Robredo’s remains now back in NagaBy Karen Boncocan
MANILA, Philippines – The body of Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo was brought back to his hometown Naga City Tuesday, a few hours after technical divers found and recovered his body in the waters off Masbate.
President Benigno Aquino III personally saw the return of Robredo, considered to be one of the most powerful of his cabinet officials, to his wife Leni and daughters Aika, Patricia and Jillian. He was accompanied by other members of the cabinet: Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Transportation and Communications Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Presidential Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang.
Robredo’s body was placed in a metal coffin and brought to the Archbishop’s Palace for public viewing.
It was one of the foreign technical divers who spotted the overturned Piper Seneca plane’s fuselage during his dive Tuesday morning, said Roxas who became emotional as he recounted how the body of Robredo was recovered.
He said that the fuselage was found overturned 800 meters from the shore at a depth of 180 feet.
Roxas was quick to clarify earlier that the DILG chief’s body was retrieved first because he was the easiest to reach as the pilots–Captain Jessup Bahinting and Nepalese flight student Kshitiz Chand– had been inside the cockpit. He said that divers had to be careful in their retrieval operations as there was a possibility of the fuselage being swept to deeper areas.
The discovery of the bodies ended a difficult three-day search that started when their Piper Seneca plane crashed into the waters off Masbate Saturday afternoon.
Robredo’s bodyguard, Chief Insp. Jun Abrasado, made a dramatic escape from the doomed plane and was rescued by fishermen.
National days of mourning
In the aftermath of the tragedy, Malacanang issued Proclamation No. 460 to declare the national days of mourning for Robredo starting Tuesday until his burial.
The Palace also ordered all government offices in the country to fly all flags at half-staff in honor of Robredo.
“The Committee on Funeral Arrangements and Burial created by virtue of MC 36 s. 2012, shall issue bulletins through the Office of the Presidential Spokesperson, as arrangements are finalized in consultation with, and in accordance with the wishes of, the bereaved family of the late Secretary Jesse M. Robredo. This includes announcing when the six-day period of the national flag flying at half-mast nationwide will commence,” the proclamation said.
“Let us allow the Robredo family time to grieve; let us refrain from engaging in any effort to pressure them as to any details concerning the funeral and accompanying ceremonies. These will be announced at the proper time.”
Tributes flood in
As the nation mourned the loss of Robredo, words of sympathies and condolences poured in from government leaders, the Church and foreign dignitaries for the grieving family of the late Cabinet official, described as “an icon of change and a passionate advocate of good governance.”
In a report over Radyo Inquirer 990 AM, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda called on Filipinos to unite in paying tribute to one of the nation’s finest leaders.
Lacierda thanked Robredo for his contributions to the Philippine government. Lacierda went to a Mass held in tribute for Robredo at La Salle Greenhills.
Retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz on Tuesday called on the Filipino nation to pray for the family of Robredo.
Cruz said that he was thankful that the body of Robredo was found so that his family could proceed with a proper burial.
He said the nation lost one of the most efficient members of President Benigno Aquino III’s Cabinet.
Vice President Jejomar Binay offered his deepest condolences to the family of Robredo, urging everyone to pray for them, that they trust God’s plan for all of us.
“They need our wholehearted prayers and support,” Binay said in a statement Tuesday.
In a statement, the Supreme Court said Robredo “has been an indispensable partner in judicial reform as a member of the Justice Sector Coordinating Council (JSCC) and ex-officio chair of the Napolcom (National Police Commission) whose Technical Committee and Criminal Justice System includes representation from the Court’s pillar.”
The JSCC is an inter-agency body formed in 2010 mandated to spearhead coordination efforts between the agencies for the efficient and effective administration of Justice in the Philippines.
Justice Secretary Leila De Lima is lost for words.
“I am too devastated to say anything. I’m sure many others feel the same way,” De Lima said in a text message.
