New DILG chief almost rode plane that carried late Robredo | Inquirer News

New DILG chief almost rode plane that carried late Robredo

/ 08:53 PM September 11, 2015

The new Interior secretary Mel Senen Sarmiento almost rode the aircraft that crashed off the Masbate coast carrying the former Department of Interior and Local Government secretary and friend Jesse Robredo in 2012.


In a speech he delivered before the employees and officials of the DILG and its attached agencies, Sarmiento recalled how he was fortunate enough to escape a possible plane crash when he almost flew to his hometown in Samar using the ill-fated Piper Seneca plane that killed Robredo in August 2012.

READ: In the Know: New DILG head Mel Senen Sarmiento


The former Calbayog mayor-turned-Western Samar representative took over the DILG on Friday in a simple ceremony at the DILG-Napolcom Center in Quezon City. His predecessor Manuel “Mar” Roxas II has been anointed by President Aquino as the standard-bearer of the Liberal Party in the 2016 elections.

On August 2012, Sarmiento was asked by his brother to come home to celebrate the former’s birthday in Samar. Because there were no commercial flights available, Sarmiento said his brother offered to get him a private plane.

“Pero sabi ko patingnan ko muna eroplano. Teka, may kalumaan. Pero dalawa naman ang engine so pwede na siguro. So nagpapicture tayo kasama ang plane,” he said.

When he was on his way to the airport, the pilot called him up and offered to trade planes with him. “Sabi ng captain sa akin: ‘Cong. nakakahiya sa iyo. Palit tayo ng airplane.’ Pagdating ko doon sa airport, bago ang plane so sige, sakay tayo. Nakauwi sa amin ng August 11. That was a Saturday,” he recalled.

After a week, Sarmiento said he had a breakfast with “a friend,” who had asked the then lawmaker to meet up with him again the following week.

“Kinabukasan, hindi ko alam na ‘yung kaibigan ko sumakay sa plane na nakapagpapicture ako na tingin ko lumang luma. Ang kaibigan kong ‘yon ay walang iba kung hindi si Sec. Jesse,” he recounted.

Robredo died on August 18 with Capt. Jessup Bahinting, the pilot and owner of the six-seater Piper Seneca plane, and Nepalese student pilot Khshitiz Chand. Only Robredo’s aide, Senior Inspector June Abrazado, survived the crash.


When his friend died, Sarmiento said he had told himself: “Jesse, ano ba ‘to. Paano na ‘yung mga napapgusapan natin, nawala ka naman bigla.”

He continued, “Buti na lang dumating si Sec. Mar. Tinuloy at pinalaki pa niya ‘yung mga napagusapan namin ni Jesse noong araw.”

Delicate position

The outgoing secretary, in his farewell speech, also recounted how President Aquino first told him about his appointment as the DILG chief as replacement for Robredo.

“I recall it was very early in the morning. It was 5:30 a.m. we had just boarded the C-130 plane to Masbate on the first day of the search and rescue for Secretary Jesse Robredo and he took me aside and said, ‘Mar, I just want you to know, you have to begin to prepare for DILG.’ Sabi ko, ‘Sir hahanapin pa natin si Sec. Jesse.’ ‘Oo, hahanapin pa natin si Jesse pero gusto ko lang mawala sa isip ko ‘yung pangamba kung sakali na hindi natin mahanap si Jesse.”

READ: Top LP exec named new DILG secretary

Two weeks after Robredo’s death, Aquino appointed then Transportation secretary Roxas as the DILG chief on August 31, 2012.

Roxas said the President told him that the DILG post was “a delicate position requiring utmost confidence.”

He also lauded Sarmiento for his integrity, competence and experience as a public servant. “He has received all accolades Sec. Jesse had received when he was a Mayor of Calbayog,” said Roxas.

House Speaker Representative Sonny Belmonte, in a brief speech, also praised Sarmiento for being a “silent worker.” “We saw his competence. He’s very active, amiable,” he said.

Before Sarmiento was a representative of Western Samar, he was the Calbayog city mayor from 2001 to 2010 and the city’s vice mayor from 1992 to 1995. He also served as the secretary general for the League of Cities of the Philippines from 2004 to 2010.

Belmonte, the LP Vice Chair, called on the party’s Secretary-General to “do his best” because the “all of our names are at stake here.”

As DILG secretary, Sarmiento will oversee all local government units nationwide, the Philippine National Police, National Police Commission, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, and the Bureau of Fire Protection. Julliane Love de Jesus


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TAGS: Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Jesse Robredo, Liberal Party, Mar Roxas, Mel Senen Sarmiento, Nation, Philippines, Piper Seneca, President Aquino
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