TWENTY-NINE YEARS after one hero was struck down by an assassin’s bullet, the nation remembers and honors yet another great man.
On Tuesday, authorities announced the recovery of the body of Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo. Robredo was a passenger on board a light plane that plunged into the waters off Masbate Saturday afternoon, triggering a search and rescue effort that has kept much of the country on tenterhooks, waiting for any news on Robredo.
Today, August 21, the end came quietly, solemnly, as Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas announced that Robredo’s remains were found inside the Piper Seneca airplane fuselage along with the two pilots. The announcement comes even as the country remembers the death of an earlier hero, former Senator Benigno Aquino Jr, on the tarmac of the then Manila International Airport on August 21, 1983.
Messages of grief flooded social media.
“Hindi ako makapaniwala. You left us too soon,” said one on Facebook.
“A great man, a great public servant,” said another.
“The nation has lost a great man far too soon. I can feel the collective breaking of hearts. Including my own. Thank you, Sec. Jesse,” said one journalist.
That Jesse was a hero as well to many comes as no stretch of the imagination. Prior to his appointment as DILG head, Robredo worked quietly yet magnificently as the Mayor of Naga City, transforming that city into a shining example of good governance and cooperative work between government and nongovernmental organizations.
Truth is, Robredo, despite all his years in politics, always seemed like the uncomfortable politician, and for this we remember him all the more. He was not loud, extravagant in words, or outwardly ebullient. He was not one to declaim and thunder from pulpit and podium; he was one to quietly work, and work hard. And work well. If you didn’t know him well, you would never suspect that he studied in Harvard, or that he was the 2000 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Government Service.
The PCIJ had the opportunity to work with Robredo on a few cases, particularly the Ampatuan case.
On December 3, 2011, two lawyers claiming to be representatives of the Ampatuan family came to the Banco de Oro branch in Cotabato City to withdraw money from bank accounts that had earlier been ordered frozen by the Court of Appeals as part of the Ampatuan wealth.
The CA freeze order had expired the previous day, December 2. With that, the Ampatua lawyers attempted to pressure bank officials to release the money, even though a Manila court had already issued a new freeze order to preserve the assets.
A quick text message to Secretary Robredo brought swift action. On the instruction of the Interior Secretary, a team of policemen immediately went to the Cotabato bank branch to enforce the new freeze order, and turn away the Ampatuan lawyers. No press conferences, no fanfare, no press releases. He just did what he thought he had to do.
That story may be read here.
Five years ago, PCIJ’s first Multimedia Director, the late Alecks Pabico, had the chance to chat with Robredo as well. The result was a PCIJ story titled “People Power thrives in Naga City.”
At that time, Robredo was still Mayor of Naga City, the city that he loved so much, the city he was flying to that Saturday afternoon, and the city that was probably in his thoughts during that long descent to the sea.
Alecks’ story on Jesse may be read here.
*photo is from Jesse Robredo’s Facebook account