Robredo was the vice chair of the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) that conducted an investigation on the Aug. 23, 2010 Quirino Grandstand Hostage. He, however, inhibited himself on the discussion on the accountability of local officials.
He also worked closely with the DoJ in several issues including crackdown on illegal jail-alai operations that even reached the Court of Appeals.
At the Senate, senators mourned the confirmation of the death of Robredo.
Senator Francis Pangilinan said he was “dumbfounded” by the news confirming the death of Robredo who he considered as a longtime friend and political ally.
“We are dumbofunded by the news. We are deeply saddened by this latest news confirming that Sec. Jesse’s body has been retrieved,” the Senator said on his official account on microblogging site Twitter, @kikopangilinan.
“He was a longtime friend and a political ally. The nation has lost a dedicated and committed public servant…,” he added in his next tweet.
“After 18 years as mayor of Naga City, Sec. Jesse would still take public transportation coming to Manila or returning to Naga and travelling within Metro Manila. This is the quality of public service that Sec. Jesse displayed. His passing is a terrible loss not only for the party but even moreso for the nation,” he added.
For her part, Senator Pia Cayetano expressed condolences for the family of Robredo.
“My family and I join the nation in mourning for the loss of a great Filipino servant and friend Sec Jesse Rebredo and his companions,” Cayetano said on her own Twitter account, @piacayetano.
“I consider Sec Jesse not just a friend but a mentor. I was campaigning as a senator in 2004 when I met him as mayor of Naga City,” she added. Cayetano also lauded Robredo for his job in improving Naga City which she said is one of her favorite cities in the country.
Cayetano also extended condolences to the families of the pilots who also died in the plane crash.
“We pray that the families of Secretary Jesse, his pilot J. Bahinting and co-pilot K. Chand may be enveloped in love at this difficult time,” Cayetano said.
Likewise, Senator Edgardo Angara also expressed condolences for Robredo and his pilot’s families.
“We mourn with the nation for the loss of a great public servant, Jesse Robredo. Our condolences to his family and the two pilots’ families. RIP,” Angara said on his own Twitter account.
Robredo’s body was recovered at 8:30 am Tuesday inside the fuselage of the chartered plane which was located 800 meters from the shore at a depth of 180 feet at past 8 am.
In a statement, Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero said that Robredo is “a tremendous loss” for the country.
“The passing of Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo is a tremendous loss for the entire nation. He was a stalwart and a pillar of our collective quest for change and good governance. I mourn the loss of Secretary Robredo. He embodied everything a Filipino leader should be. He was an honored son of Bicol, a decent and loving husband and father, and a principled man whose honesty and integrity were beyond question,” Escudero said in a statement.
Senator Franklin Drilon also praised Robredo for his work as a public servant and thanked the late official for his contribution to their party, the Liberal Party.
“Our country is grieving for we have just lost a man who had manifested genuine sincerity to serve his country. Truly, he was one of a kind public servant. I was honored to have worked with Secretary Jesse on various projects to advance developments in the LGUs. Also, I salute Secretary Jesse for sharing vision with us and for helping us in crafting sound policies in the Liberal Party where he belonged,” Drilon said in a separate statement.
For his part, Senator Panfilo Lacson thanked Robredo for helping him while he was in hiding in 2010.
“A sad day for Filipinos. I will always remember and be thankful to Sec. Jesse Robredo for personally albeit quietly helping me during my difficult time while in hiding. Not known to all, he tried his level best to convince DOJ Sec. de Lima to comply with the Court of Appeals decision reversing the Manila Regional Trial Court’s probable cause ruling against me,” Sen. Panfilo Lacson said in a separate statement.
“He was so real and natural as a person in dealing with people, close friends or not,” he added.
A common onset of grief on the House of Representatives on the news of Robredo’s passing.
Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. offered prayers and sympathy for the family of the late Cabinet official, describing Robredo to have been “a good man.”
