Rare ‘tsinelas’ leadership puts gov’t in step with people power



‘TSINELAS’ LEADERSHIP The Inquirer editors and assistant editors voted Jesse Robredo the Filipino of the Year for 2012.

Shock was the order of the day when Jesse Robredo’s plane was reported to have crashed into the sea off Masbate late in the afternoon of Aug. 18, 2012. As the days wore on and the window of hope inexorably closed, shock turned into profound regret. By the time the discovery of his body in the downed plane was announced in the morning of Aug. 21, 2012, the aching sense of loss had evolved into grief.

Who was this man and why were people mourning his passing en masse? Laid-back and low-key, he became larger than life in death, and the nation engaged in a collective appreciation of him starting from the report of the plane crash and the confirmation of his death, throughout his wake, all the way to his interment and days after. The mood was sorrowful; the sense of loss was on a personal level even among those who were strangers to him and had no occasion to even shake his hand, as though an old friend had passed into the light too soon. (In the hours after news broke of his plane crash, an unconfirmed bit of information was aired that he had been found alive by a fisherman. A wave of hope instantly surged among the citizenry and took a while to subside.)

Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo had notched a sterling record as a public official early on in his political career. He was legendary as mayor of Naga City from 1988 to 1998, during which time he turned around the languishing backwater in thrall to crime syndicates to the first-class city that it once was. He was young (29) when he began to resuscitate the faltering “Heart of Bicol.”


Sweeping the streets

He was twice reelected by his constituents, who spoke fondly of their mayor as truly one of them, who told stories of his unaffected ways and how he walked around his city without the customary trappings of power, in slippers often, and who recalled that just as often he rose with the sun and, finding the opportunity, would think nothing of taking hold of a broom and sweeping parts of a street clean. Then Energy Secretary Rene Almendras, in his tribute to Robredo, called it “tsinelas brand of leadership.”

The fact is that Robredo raised the bar for not only public officials but husbands and fathers as well, and in those dog days in August when the restless sea off Masbate would not yet yield the terrible truth, it became exceedingly clear what the nation and those who loved him had lost: a leader who demanded of his constituents full collaboration in governance, who, borrowing from John Updike, “needed people, the aggravating rub of them, for stimulation,” and who was at once bold, purposeful and innovative in the public realm and attentive, gentle and loving at home. A robust public official and a tender family man—an excellent mix from any perspective.

That he is a rarity in Philippine politics added to the deep regret that accompanied Robredo to his grave. Without fanfare and self-promotion, he breathed life into the qualities of integrity and professionalism both on the local and national scale. Against the grain of those who feather their nests from lucrative government posts, he was a champion of transparency. As chief of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), he instituted a full-disclosure policy that requires local government units (LGUs) to disclose documents showing how funds are spent. As of June 2012, according to the DILG, 99 percent of LGUs had complied.


The decisive factor

The man was untiring in pushing people empowerment as the decisive factor in good governance; his long service as hizzoner was a showcase of it. “Unless and until the citizens claim good governance from those who vow to serve them, we will not [succeed in] the work of participatory governance,” Jean Llorin, Robredo’s friend, ally and associate, once quoted him as saying. That formulation appeared to have served as a mantra during his term of office in Naga and resulted in the passage of Ordinance No. 95-092, which was famously known as the “Empowerment Ordinance” and which became a model for other cities and towns.

The ordinance made possible the direct participation of sectoral representatives in Naga’s development planning process. The Naga City People’s Council became an active partner of the local government; in the course of its existence when Robredo was no longer mayor, as though hewing to the idea of continuing revolution, the council was revitalized to beef up its capacity for engagement.

Concrete proof

But these are mere words! The concrete proof of Robredo’s work in Naga, as noted by the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation which recognized him for government service in 2000, can be seen in the high schools, daycare centers, public hospital, farm-to-market roads in the rural communities, and lots for the homeless, as well as in the people whom he drew into civic action and the city employees whose performance, productivity and morale he raised.

