General Andres Centeno, who was appointed commander of the Philippine Army. Brawner vowed to sustain the fight against the communist rebels and other threat groups in the region.
Brawner said he and his family boarded the C-130 plane from Villamor Air Base in Pasay City, and disembarked at the Lumbia Airport here.
From Lumbia Airport, the C-130 aircraft with tail number 5125, proceeded to the Laguindingan Airport to fetch the soldiers assigned to the 11th Infantry Division in Sulu, he said.
The ill-fated C-130 plane crashed at 11:15 a.m. Sunday in Patikul town, killing 50 people, 47 of them military personnel and three civilians, according to the Department of National Defense on Monday morning.
Brawner said they offered mass and lit candles for the soldiers who perished in the crash.
He also expressed their sympathies to the families that the soldiers left behind.
Brawner said that President Rodrigo Roa Duterte was due to arrive in Zamboanga City at 3:00 p.m. Monday to visit the wounded troops brought in the city.
Brawner said there is no definite plan yet on how to transport the remains of the soldiers who died in the crash.
He said the AFP was still in the process of identifying the cadavers.
Zia Alonto Adiong, a Member of Parliament of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, said that Brawner has proven his worth and gallantry during the Marawi siege in 2017.
“General Brawner is both a soldier and a gentleman. He is brilliant and articulate,” Adiong said.
“He’s a good choice, probably the best choice to assume the post,” the official added.
Governor Mamintal Adiong Jr., of Lanao del Sur said that with Brawner leading the 4th Infantry Division, “we are assured that its residents and that of nearby provinces, which include Lanao del Sur, are safe.”
The governor noted that Brawner attended to the concerns of his constituents, such as the internally displaced persons, when the rehabilitation of war-torn Marawi started.
Brawner used to be the spokesperson and deputy commander of the military task force Ranao fighting the ISIS-aligned militants who attacked Marawi City in 2017.
He later took over the command of the 103rd Infantry Brigade based in Marawi as the military launched operations to flush out the remaining militants.