Robredo a ‘big loss’ to nation

MANILA (Updated) — Friends, colleagues and even ordinary citizens all over the county paid Tuesday their respects to Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo, whose body was recovered three days after a plane crash off Masbate.
Government officials and friends of Robredo in Manila flocked to La Salle Greenhills for a vigil mass held in honor of the late official, offering nothing but good words for him while mourning his death.
Post your condolences to DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo’s family
They shared their fondest memories with and admirations for Robredo, with Malacanang officials saying the late interior and local government secretary has inspired many people and is a huge loss for the Philippines.
“I’m sure that a lot of us here and a lot of our fellow Filipinos have been touched by the deeds of Secretary Robredo,” Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said after the mass on Tuesday.
“[Secretary] Jesse is a big loss not just to the Cabinet, not just as a friend, but to the entire nation,” Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said.
Describing him as an “ego-less” person who would talk to anybody, Valte said Robredo will be missed by government employees from executives down to security guards.
Fr. Alvin Paras, a priest from Naga City and Robredo’s friend, shared the same sentiment and described the late official as a man of humility who knows almost everyone in their home city.
“He knows who the vendors are. He knows who the tricycle drivers are. He knows almost all people, rich or poor,” said Paras, who spearheaded a vigil mass for Robredo on Tuesday.
Teresita Deles, presidential adviser on the peace process, also described his fellow Cabinet members as a person “who was open to everyone that he really encountered and worked with.” She said they certainly had an “exceptional professional relationship.”
“Because he had such good skills, good relationships, he can talk even to those who are difficult to deal with,” she said.
“Meetings with him were short because he helps you to focus in what you really want,” she added.
Deles also described Robredo as an “enabler” who would always find a way to make things happen.
“The thing with him is he’s very realistic. He knows what the problem is. Because for him, there is no problem that could not be fixed,” Deles said.
Robredo’s friend in the Liberal Party, Senator Franklin Drilon, also lauded this attitude of Robredo, describing him as the “go-to-guy” in their political organization.
“When we have a problem within the party, he is the one who provides the solution,” a tearful Drilon told reporters.
Drilon added that the late interior secretary will be missed as a friend and as a partymate who was a “good, very sincere, and an honest human being.”
“We will find difficulty looking for another Jesse Robredo. But we must accept the will of God,” he concluded.
For his part, Senator Panfilo Lacson thanked Robredo for quietly helping him while he was trying to elude arrest in connection with the infamous Dacer-Corbito double murder case. The Supreme Court has since excluded Lacson from the charge sheet.
“Not known to all, he tried his level best to convince DOJ (Department of Justice) Secretary de Lima to comply with the Court of Appeals decision reversing the Manila Regional Trial Court’s probable cause ruling against me,” he said.
Senator Ramon Revilla Jr. was touched on Robredo’s faith. Both are devotees of the Our Lady of Peñafrancia as the senator recalled escorting the revered image out of the Church with Robredo in one occasion.
“I lost a true friend,” he said in a statement.
Senator Francis Escudero said his fellow Bicolano was a principled man whose honesty and integrity were beyond question. He called on the nation to offer prayers for the eternal repose of Robredo’s soul and for his family and loved ones that they find strength in facing the tragedy.
Meanwhile, columnist and University of the Philippines (UP) professor Randy David, who also attended the mass, praised Robredo’s legacies in handling local government units (LGUs).
The UP professor said Robredo has turned Naga City into something that is “worth emulating all over the country.”
“An entire government depends on the performance of the local government units and what Jesse Robredo did in Naga [City] is truly a model for transforming local government units,” David said.
Robredo, a former Naga City mayor, transformed the once third class municipality into one of the “Most Improved Cities in Asia,” as cited by Asiaweek Magazine in 1999. His efforts earned him the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service in 2000.
David became the chair of the Ramon Magsaysay Awards Foundation the year after the achievement of Robredo, whom the UP professor described as a “true public servant.”
Former Akbayan Party-list Representative Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel also cited Robredo’s legacies in local governance, revealing that he was the first mayor to declare a peace zone in his city amid the conflicts between the military and rebels in the Bicol Region.
“Perhaps, those armed both in the military and in the New People’s Army witnessed that there is one local government official who stands with his fellowmen for [justice and] peace,” the former lawmaker said.
“Secretary Jesse has always stood for the good but difficult things,” she added.
And if Robredo’s life and legacies have taught something to Filipinos, Education Secretary Armin Luistro said it will be on serving the nation.
“The most important lesson to us is that every ordinary Filipino [does not] need to have strength, [does not] need to have influence. All we need is to give everything for the nation,” he said.