According to the foundation, Robredo demonstrated that “effective city management is compatible with yielding power to the people.”

Robredo employed the same vision on the national scale, improving LGUs’ disaster risk reduction capabilities, among other things, and, only days before his death, preparing to embark on a campaign to empower ordinary citizens to demand good governance and transparency from their leaders.


How tragic that he would be cut down in his prime, the DILG portfolio only two years in his capable hands, and perennial problems like illegal logging only lately given the benefit of his attention. Those in the know say that an immensely more challenging task had lain ahead of him, that he was actually being groomed for a presidential run in 2016—that he was “the best president the Philippines never had.” Imagine what he could have achieved and made possible.

Still Robredo’s example inspires, lending a wealth of insight into the virtues of  people-empowered governance and of unqualified devotion to spouse and children, parents and siblings. Whence comes another?

Editor’s Note: The Philippine Daily Inquirer annually honors a living Filipino who has made the most positive impact on the life of the nation. But for only the second time since the beginning of the Filipino of the Year series in 1991, the Inquirer voted  for a nonliving Filipino.


Fernando Poe Jr., who died in December 2004, was named that year.


The Inquirer editors and assistant editors voted  Jesse Robredo the Filipino of the Year for 2012.   


Of 63 votes, Robredo received 17; Luis Cardinal Tagle, 11; and President Aquino, 8.  The rest of the nominees were, in the order of number of votes received: Cris Valdez, Sen.  Pia Cayetano, Rep. Edcel Lagman, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, government and MILF peace panels, Dolphy, Filipino women, Filipino Indie makers, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Kevin Balot.

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  • bogli_anakdami

    robredo for canonization… santo jesse… uy, siguradong holiday (day off) na naman to…

    • Mike_1974

      such cynical statement. you need to do some deep thinking!!!

      • bogli_anakdami

        bicolanos do not have a saint yet, di ba?… isama na sya sa parada ng birhen ng penafrancia…

        he’s a toss in…

    • freeview

      Santo agad di ba pwede …ganun na lang…siya maalala..? Baka Santo tsinelas pa siya ..tawagin ..hehehe


    ENRILE’s brand of leadership is more effective…’s called STEP-IN leadership!

    • Rolly257

      Right!!! Step in to the treasures’ vault.

  • Erwin Ross V. Dalao

    sana mabiyayaan pa ang Pilipinas ng Robredong kongreso at senado.

  • Paliwaweng

    One way of honoring him is for the government to make  template for governance patterned on how Robredo make Naga progress and became a model town.
    Name it Robredo Formula.
    He could have been the Lee Kuan Yew of the Philippines.

  • Marx Louis Wang

    Iyan ang tunay na Bicolano di tulad ni Aga Muhlach gusto lang gamitin ang Bicolanos sa ambition niyang sumikat sa politiko.

    • freeview

      Si Aga ..tulad ng ibang artista laos na kasi kaya dapat may ibang pagkakakitaan..hehe..Ayala alabang ba naman ang tirahan…Dapat makibGay siya doon…Pag ala ka pera..doon..pano na lang

      • Rolly257

        At least, hindi Villafuerte ang pangalan ni Aga.

      • Mattino2011

         Kupal nga mga Villafuerte, maski mga kaibigan siya ng yumaong lolo ko

    • EOJ

      Aga is far better than the corrupt trapos villafuerte and fuentebellas. Time for change. they have been ruling that district for decades.

      • JD Auburn

        Manok siya ni l-ray VILLAFUERTE hello?

      • rage b.

        agree!!how many decades it was run and till this day by trapos nothing change except the fat wallet of this
        politicians in camsur,give it a go for aga

      • Marx Louis Wang

        Better??? How? Di pa nga siya nakaupo?

    • Febien

      Malaki pera sa politika! tingnan ang mga Mansyon ng artistang senador. wow! parang palasyo nii KING ABDULLAH ng Jordan! Di muna magsimula sa mababa governor agad!