“That fact is a great source of pride for you [the family] and those of us in government who worked alongside him. Beyond his numerous accomplishments as a government official, it weighs more as it recognizes and respects his integrity, sincerity and dedication as a public servant as well as a family man,” he said in a statement sent to the media.
Although recovering Robredo’s remains gave his family their “closure,” House majority leader Neptali Gonzales II said that the reality of the DILG chief’s passing was something which would be very difficult for the nation to accept. “[Ang] sambayanang Pilipino ay ikinalulungkot at pinagdadalamhatian ang maaga niyang pagpanaw.”
Gonzales said that it would be difficult for the next person who will lead the DILG to fill his shoe.
But expectations were not only higher for Robredo’s replacement but also for the nation, according to Aurora Representative Juan Edgardo Angara who said that “the best tribute we can give a great man is to continue the fight.”
Bicolanos also joined the nation in mourning the death of Robredo.
In a report by Radyo Inquirer 990AM’s Isa Avendano, AKO Bicol party-list Rep. Rodel Batocabe said they lost a fellow Bicolano who was an outstanding leader and a trusted government official.
Batocabe said that Bicolanos were deeply affected by the deaths of what they described as “two giants” who served the Filipino people – Robredo and Sorsogon Rep. Salvador Escudero III.
Transportation and Communication Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas on Tuesday broke the news that technical divers recovered Robredo’s body 800 meters from the shore at a depth of 180 feet at past 8 a.m.
The Bureau of Fire and Protection (BFP), one of the offices under the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) , joined the nation in mourning for grieved over the passing of its official.
In a report by Radyo Inquirer’s Chona Yu, BFP deputy chief for operations Chief Superintendent Ruben Bearis was quoted as saying he had ordered all the offices and personnel to lower the flags at half-mast as a sign of their sympathy and condolences to Robredo’s family.
The report also said that Father Randy Valoso, chaplain of the BFP, also held a Mass for Robredo at their main office in Mindanao Avenue, Quezon City.
The report added that Bearis ordered all their personnel to go to La Salle Greenhills to join the vigil held for Robredo.
Former Isabela Governor Grace Padaca on Tuesday extended her sympathies to the family Robredo, saying that he left “a great memory.”
“Everything is a good memory. Everything is positive. Parang he is frozen in time. Ganoon siya eh. Ang lungkot. Ngayon pang araw ng August 21. Forever we will live August 21 losing two men,” Padaca said in an interview over Radyo Inquirer 990 AM Tuesday morning.
Padaca said that Filipinos should look up to Robredo’s example for his life was a proof that good governance was achievable.
“We have a Jesse to Remember and look up to na possible at kaya ang good governance,” Padaca said.
Padaca recalled the times she worked with Robredo for their group Kaya Natin Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership.
She said the last words of Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte during their meeting last night were “Those who die young will live forever because God takes them away from us at the time when we most loved them.”
She said that it would be hard for the movement to continue without Robredo but that they would try their best to follow Robredo’s example.
“We hope that there will be little Jesse’s in us,” Padaca said.
The United States (US) Embassy in Manila also extended its condolences to the family Robredo.
In a statement posted in the US embassy website, US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas Jr. said that he would miss the friendship and partnership he shared with Robredo, who he said “dedicated himself to the betterment of the lives of the Filipino people.”
Thomas also assured the Filipino people of continued assistance in the aftermath of the tragedy.
“We stand with the people and government of the Philippines at this difficult time, and are prepared to assist the Philippine Government in the aftermath of this tragic accident,” the statement said.
Canada has also extended its sympathies to the family of Robredo.
In a statement sent by the Canadian embassy Tuesday morning, Canadian Ambassador Christopher Thornley said that Robredo would always be remembered for his “contributions to government transparency and democratic development.”
“He will be remembered as a leader who ushered in a new era of political reform in the Philippines, and inspired government workers to selfless devotion in public service. He was an icon of change and a passionate advocate of good governance,” Thornley said in the statement.
He added that Robredo would be missed by the 600,000 Canadians of Filipino origin.