By Ben Cal, PNA and U.S. News Agency / Asian
An avalanche of messages of sympathy and grief from the cross section of society burst into the open with the sudden demise of Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo and two others when the plane they were riding crashed in the seawaters of Masbate last Saturday.
No less than President Benigno S. Aquino Jr. led the nation in condoling with the family of Robredo after his remains were retrieved by divers from the plane’s wreckage located 180 feet under the sea at 8 Tuesday morning.
Transportation and Communications Secretary Mar Roxas confirmed to the media that the body recovered by divers was that of Robredo after three days of massive search by the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG), Philippine Navy, Philippine Air Force (PAF), Philippine National Police (PNP) and volunteer groups.
The search was concentrated in the sea lane of Masbate where the ill-fated twin-engine light plane crashed late Saturday afternoon.
When his plane went missing, millions of Filipinos across the country prayed for his safety and that of the two pilots – Captain Jessup Bahinting and Capt. Nepali Kshitiz Chand, a Nepalese national.
Members of Congress from the Senate and the House, government agencies, the military and police establishments, religious sector, and people from all walks of life sent their sympathy of condolences to the family of Secretary Robredo whom they extolled as a champion for good governance and honesty which will be his legacy as a public servant.
Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin said in his message of condolence to Robredo’s wife and children:”The men and women of the Department of National Defense mourn the untimely passing of Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse M. Robredo.”
Gazmin said that together with his spouse Rhodie and children “are one with Atty. Leni Robredo and children on their loss and grief.”
“Sec. Jesse is a model family man and a public servant. He balanced his duty as a father and as a government official. He made concrete efforts to better society, to serve the public and transform how government performs its duty.
“His passing is a great loss to our continuing efforts in reforming bureaucracy and the road to good government.”Together, let us all offer our prayers for Sec. Jesse and his family,” Gazmin said.
Director General Nicanor A. Bartolome, chief of the Philippine National Police, said in a statement:
“The entire 147,000 men and women of the Philippine National Police mourn the demise of the father of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) family, Secretary Jesse M. Robredo.
“All PNP camps are hoisting the national colors at half mast as an expression of our great respect to a great man and a good leader who steered the DILG-PNP family through the straight and narrow path of proper public service.
“As the Chief of the PNP, I extend the deepest sympathy of all officers and men to the family of the late Secretary.”
“We join the family and friends of the late secretary in prayer for the eternal repose of his soul.”
An employee of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), in an interview with DZBB, cited Robredo for his passion of good governance, particularly the directive of President Aquino on “Ang Daang Matuwid” (Straight Path).
The employee said that Robredo was strict in bidding and procurement procedures seeing to it that no corruption takes place.
It may be recalled that Robredo when he was the mayor of Naga City was the recipient of the internationally renowned Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2000 for government service.
The citation it said:
“It is sad but true. Democratic government is not necessarily good government. Too often, elections yield power to the few, not the many. Injustices linger beneath the rhetoric of equality. Corruption and incompetence go on and on. Voters, alas, do not always choose wisely. And yet, in Asia and the world at large, much is at risk when democracy founders, because democracy is the hope of so many. Jesse Manalastas Robredo entered Philippine politics at a time when hope was high. As mayor of Naga City from 1988 to 1998 he demonstrated that democratic government can also be good government.”
The award also point out that during the People Power Revolution in 1986, Robredo responded to President Corazon Aquino’s call to public service.
Robredo abandoned his executive position at San Miguel Corp. to head the Bicol River Basin Development Program in Naga, his hometown.
In 1988, the young Robredo at 29, ran for mayor in Naga City and won with a slim margin.
The award said that “once the queen city of the Bicol region, Naga in 1989 was a dispirited provincial town of 120,000 souls. Traffic clogged its tawdry business district and vice syndicates operated at will. City services were fitful at best. Meanwhile, thousands of squatters filled Naga’s vacant lands, despite the dearth of jobs in the city’s stagnant economy. Indeed, Naga’s revenues were so low that it had been downgraded officially from a first-class to a third-class city.”
Undaunted, the citation said: “Robredo began with a strike against patronage. He introduced a merit-based system of hiring and promotion and reorganized city employees on the basis of aptitude and competence. He then moved against local vice lords, ridding Naga of gambling and smut. Next, he relocated the bus and jeepney terminals outside the city center, ending gridlock and spurring new enterprises at the city’s edge. In partnership with business, he revitalized Naga’s economy. Public revenues rose, and by 1990 Naga was a first-class city again.”
For his unprecedented achievement, Robredo was reelected overwhelmingly.
Robredo was a humble person, devoted father and practiced humility that he frowned on bodyguards following him.
The Magsaysay Award said: “Spurning bodyguards, Robredo moved freely among the people. By enlisting the support and active assistance of Naga’s NGOs and citizens, he improved public services dramatically. He established day-care centers in each of Naga’s twenty-seven districts and added five new high schools.
“He built a public hospital for low-income citizens. He set up a dependable twenty-four-hour emergency service. He constructed a network of farm-to-market roads and provided clean and reliable water systems in Naga’s rural communities. He launched programs for youth, farmers, laborers, women, the elderly, and the handicapped — drawing thousands into civic action in the process. No civic deed was too small, he told the people, including the simple act of reporting a broken street lamp. He sometimes swept the streets himself,” it said.
“Consistently, Robredo prioritized the needs of the poor. Through his Kaantabay sa Kauswagan (Partners in Development) program, over forty-five hundred once-homeless families moved to home-lots of their own. They became part of Naga’s revival. So did a revitalized city government. Applying techniques from business, Robredo raised performance, productivity, and morale among city employees. As a culture of excellence overtook the culture of mediocrity at City Hall, Naga’s businesses doubled and local revenues rose by 573 percent.”
Again in 1995, he ran again for reelection for the third time, and won handily without any opposition.
As a third-term mayor, the citation said: “Robredo urged the Naga City Council to enact a unique Empowerment Ordinance. This created a People’s Council to institutionalize the participation of NGOs and people’s organizations in all future municipal deliberations. When obliged by law to step down after his third term, the popular Robredo made no effort to entrench his family.”Robredo had this advice to would-be leaders: “You have to have credibility.”
With the 2000 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service, the board of trustees recognized Robredo’s giving credence to the promise of democracy by demonstrating that effective city management is compatible with yielding power to the people.
By sheer coincidence, both President Magsaysay and Robredo died in a plane crash.
President Magsaysay’s plane crashed in Mt. Manunggal in Cebu.
Both personalities came from Cebu when their planes crashed due to engine trouble and they were both mechanical engineers by profession.