I don’t even question Robredo’s untimely death, says wifeBy Jamie Marie Elona, Karen Boncocan, Matikas Santos
MANILA, Philippines—Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo’s widow, Leni, on Thursday said that she did not question his untimely passing and that she felt that he had lived a full life.
“I don’t even question his unexpected death, she told reporters on Thursday, the first time she has spoken to the media since the death of her husband.
She said that the DILG chief did not seem to view his confirmation as an issue more important than serving the people.
What Robredo prized more was serving the people–more than being granted confirmation as chief of the Department of Interior and Local Government.
To her, Robredo had lived “a full life,” recalling how he frequently told her that after all of the blessings and accomplishments, his wishes were more for his three daughters, Aika, Patricia and Jillian. “Wala na siyang panaginip (para) sa kanya, sa mga anak na lang daw (namin) [He doesn’t have any dream anymore but only for our children].”
Robredo’s aide hailed
She said that she was thankful for Robredo’s aide, June Abrazado, the lone survivor of the Piper Seneca plane crash last Saturday, for his service to her husband back when he was still alive. “June served my husband very well… Ang nararamdaman ko para sa kanya (ay) pasasalamat [What I feel for him is gratitude].”
“[June] served my husband very well. He’s a good man and kind to us,” Leni said
She recalled her husband as a family man and not as a DILG chief or mayor of his hometown Naga City whenever he was at home.
Jillian, their youngest daughter, knows that she is not to blame for her father’s untimely demise. Leni said that what she told Jillian about her father, who was always hurrying home from work, was: “sabi ko araw-araw nang nandiyan si papa [Every day papa is here].”
One of the things she recalled him saying when asked why he religiously went home to their house in Naga City was: “pag hindi ako uuwi masisira ang ulo ko sa Manila (If I don’t go home, I’d go crazy in Manila).”
She said that Robredo, although sometimes frustrated with work in the government, looked up to many Cabinet officials and remained hopeful for the nation.
The Robredos are coping with their loss of a beloved family member, said Leni, who pointed out that sympathies from colleagues, friends and even strangers who considered him as family eased their burden.
Rescue and retrieval operations end
The body of Nepali student pilot Kshitiz Chand was found early Thursday, ending five days of a search that began right after a light plane crashed into the sea off Masbate City last Saturday, claiming the lives of the plane’s two pilots and that of Robredo.
After announcing the retrieval of Chand’s body, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin declared the conclusion of “Task Force Kalihim,” a massive search operation that, in the words of Masbate Governor Rizalina Seachon-Lanete, showcased the best of the “bayanihan” (community) spirit of people who worked tirelessly in spite of limited equipment and other resources.
A passing passenger boat, the MV Cooperative, fished out the floating body of Chand at about 7:45 a.m. Thursday near the area where the wreckage of the ill-fated Piper Seneca was found lying belly up on the seabed.
The body was turned over to a Philippine Navy ship that was in the vicinity, also searching for Chand, the remaining missing co-pilot of the downed plane. It was the ship that brought Chand’s body to shore where it was identified by his father, Tek Bahadur Chand, who arrived here from Nepal, via Cebu, on Monday.
Chand’s body was recovered about 500 meters from the shore, said Gazmin.
The search and rescue operation was organized shortly after the plane crashed at about 4:30 p.m. on Saturday. Robredo’s police aide, Abrazado, the fourth person aboard the plane, survived the crash with minor injuries.
Robredo’s body was recovered early Tuesday, followed by that of Bahinting, owner of the downed aircraft, the following day.
Robredo’s remains were brought to his hometown, Naga City, also on Tuesday, while that of Bahinting was flown to Cebu on Thursday.
Chand’s body was to be flown as well to Cebu, the base of Aviatour Air, the pilot school cum charter company owned by Bahinting.
Victims’ belongings re-floated
At about 9 a.m. on Thursday, Senior Supt. Heriberto Olitoquit, director of the Philippine National Police in Masbate, said that all the belongings, including bags, were recovered in the wreckage of the plane that was refloated at around 7 a.m. and brought closer to the shore.
The belongings were brought to the command center of the search and rescue operation but would not be opened pending investigation by the SOCO (scene of the crime operatives), he said.
Gen. Jessie Dellosa, chief of staff of the Armed forces of the Philippines (AFP), said the search-and-rescue operations highlighted the limited resources and capability of the military.
“We only have six Navy divers who can dive up to 200 feet (60 meters),” said Dellosa. Nevertheless, he added, the operation brought out the best in the AFP.
“We have exhausted all we can do,” Dellosa said.
The Philippine Army, according to him, also sent six divers but they were not trained to dive to such depths.
Gazmin said the search and rescue operation was a learning experience.
“Next time, we will be more prepared,” Gazmin said. “Our only weakness is the lack of trained people on the technical side because of we are lacking in equipment.”
On the part of the provincial government of Masbate, Gov. Lanete said the provincial disaster risk reduction and management council was activated right after the plane crash and set up a command center at the R.M. Villa Resort, a stone’s throw from the runway of the Masbate Airport and very near the crash site.
The search and rescue operation, Lanete said, showed that they were still lacking in equipment although it delivered the message that the provincial government should always be prepared for any eventuality.
The provincial government shouldered all the expenses for food and gasoline of all those involved in the operation. There were no official figures yet on the cost of the operation, but it used up at least 30, 000 liters of gasoline for the land and sea transports used.
“The search and rescue operation has put Masbate on the spotlight and showed the bayanihan spirit here,” said Lanete.
The office of Masbate third district Rep. Scott Davies Lanete, the governor’s son, also provided additional funds for the search and rescue operation.