The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Wednesday expressed its gratitude for the “overwhelming support” extended by members of the Tausug community and other villagers in Sulu during the air mishap involving military C-130 aircraft on July 4.
In a statement, AFP Western Mindanao Command (WestMinCom) chief Lt. Gen. Corleto Vinluan Jr. said the Tausug people in Barangay Bangkal of Patikul town were among the first responders when the military’s Lockheed C-130 Hercules with tail number 5125 crashed.
“The Western Mindanao Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines is extremely grateful to the assistance extended by our brothers and sisters Tausug in Sulu who were among the first responders that rescued several survivors of the air mishap on July 4, 2021,” Vinluan said.
“To the survivors and all of us, our brothers and sisters Tausug are our heroes. They risked their own lives to save their fellow Filipinos whom they consider as their protectors from the malefactors,” he added.
The plane crash, which was described as one of the worst tragedies in Philippine military history, killed 53 individuals, including three civilians.
Forty-six military personnel and four civilians were injured in the incident and are still undergoing medical treatment.
A total of 96 people were aboard the plane during the accident.
Photos and videos of the incident that surfaced online showed some people responding to the crash site and carrying wounded soldiers to safety.
Vinluan said that aside from Tausugs, CAFGUs and cadre from Bangkal Patrol Base were also among the first responders who aggressively extricated more than 20 wounded soldiers from the incident site.
“Their heroic deeds are worthy of praise and recognition. This exemplifies that at times when we, protectors of the people and the state are in trouble, we have the peace-loving people to depend on. Muslims or Christians, we are Filipinos with one flag and one country,” he said.
“Rest assured that the Western Mindanao Command will work doubly to bring lasting peace and sustainable development in Sulu, and to keep all our brothers and sisters Muslim in the province safe and secured,” he added.
The C-130 plane crashed on Sunday morning after failing to land at the airport runway.
The military said the investigation to determine the cause of the incident is underway.