PNP chief, Gen. Archie Gamboa. (PNA photo by Lloyd Caliwan)

MANILA – Air assets of the Philippine National Police (PNP) will now be allowed to fly again, the country’s top cop said Monday.

In a press briefing in Camp Crame, PNP chief Gen. Archie Gamboa said he has lifted the grounding of PNP air assets more than three months after the helicopter crash in Laguna where he and other ranking police officials were injured.

Gamboa will fly to the Ilocos Region for a visit on July 17.

“So the air assets are allowed to fly again. That will be my first try after the March 5 incident. That’s why I am riding on July 17 to convince all of you that I am convinced that our choppers are airworthy, including the pilots,” he said.

Following the crash, all PNP air assets were grounded for mandatory rechecking of airworthiness and skills of the pilots.

Meanwhile, Lieutenant Colonels Roel Zalatar and Rico Macawili, the pilots and Senior Master/Sgt. Louie Estona, the crew member who got injured in the crash will face investigation for administrative and criminal liability based on the report of the Special Investigation Task Group (SITG).

The SITG also suggested the enhancement and review of police operational procedures on the use of air assets.

Zalatar, the main pilot, and two others are now assigned at the Special Action Force (SAF) administration holding unit for the investigation.

“There is a recommendation for investigation of the pilot in command on both administrative and criminal charges. Yes, you may conduct an investigation and find out whether there is administrative or criminal culpability on the part of the pilot in command and of course including the crew,” Gamboa said.

On March 5, the Bell 429 Chopper crashed in Barangay San Antonio in San Pedro, Laguna, wounding some police officials aboard, including Gamboa, Maj. Gen. Mariel Magaway, then PNP Director for Intelligence and Maj. Gen. Jose Maria Ramos, then Director for Comptrollership.

Gamboa, together with his aide-de-camp Capt. Keventh Gayramara and PNP spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Bernard Banac were the first ones who were released from St. Luke’s Medical Center (SLMC) in Taguig.

Recently, Magaway has been released from Asian Hospital while Ramos remains in the hospital.

Gamboa earlier dismissed sabotage as the reason for the accident as he cited it was due to the poor visibility brought by thick dust in the area. (PNA)