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Boat captain in Binangonan tragedy says he gave bananas, P50 cash to PCG personnel to ignore violations

The boat captain of the ill-fated M/B Aya Express on Tuesday said he "gave" bananas and P50 cash to the personnel of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) to ignore his violations.

During a joint Senate hearing of the Committees of Public Services and National Defense and Security, Senator Raffy Tulfo asked boat captain Donald Añain if he bribed anyone from the PCG before they left the port. 

“Magkano ang binigay mo sa Coast Guard na pampadulas noong pumunta ka doon at pinirmahan na lang yung papel na nakapikit?” Tulfo asked.

(How much did you give to the Coast Guard as a bribe for them to sign the paper and turn a blind eye?)

Añain replied, “Yun ano lang, "pampangiti"... Kailangan po magdadala ka po ng kahit alin po…Bumili lang po ako ng P100 na saging… Tsaka yung P50 na money, meryenda.”

(You need to bring them anything. I just bought P100 worth of bananas and P50 cash for snacks.)

Añain also said that "giving items" to PCG personnel is common on the island, such as bread, cigarttes, or liquor.

Before the allegations, PCG commandant Admiral Artemio Abu admitted that there was negligence on the part of their personnel.

""The entire organization is here now, submitting ourselves to this investigation. And attendant circumstances, base sa ating mga (based on our) investigation, proved that there was negligence on the part of our personnel," he said.

According to him, the concerned substation commander and his immediate supervisor have been relieved amid the investigation.

PCG spokesperson Rear Admiral Armando Balilo said the allegations were absurd.

“That's absurd. I do not think our personnel would resort to accepting banana and P50 in exchange of favors. Tha captain denied giving liquors to our personnel. Our personnel also denied demanding any of these items. Wala silang tinatanggap (They did not accept anything),” he said in a message.

In an interview, Senate Committee on Public Services chairperson Senator Grace said she was not surprised by the allegations because it was the only possible reason why some authorities are ignoring the violations.

"Kung P50, sa isang araw 20, may P1,000 sya. May kasama pang saging o alak na nakaupo ka doon may extra na bigay sayo diumano, tapos may sweldo ka rin," she said.

According to Añain, he charges P50 for regular passengers and P40 for senior citizens and students.

Due to the rotation of boats on duty, he said his boat can only make a trip once a day and three to four times a week. With or without passengers, he said boats have to continue with the trip.

Because of this, Poe pointed out the need for the revision of the policy of the PCG on informal ports as well as the rationalization of boat trips.

The PCG said 27 people died while 40 survived from the capsized boat in Binangonan.

M/B Aya Express had a capacity of 42 people but it was overloaded with over 60 people.

It was also discovered that Añain had no valid license from the Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA).

An initial investigation showed the boat left the Port of Binangonan on July 27 and was en route to Talim Island when it was hit by strong winds 45 meters from land.

MARINA had suspended the Passenger Ship Safety Certificate (PSSC) of M/B Aya Express “effective immediately until further notice" after the incident.

“The decision to suspend the safety certificate is in response to the unfortunate sea incident, which raises concerns about the integrity of the ship's hull, integral parts, and other affected machineries/appliances,” MARINA said.

The PCG already filed a complaint for syndicated estafa against the owner of M/B Aya Express, the boat captain, and an association due in light of the incident over supposed fraud and misrepresentation. —VAL, GMA Integrated News