A MALACAÑANG official lashed out Saturday at a lawmaker and the media over claims that graft may have caused the crash of a Philippine Air Force (PAF) plane that killed nine people last Thursday.

Deputy presidential spokesman Ricardo Saludo refused to answer Cavite Representative Joseph Emilio Abaya’s statement that corruption led to poor maintenance of government equipment, including planes.

“Media should first ask that congressman what his basis was. The Palace will reply only when it sees the basis and if the basis has substance,” Saludo said on government-run dzRB radio.

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He said the PAF is already doing its best to do its job despite limited resources and is very careful to ensure the lives and safety of its personnel and the public.

On Friday, Abaya said corruption in the military and in the Arroyo government in general must be a factor why PAF planes cannot be properly maintained.

He said it is not the Nomad planes that are widow-makers, but “corruption not only in the military but more so in agencies and government in general.”

On the other hand, Saludo reminded media it is their job to ask Abaya for his basis in making such comments.

“Media’s job should be to ask him what his basis was in making those comments. The media should be asking that first. Then if the basis has substance, that’s the time we will answer,” he said.

The PAF is still investigating the cause of the crash that killed nine people, including a PAF general.

Killed were PAF Major General Mario “Butch” Lacson of the 3rd Air Division based in Zamboanga City; the plane’s pilot, Captain Genaro Gaylord Ordonio; a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class 2000; 1st Lieutenant Angelica Valdez of the PMA Class 2006; Major Prisco Tacuboy; Lieutent Alexander Ian Lipait and Staff Sergeants Ronaldo Mejia, Ianne Christy Marose Llamera, and Jeffrey Gozon.

A civilian - Inday Mondrano - was killed on the ground.

The Nomad plane crashed minutes after taking off from Awang Airport. The bodies of the Air Force fatalities were flown to Manila Friday to a hero’s welcome. (JMR/Sunnex)