Robredo’s friends and colleagues also remembered his patience and temperance.
“I’ve never seen him get mad,” Valte said.
Deles doesn’t also remember any instance that Robredo was angry or stressed, saying he worked “very personal” with smile, laughter, and coolness.
“I’m fully confident that Jesse is in heaven,” she added.
A son of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said Robredo showed how public service can be accomplished without political color.
“It was never politics for Secretary Robredo. Despite being on different sides politically, he’d always talk to me and help me out when he could,” Camarines Sur Representative Diosdado “Dato” Arroyo in a post on his Twitter account.
Before being appointed as head of the DILG by President Benigno Aquino III, Robredo served as mayor of Naga City.
“I remember when we got a place in Naga in 2004, then-Mayor Robredo even dropped by and had dinner with me and my wife. Kwentuhan lang kami. [We just chatted],” Arroyo said.
“Since I was in college, then-Mayor Jesse would tell me to never hesitate to call him or ask for his help. Said that every time, even as [Cabinet] secretary,” he added.
The United States Embassy in Manila, on Tuesday, also expressed condolences to the Philippine government over the sudden death of Robredo.
“We will miss our friendship and partnership with Secretary Robredo, as he dedicated himself to bettering the lives of the Filipino people,” US Ambassador Harry Thomas said in a brief statement.
He said they are conveying their condolences to the Robredo family as well as to the families of pilots Captain Jessup Bahinting and Nepalese Kshitiz Chand.
“The entire US Embassy in Manila extends our heartfelt condolences to their families and friends,” said the envoy.
Authorities still have to recover the bodies of Bahinting and Chand that were found inside the Piper Seneca plane still on seatbelt. The retrieval operations were suspended until Wednesday morning after a diver collapsed Tuesday.
Thomas assured of America’s oneness with the Philippines during these difficult times, saying they are “prepared to assist the Philippine Government in the aftermath of this tragic accident.”
’Staunch partner’
Robredo’s partner in various cases, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, said she is “too devastated” upon learning of Robredo’s death.
“The DOJ family lost a staunch partner and a prime mover in our fight against criminality and impunity. I, on my own behalf, and that of the DOJ family, join Sec. Jesse’s family in grieving his untimely passing. Their loss is the nation’s loss,” she said in a text message.
De Lima said that she counted Robredo among her closest friends in the Aquino Cabinet, having worked closely together in a number of cases, among them the joint investigation of DOJ and DILG into the August 23, 2010, hostage-taking incident at the Luneta Park that killed eight tourists from Hong Kong and hostage taker Rolando Mendoza, a dismissed policeman.
“Anyone who had the opportunity to work with him as I have would have sensed his dedication, his sincerity and high regard he placed on his responsibility to the people. He was, quite simply, a good man and an exemplary public servant,” she said.
“I feel his loss on a personal level also, not just because he was a fellow Bicolano, but also because our respective mandates meant that we have been working closely together over the last two years on various matters, and I know that there are still a lot of things we could have accomplished together. He truly was ‘gone too soon,'” de Lima added.
She said that before the incident, she was set to meet with Robredo to discuss the proposed increase in the reward offer for the arrest of high-profile fugitives, among them former Palawan governor Joel Reyes and retired Army General Jovito Palparan.
The Supreme Court also extended its message of mourning and condolences to Robredo’s family.
In a statement, acting court spokesperson Gleo Guerra said: “We join the Filipino nation in mourning the passing of Secretary Robredo… (He) had been an indispensable partner in judicial reform as a member of the Justice Sector Coordinating Council and ex-officio chair of the Napolcom whose technical committee on crime prevention and criminal justice system includes representation from the courts pillar.”
Also in Manila, city Mayor Alfredo Lim ordered that all flags in the city’s public schools and city-run offices, including police stations, be flown at half-mast, in honor of Robredo. The order will be in effect for a week.
The directive was given to his chief-of-staff and media bureau chief Ric de Guzman, division of city schools superintendent Dr. Ponciano Menguito and Manila Police District Director Alex Gutierrez, for them to make the necessary coordination.
“We lost a good man and a good public servant today. Manila joins the whole country and the family of Secretary Robredo in mourning. Lahat tayo ay nagluluksa sa pagyao ng isang opisyal na nagbigay ng malinis na serbisyo-publiko para sa bansa (Everyone is mourning the death of an official who rendered a clean public service for the country),” the mayor said in his speech during the commemoration of the 29th death anniversary of Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr.
Flags will also be flown at half-mast in Davao City on Wednesday as the Dabawenyos mourn the death of Robredo, Mayor Sara Z. Duterte-Carpio said.