  • farmerpo

    Can we find somebody living to whom we can heap praises? Just wondering.. we never learn our lessons. We don’t miss anything or anybody until we lose it or him or her, them we moan,groan and cry, why why why……. then put the non-living  on a pedestal to adore and praise, short of worship. Let us find someone living who is as good or better…

    • Ron Anderson

      might as well name one mr. farmerpo. if you could name one.

      • bicolokano

        parang meron nga eh.  DA Sec Alcala – seems very low profile but performing exceptionally well.  No grandstanding, no media grabbing (except for announcing good news on our harvests) – pure service for the country. ^_^ 

      • farmerpo

         I wish, Ron. I wish I could. Truly. We all need a live hero, not a dead one.

  • bogli_anakdami

    life is cheap in lawless flipland… criminals/murderers abound… 

    there are good people who wanted to make a change…

    pero, pinapatay lang ng mga hinayupak na flips in power…. wasted lives…

    who, in their right kukote, would do that?

    kaya, ubusan na lang ng tribo, di ba?


  • el_latigo

    Sometimes I can’t help thinking that we are an  accursed nation if one is to survey the political horizon in this predominantly Catholic country. Consider: Just as the Filipino people have found a gem of a leader in Jesse Robredo, who is as rare as a rose-colored diamond,  death snatched this great man and great leader from us. We can only weep and gnash our teeth and lament “what a waste” after realizing that indeed, just as we have seen among our “honorable” Senatongs (and Tongressmen too),  we are surrounded by corrupt politicians and leaders squabbling over our  money, taxpayers’ money. 

    The Filipino of the Year 2012 and great selfless leader, Jesse Robredo is dead! Long live Jesse Robredo!

  • Opel

    we will miss the great man. if only leaders could live the simplicity of life sec jessie did, d sana madami ang corrupt.

  • regd

    I am contented with the satisfaction that there are still people like him. I will give his wife, Leni, a shot to lead this country.

  • EOJ


    His legacy should be perpetuated in government service.

  • YanoSantos

    Sec Robredo deserved to be honored. A very simple man with a big heart in public service.

  • bryant85

    Over embellishment on the persona of the late Robredo makes me have doubts on the purpose of these writers. Akin to a good song, if one plays it regularly, most often than not, you’ll get bored. Even to delicious foods, fried chicken every day roils the appetite, one has to look for alternate menu.

    On the case of Robredo his over exposure in the news makes the story less palatable to the taste. So instead of having him in your heart as a once good performer, I feel dejected and angry at the writer of this article since he’s destroying the good image of Robredo by too much publicity.

    If the writer’s objective is to make Robredo a hero in public service then perform some other measures like coming out with a million signatures to file a petition at congress or encourage local officials to pass a resolution but hiding and using the press as the springboard deflates the very purpose. To me it’s a fool’s errand furthermore it leads to apathy instead of appreciation to the deeds of Robredo.

    • JD Auburn

      i respect your distaste… some of us just can’t get enough of these stories because of the magnitude of what we lost… please allow us to have our own moment… we need these stories so we can genuinely move on while continuing/emulating (in our own way) Mayor Pogi’s work.  

    • symonwho

      Good work and good deeds should be talked about specially for the young to have the inspiration and a role model.

    • Garo Ungaro

      Main problem of man is, “man easily forgets.”

  • bryanbrian

    One of the few in the likes of PNoy who I truly believe in. I will do my part in ensuring his legacy will not be forgotten by being a good and vigilant citizen.

  • jbrand


  • Koneksyon


    • Harry

      Rizal and Bonifacio died fighting for the country’s freedom against foreign colonial powers. Robredo died in the hands of an untrained co-pilot, in presence of  an incompetent pilot that handed the navigation to a greenhorn during an emergency, and a irresponsible government agency that renewed a license without ascertaining the flying ability of the trainee.

      Robredo was a good government official and he died while in line of his duty. Thousands of small government officials also performed their duties diligently and lived honest and simple lives like Robredo.

