Slum dwellers render most emotional memorialBy TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Of all the four-hour memorials held by different groups in Malacañang’s Kalayaan Hall on Friday afternoon, the slum dwellers and informal settlers gave the most emotional speeches and painted the most grounded portrait of Jesse Robredo.
The urban poor groups described Robredo as their “hero” who nurtured their dream of relocating to on-site or in-city homes in Metro Manila under the government’s yet to be implemented P50-billion, five-year relocation program for informal settlers.
“He gave us hope that the good will prevail,” said Evangeline Serrano of the Alyansang Mamamayan ng Montalban.
But more than anything else, the late secretary treated them as equals, not dirt-poor eyesores, the slum dwellers said. He was always accessible to them even late at night, and quick to offer solutions to their problems, they added.
No false hope
“He’s not one to give false hope just to ease our feelings,” said urban poor leader Filomena Cinco of the Estero de San Miguel. “We’d argue with each other to the point of hurting each other’s feelings, but I’d go out of his office (feeling) light-hearted because he’d make us feel he was sincere in helping us,” she added.
Cinco broke down when she recalled how Robredo always welcomed them into his office without the usual “protocols” imposed by other government agencies.
“He was the only one who gave us importance. When he faced us, he treated us as equals, not as trash or eyesores,” she said. “With Secretary Robredo, we had a different view of ourselves. He lifted our spirits, (and made us feel) that no matter how small we are, we have rights to a decent housing, and that our voices should be heard,” she added.
In a tribute to Robredo, the children’s choir Estero de San Miguel Angels, sang Mariah Carey’s “Hero.” Activist priest Fr. Robert Reyes concluded the urban poor’s necrological service with a prayer.
‘Perfect to succeed Aquino
Robredo’s colleagues at the Department of the Interior and Local Government described him as a simple yet hard-working “boss,” a principled partner in government, and a good example.
Vincent Lazatin of the Transparency Accountability Network said that Robredo was his favorite of all the “good appointments” made by President Aquino in 2010.
“In fact, many believed, as I did, that he would have been perfect to succeed President Aquino as the next Chief Executive. I say these things not merely to memorialize him today but because I believe, with all my heart, in Jesse Robredo,” Lazatin said.
“Truly he was a living miracle,” said Mayor Oscar Rodriguez, president of the League of Cities of the Philippines.
His best memory of Robredo, said Gov. Alfonso “Boy” Umali Jr., president of the League of Provinces of the Philippines, was of riding buses with him when the late secretary would go home to Naga City. He would also excuse himself during meetings to pick up his daughter in school. “He was very simple, without airs,” Umali said.
‘Guapo’ vs ‘trapo’
The best moral imparted by Robredo was that the “guapo (genuine politicians) could beat the trapo (traditional politicians),” said Dr. Eddie Dorotan, executive director of Galing Pook Foundation.
“We’ve also proven—governors, mayors and policemen, listen—that jueteng (illegal numbers game) won’t thrive if the mayor doesn’t allow it. You only need to provide alternative livelihood for the bet collectors,” Dorotan said.
With Robredo at the helm, Naga City reaped 14 Galing Pook awards, according to Dorotan, who announced that the group was launching the Jesse Robredo governance award and the Jesse Robredo lecture series in coordination with the University of the Philippines National College of Public Administration and Governance.