She said she will pay her last respects to the secretary and she is just waiting for final arrangements regarding Robredo’s wake and funeral. She already asked her brother Councilor Paolo Duterte to bring the wreath that the city will send.
Duterte-Carpio, who had worked closely with the late DILG secretary, recalled how he was as a public official.
“He was a kind man. He was very kind to me — always helpful and never condescending — he is my best example of how you don’t need to sing and dance to win an election,” the mayor said.
She said she was touched upon knowing that Robredo was not just a good public servant but a good father as well.
“Saludo ako sa kanya. Minsan lang ako mapabilib ng isang lalaki. Secretary Jesse, my hats off to you. Para sa akin, ang malasakit niya sa pamilya far outshines his excellence in public service. May you rest in peace Sir Jesse,” the mayor added.
Employees of DILG-Davao are set to hold a mass for Robredo at Ascencion Chapel at GSIS Heights in Matina at 11 a.m. Wednesday.
Officials, policemen, lawyers and ordinary citizens in Northern Mindanao who knew Robredo also expressed their condolences to the family of the late DILG chief.
Misamis Oriental Vice Governor Norris Babiera hopes the death of Robredo will spark the start of good governance revolution.
“I cried upon learning of his tragic death. I hope his death will spark the start of good governance revolution as we also commemorate the 29th death anniversary of Ninoy that sparked the Edsa revolution,” Babiera said in a text message.
’Lumads’ defender, protector’
Cotabato Governor Lala Taliño-Mendoza was grateful to have worked with a public official like Robredo whose main goal is to reach out to local government units, even in far-flung areas.
Cotabato Representative Nancy Catamc, who considered Robredo a close friend and ally, said the nation lost a great person who is the epitome of a good leader and a champ for the underdog.
She said that among the “underdogs” the secretary has “defended and protected” are the lumads or the indigenous peoples in North Cotabato.
The Church also mourned the passing of Robredo, with Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines president Archbishop Jose Palma saying the Church believes Robredo is now in the safe hands of God.
“At this moment, it is in this spirit of trust of those who are praying for him and of course for his family, that we entrust Secretary Robredo in your hands Lord. We believed your plan is good and it’s truly happened,” said Palma over Church-run Radio Veritas.
Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma also expressed his feelings of great loss over the death of Robredo.
“We will miss him,” Ledesma said, adding the late secretary left a legacy that is ought to be carried out by those in the government, especially in keeping transparency, honesty and good governance.
In North Cotabato, Bishop Romulo dela Cruz and diocesan priests in different parishes will celebrate masses with prayers for the repose of the soul of Robredo.
Lawyers in Davao also paid tribute to the DILG chief, remembering him as one of the few trusted and respected official.
“We have lost a good man and a model public official. My deepest sympathies to his bereaved family,” said Public Attorney’s Office-Davao chief Francis Calatrava.
Regional prosecutor Antonio Arellano said, “Jesse Robredo: Truly a man for others. He is no longer with us but he is always with us.”
Superintendent Jose Carumba, chief of the Police Regional Office (PRO) Davao region Police Community Relations Division, for his part, said Robredo, as the father of the Philippine National Police, looked after their morale and welfare.
“It is the first time we received full bonus during his term from P7,000 to P10,000. He was an instrument in increasing the budget by 50 percent and the posting of the budget in the PNP website as part of transparency and good governance,” Carumba said.
Colonel Marcos Norman S. Flores, commander of the Task Force Davao (TFD), said Robredo is an icon of leadership who directly oversees the concerns of the PNP and also brought Naga City to greater heights.
“I really admire him as a leader and a public servant. He has dedicated his life for others while being a good father to his children. The nation will surely miss him,” Flores said.
“Sec. Jesse is a model family man and public servant. He balanced his duty as a father and as a government official,” Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said in a statement.
“He made concrete efforts to better society, to serve the public and transform how government performs its duty,” he added.
PNP Director General Nicanor Bartolome also extended sympathy to Robredo’s family.
“We join the family and friends of the late secretary in prayer for the eternal repose of his soul,” he said.
“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,” he added.
Robredo’s body was recovered by divers Tuesday morning inside the twin-engine Piper Seneca plane that crashed off Masbate last Saturday, August 18. Divers had a hard time recovering his body, which was found 800 meters from the shores of Masbate at a depth of 180 feet.
His remains were flown to Naga City Tuesday afternoon and his family has set August 28 as the DILG chief’s interment. (Emmanuel Louis Bacani/Virgil Lopez/Kathrina Alvarez/JCV/HDT/With Abigail Chee Kee Malalis/JOP/ANC/ICT/MCM/Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)

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