      The country has hope because there are thousands of unknown Robredos.

      • Koneksyon

         wish upon a star…….maybe……somehow…….in prayer…..

  • virgoyap

    Yes I voted for him in the Inquirer survey. That’s why I was surprised having accidentally read another name.

    • tuldok

      It baffles me that only 17 out of 63 voted for him…

  • boybakal

    Jesse is man of the people, talagang pangmasa.
    Nothing bad to say…

  • Jojo

    ang panghahamak ni cong.luis villafuerte sr. kay late sec.robredo ay hndi mapapalagpas ng mga botanteng bikolanos sa camarines sur .. LET HIM JUNK THIS COMING ELECTION!!

  • Marshall

    Si Robredo…..Pinagkakatiwalaan ng mamamayan..
    Si Binay …… punong-puno ng katiwalian..Si Robredo…May dignidad..
    Si Binay ……May imoralidad…

    Si Robredo ..Itinataguyod ang edukasyon…
    Si Binay …..itinataguyod ang korapsyon…

    Si Robredo…may kahihiyan…
    Si Binay ……Sagad sa kawalanghiyaan….

    • virgoyap

      Let’s give Leni Robredo a chance until she will climb to the ladder of national importance. And who knows that someday she will lead our country forward like what her late husband did…just wishing upon the stars…

  • mapicchu

    PNOY should require all senators, congressmen, justices, all other government officials to report for work in tsinelas and t-shirts/maong pants…that way they will feel masa, and connect to the people..tama na magagarbong suot,  it corrupts their souls. am very serious in this. the kawawang barong is being used as a guise to pretend they are decent.

    • tuldok

      one of the best comments i’ve read in months…”the kawawang barong is being used as a guise to pretend they are decent”  how true…

  • George Lapulapu

    Jesse Robredo–A Filipino!!!

    • Koneksyon

       THIS IS – the best and the most intelligent comment/reaction to this article!!!

  • Benito Juarez

    From what I read about him, Mr. Robredo exudes an ordinary man with extraordinary leadership skills to get things done for his people. He’s a type of person who buys me an umbrella when it rains and walks me on a muddy road. Thank you for your service to the nation.

  • JoseMiguelCasuarino

    Jesse Robredo…a model of commitment and dedication to the people he vowed to serve.  

  • Garo Ungaro

    He just show us that it can be done. Now its just a footprint in the sand, only time can tell, 
    if we would be able to follow the set example of a good governance and the short effect, thatwas felt by the whole Filipino people. Time…Time…?


    Robredo is something that Puno will never become: CLEAN.

  • EREC

    Our Honorable Mayor, Sec. Jesse (Pogi) is an EXEMPLARY leader. He lead by example and work with good result. This real honorable down to earth mayor has no contribution directly to me but because of his result oriented leadership, it inspired me personally that in this world there is NO PERNSON BORN TO BE POOR, ALL ARE EQUAL only THERE IS LESS FORTUNATE. Due to Im inspired, by our Honorable Mayor I SEEK MY FORTUNE and I find it. Now I have a family, my 3 children grew with dicipline with priority in study and following laws in simple way like traffic & pedestrian rules. During those time, I was newly graduate in college, have a chance to talked to him personally in his office despite of a lot of people. I offer him a product that with a little luxurious but he needs in his daily work…..What i get… an insperation conversation with him that leads me…. for what I am now. A lesson like to be WISE ESPENDER, ACCOUNT YOUR EXPENSES, DON’T BUY EVEN IMPORTANT BUT NOT NECESSARY …. be a leader same as a head of the family that to be responsible, resource and have guiding principle. Im LUCKY that I talked to him personally once in my life in a few minutes but I brought it in my journey in life.Now I pass it to my children and TO YOU READERS. THERE IS NO IMPOSSIBLE IN WALKS OF LIFE IF YOU HAVE STRONG FAITH….BECAUSE DOIN GOOD ALWAYS RESULTS GOOD.

