Fact check: Cebu Pacific pilot’s viral claim vs Leni Robredo

May 17, 2022 - 1:06 AM
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Leni Robredo flights fact check
Were flights diverted on account of Vice President Leni Robredo's demands in April 2022?

CLAIM: A supposed pilot claimed in a now-deleted Facebook post that Vice President Leni Robredo caused flight diversions at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport “last month,” presumably in April.

In the post, the pilot claimed that Robredo, at the height of campaign season, asked for priority landing that forced flights to divert. He also mentioned that Singapore Airlines and Qatar Airlines flights were among those affected by the sudden diversion.

He further claimed that the incident belies Robredo’s public projection of modesty and simplicity.

Rating

The claim that Robredo caused the diversion of multiple flights is false.

Facts

According to routes available on FlightRadar24, Singapore Airlines flights to NAIA would come from Changi Airport in Singapore via four flight numbers, namely SQ910, SQ912, SQ916 and SQ918.

Singapore Airlines route
Singapore Airlines routes to Manila as of May 17, 2022. (FlightRadar24 screenshot)

This is similarly true for Qatar Airways, whose flights come directly from Doha Hamad International Airport via three flight numbers QR928, QR932 and QR934.

No flight diversions have been recorded at Manila’s airport for both Singapore Airlines flights and Qatar Airways to Manila throughout April.

There were two recorded diversions to Clark Airport, however, on March 8 and 17 for Singapore Airlines.

Singapore Airlines diverted flight
Singapore Airlines SQ910 diverted flight on Mar. 8, 2022.
Singapore Airlines diverted flight
Singapore Airlines SQ916 diverted flight on Mar. 17, 2022.

The flight diversions on March 8 earlier this year were well-documented, having been caused by a runway excursion, or the veering off the runway, of a Cebu Pacific aircraft at NAIA at around noontime. The aircraft was towed in less than 2 hours around midday.

Moreover, requests for traffic priority landing of a VIP do not necessarily cause flight diversions, as shown in the Federal Aviation Administration’s policies.

A supposed “aviation professional” additionally explains in a tweet that given prior priority landing requests, air traffic controllers would request affected flights to perform a few “holding patterns prior to starting final approach and land” without having to necessarily divert.

Additional context

Neither the Office of the Vice President nor the campaign team of Robredo has responded to the accusations.

In a statement Monday night, Cebu Pacific addressed the viral post, confirming that the pilot is under its employ. “The concerned pilot had taken down his post,” the budget carrier said.

The company, however, does not confirm nor deny the contents of the post pending internal investigation as it issued a reminder to its employees to observe the Data Privacy Act of 2012 as well as its internal code of discipline.

Both guidelines suggest that employees must refrain from disclosing “sensitive company information and operational details and more so, if erroneous to prevent the spread of disinformation,” the airlines said.

In a tweet, Senate President Tito Sotto weighed in on the claims, saying the “pilot does not know there are 3 persons in govt that are given landing and take off priority in all PH airports as CAAP knows.” These are the president, vice president and the Senate president.

The pilot, however, mentioned that Robredo is entitled to priority landing as vice president.

Still, there is no immediate evidence that the request caused Qatari and Singaporean flag carriers to divert flights in April, as the pilot claimed.

This story is part of the Philippine Fact-check Incubator, an Internews initiative to build the fact-checking capacity of news organizations in the Philippines and encourage participation in global fact-checking efforts.

Interaksyon is part of #FactsFirstPH, a multi-sectoral initiative promoting truth in public space and demanding accountability for falsehoods. For those interested to join the initiative, email [email protected]

Interaksyon is also a founding partner of Tsek.ph, a collaborative fact-checking project for the 2022 Philippine elections. It is an initiative of academe, civil society groups and media to counter disinformation and provide the public with verified information.