Philippine ambassador dies in Pakistan helicopter crash

(CNN Philippines) — Domingo Lucenario Jr., the Philippine ambassador to Pakistan, was killed in a helicopter crash Friday (May 8) at the Naltar Valley in the Gilgit region of northern Pakistan.

The crash was reported by CNN, though it did not mention the ambassador's name nor the nationalities of the foreigners on board the helicopter.

But checking with the Office of the Consul of the Embassy of the Philippines to Pakistan, CNN Philippines found out Lucenario was among the passengers killed in the crash.

Sadness and grief

President Benigno Aquino III, who's in Canada for a three-day state visit, issued a statement expressing sadness and grief on the death Lucenario.

News of crash reached Aquino and his delegation in Ottawa, where he began his visit on Friday, according to Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., who relayed the president's message to media.

He quoted the president as syaing that the Philippines lost "an outstanding career diplomat who served his country with distinction for nearly three decades."

"On behalf of the Philippine government and people, he conveyed his sympathy and condolences with Ambassador Lucenario’s family," Coloma said.

6 dead, 13 survived

CNN reported that the MI-17 helicopter carrying 11 foreigners and six Pakistani passengers was part of a three-helicopter convoy on a tour of the region.

Military spokesman Asim Bajwal posted on Twitter that two pilots and four foreigners died while 13 others survived.

The others who were killed were Norway Ambassador Leif Larsen and the wives of the Malaysian and Indonesian ambassadors.

The ambassadors of Poland and the Netherlands got injured, Bajwal added.

Pakistani news agency, Geo.tv, reported the names of the two pilots as Major Altamish and Major Faisal.

It added that the foreign diplomats were on their way to attend the inauguration of a chairlift project for tourists in Gilgit.

Taliban responsible?

According to an email alert sent by Brian Walker, supervising editor at the CNN International Desk, Mohammad Khurrassani, spokesman of Tehreek e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), said the Taliban was responsible for the crash, adding it was shot down using a SAM-7, a shoulder-fired missile.

Khurrassani said the target of the attack was Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

He added, “Today TTP’s Special Task Force (STF) and Taliban Intelligence Unit make a special plan to target the Prime Minister of Pakistan Nawaz Sharif during his visit. Nawaz Sharif survived the attack plan because he abolished his visit plan.”

But Bajwa disputed Khurrassani's statement, saying the cause of the crash was mechanical, as indicated in the initial investigation.

Distinguished, honored

Lucenario, who would have turned 55 on September 3, graduated in 1984 from the San Beda College of Law and passed the bar that same year.

As a career Filipino diplomat, he had the rare distinction of having earned three presidential awards.

In 2008, he received the Gawad Mabini Award with the rank of Grand Officer (Dakilang Kamanong) and the Order of Lakandula Award with the rank of Grand Officer (Maringal na Pinuno).

In 2009, he received the Order of Sikatuna Award with the rank of Datu (Gold level).

These details, among others, could be found at the website of the Embassy of the Philippines in Nairobi Kenya, where he previously served as ambassador.

For his achievements, the San Beda College of Law Alumni Association gave him recognition as an outstanding alumnus.

He presented his credentials as ambassador to Pakistan to then President Asif Ali Zardari on April 24, 2013.

Lucenario is survived by his wife, lawyer Nida Arada Lucenario, two daughters, and a son.

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Following is the statement issued by the Department of Foreign Affairs on Friday:

The Department of Foreign Affairs is deeply saddened by the untimely demise of Philippine Ambassador to Pakistan Hon. Domingo D. Lucenario, Jr. due to a helicopter crash incident in the Naltar Valley area of Pakistan.

Ambassador Lucenario was a career ambassador who served the Philippine Government for over 35 years. During his term as Ambassador to Pakistan, relations between the Philippines and Pakistan have enjoyed a robust partnership in various areas of cooperation.

Ambassador Lucenario was also the Philippines’ non-resident Ambassador to Afghanistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

A lawyer by profession, he served the Department in various capacities including assignments in Germany, Hong Kong, Australia, and as former Philippine Ambassador to Kenya with concurrent jurisdiction to 12 African nations. He was the Philippine Permanent Representative to the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) and the United Nations Human Settlements Program (UN Habitat). He also served as Deputy Chief of Presidential Protocol under the Ramos Administration aside from various positions in the Home Office.

Ambassador Lucenario was one of the few career Filipino diplomats who had the rare distinction of having been awarded by the President of the Philippines with three (3) major Presidential Awards, namely: the Order of Sikatuna Award with the rank of Datu (Gold level) (2009), the Order of Lakandula Award with the rank of Grand Officer (Maringal na Pinuno) (2008), and the Gawad Mabini Award with the rank of Grand Officer (Dakilang Kamanong) (2008).

The Department of Foreign Affairs offers its deepest sympathies and condolences to the family of Ambassador Lucenario at this time of mourning.   He is survived by his wife, Lawyer Nida Arada Lucenario and 3 children.  Ambassador Lucenario was 54 years old. (DFA)

CNN Philippines' Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.