    • Koneksyon

       so lucky, lucky you…..

      • EREC

        yES i AM…. it never comes in my mind that the SIMPLE mayor I talked(once) in his SIMPLE office will be recognized by more people than the way I recognized him at that time. 

  • EREC

    Honestly, every time I read some articles with regards to our real Honorable Jesse M. Robredo…my tears fall that I cannot control…even I’m in the office. I personally saw the development in Naga City and how he managed and sacrifice his self and family(which you will never heard in the radio or public) that just have positive development the place. Now, most of Naquenos and near towns and all Bicolanos just a beneficiaries of Mayor Jesse Robredo good governance leadership and his council.

    • Garo Ungaro

      Now the next step. Can we maintain the good governance
      that he set for Naga City?

      • EREC

        Yes! because I extended and already started those good values with positive asperation in my family. In every member of the family must inculcate the goodness that can contribute to the progress and orderliness of society, Philippines will be a progressive country not only in economy but also in right values(please read and understand NEW TESTAMENT). basic guiding principle : MASAMA ANG MAGNAKAW O KUMUHA NG HINDI SAYO. SA PAGLAKAD SA IYONG BUHAY PULUTIN MO ANG MABUTI AT IWAN ANG MASAMA….ilan lang iyan ang dala ko sa aking pakikibaka dito sa aking kinalalagyan.

      • Garo Ungaro

        more power for you my friend, a family is the basic foundation 
        in our society. and hope your belief will bring peace around you.
        and Sec jess memory will remain a very good example to all

  • joel genese

    The success of Naga City is of course attributed to the good governance of Sec. Jesse but is also in part by the cooperation of the Naguenios who are exhausted of bad politics.

  • binatangtagabukid

    i ll share one experience i had with this man they call POGI..he was walking in the city center when he notice drainage canal in front of the hotel where we stay, he see that it was clog with trash without second thought he clean it with his bare hands and and all the people around were shock to see the mayor cleaning a canal…

  • sacrebleau

    Tsinelas leadership = Robredo. Leaking breast implant = little girl.

    • Marx Louis Wang


  • boybakal

    Tsinelas Leadership….Robredo started it.
    Next time, make it Sapatos Leadership, para mahabahaba ang buhay.
    Kasi tsinelas, madaling mapigtal, sapatos matagal at matibay.

    Robredo is really a Servant…Humble Leadership.

  • Edgardo Mendoza


    • EOJ

      Ikaw ba yan villafuerte?

      • jdelacruz13

         si villafuerte nga siguro lakay …. si robredo lang ang tumalo sa dynasty ng mga villafuerte kahit milyon milyon ang itinapon ng mga villafuerte nuong botohan ..

    • kalikasanipagtanggol

       Alam mo Luis V. ganito yun!

  • EOJ

    His example should be followed by all public officials.

  • JustWords811

    what a shame that Jesse Robredo’s critics cannot see through the pettiness of their arguments. he was a noble man whose life many can never duplicate.

  • Magsasaka

    si robredo ang nag iisang anti-jueteng sa Pnoy government, ang PNP ay protector ng jueteng, yong tanging buhay sa sakuna ay taga PNP, mahirap bang isipin kung ano talaga ang nangyari

  • ApoLapullapu

    Most heroes die young.

  • Happy Hetty

    It really lifts my spirit when I read articles of Sec. Jesse. I think each one of us is capable to be just like him, it’s just a matter believing and consciously choosing to do the right thing.  More than living simply, its doing good to others na walang bias and kapalit.  I believe there are more like him around.  I hope someone can set up a website where people can just say THANK YOU to the “simple” people who have helped them in any way, all the more government officials or workers who are very exemplary.  As much as they don’t think that recognition is important, it helps give a sense that there are a lot of good people out there unlike what the local news portray…

  • cheqm8

    Um i think you need to replace Robredo’s photo if he’s your Filipino of the year. 

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