Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Jesse Robredo

Image courtesy of Jane Almoneda

The Author of Come Visit Davao and his family wish to convey our deepest sympathies and much prayers to the family of the Honorable Secretary Jesse Robredo whose untimely demise has brought immeasurable sorrow to the whole nation today. This particular post humbly recalls the Secretary's selfless public service to our country and to the people of Naga, and at the same time trust in the Divine Mercy and Love of our Lord Jesus.

Jesse Manalastas Robredo
Jesse Manalastas Robredo was born on May 27, 1958 in Naga City to parents, Jose Chan Robredo, Sr. and Marcelina Manalastas. He was the third among five children. Robredo was a second generation Chinese-Filipino whose paternal grandfather, Lim Pay Co, migrated to the Philippines at the turn of the 20th century and assumed the name of Juan Lim Robredo  after converting to Christianity, following a custom where Chinese immigrants adopt the name of their godparents at baptism. Lim Pay Co adopted the name of the priest who baptized him. Robredo's father on the other hand acquired the middle name Chan from his mother's maiden name.

Robredo obtained his elementary education at the Naga Parochial School, a private Catholic school in Naga City, and finished high school at Ateneo de Naga. He obtained his undergraduate degrees in Industrial Management Engineering and Mechanical Engineering at the De La Salle University in Manila. In 1985, he completed his Masters in Business Administration as university scholar at the University of the Philippines in Diliman, Quezon City,  and was awarded the Graduate School and Faculty Organization for academic excellence. Robredo was an Edward Mason Fellow and a graduate of Masters of Public Administration at John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1999. 

After working briefly at San Miguel Corporation in Mandaluyong City, Robredo moved back to Naga City in 1986 and became Program Director of the Bicol River Basin Development Program, an agency that undertakes development planning of the integrated areas in the three provinces of the Bicol region.

In 1988, Robredo ran for mayor of Naga City in Camarines Sur and assumed the office at the age of 29, making him the youngest mayor in the country. As Mayor, he dramatically restored Naga as the premier city of Bicol Region and transformed the city to being one of the "Most Improved Cities in Asia", as cited by Asiaweek Magazine in 1999. In 1995, in view of his dynamic leadership, Robredo was elected President of the League of Cities of the Philippines, the national association of city mayors, while he also chaired the Metro Naga Development Council, and from 1992 to 1998, Robredo was also elected Chairman of the Regional Development Council, the regional planning and coordinating body of Bicol's six provinces and seven cities. He was also the first Filipino mayor to be awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service in 2000.

On July 9, 2010, President Benigno C. Aquino III named Robredo as Secretary of the Interior and Local Government, a position he held until his untimely death last August 18, 2012 when his six-seater, twin engine Piper Seneca PA 34-200 private plane with Registry No. RPC 4431 crashed 800 meters off the shore of Masbate City at about 5PM, while en route from Cebu Cebu to Naga City to watch his daughter's swimming competition. Robredo was a member of the Liberal Party.

Robredo went to Cebu to attend the ground breaking of the Philippine Police Safety College in Consolacion, Cebu. Thereafter, he proceeded to the Cebu International Convention Center in Mandaue City and delivered his keynote speech before the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-Community Investigative Support national summit. While Robredo was scheduled to leave Cebu on-board Cebu Pacific flight at 2:40 PM, he made a last minute decision to fly to Naga City via a chartered plane owned by Aviatour Flight School in Lapu-Lapu City, Mactan Island. 

Shortly after the plane take-off at 2:30 PM in Cebu, the pilot and also the owner and CEO of Aviatour Flight School, 60-year-old Captain Jessup Bahinting of Siquijor, assisted by co-pilot Kshitiz Chand, a Nepalese national, sent a distress call to the Moises R. Espinosa Airport in Masbate City requesting an emergency landing due to engine trouble. Meanwhile, at around 3:30 PM, Aide to Secretary Robredo, Police Chief Inspector June Paolo Abrazado, sent a text message to Coronel Ritchie Posadas, PCAS-7 chief, that they were immediately returning to Cebu as the plane was experiencing problem with one of the propellers, and asked to be rebooked for the earliest flight possible to Naga City. However, after Coronel Posadas had already booked Secretary Robredo for 5:05 PM flight from Cebu to Manila via Cebu Pacific 5J570, at around 4:20 PM, Abrazado informed PCAS-7 that they were making an emergency landing at Masbate Airport. When asked if they were okay, Abrazado replied, "Okey naman." Sadly, the plane never made it to the airport and crashed in the ocean. 

Abrazado survived the crash after he unbuckled his seat belt and was thrown off the plane during the crash. He was later rescued by fishermen.

Immediately after the crash, President Aquino responded to the scene and headed the search and rescue operation conducted by the joint recovery efforts of the Philippine Coast Guard, Philippine Navy, Philippine Air Force and the local government of Masbate to locate and retrieve safely Secretary Robredo and his missing pilot and co-pilot, while hundreds of people gathered at the Robredo residence in Bulusan Street, Dayangdan, Naga City with the Robredo family, friends and political allies and kept vigil and prayed for the safe return of Secretary Robredo and his companions. 

However, after three days of intense search, at 8:15 AM today, Tuesday, August 21, the body of Secretary Robredo was finally recovered from the fuselage of the wrecked plane some 800 meters  off the coast of Masbate City, at a depth of 180 feet. 

President Aquino himself, accompanied by Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Transportation and Communications Secretary Mar Roxas, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Presidential Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang, brought the body of Secretary Robredo back to his family in Naga City. 

Secretary Jesse Robredo was 54. He is survived by his wife, Maria Leonor "Leni" Gerona Robredo, and and their daughters Aika, 24; Patricia, 18; and Jillian, 12.

Farewell, Secretary Jesse Robredo and thank you for your selfless and unparalleled dedication to clean and honest public service to the country. You are such a great loss to the country and you will be best remembered by every Filipino of your dynamic LEADERSHIP and unquestionable INTEGRITY.

May you rest in peace with the Lord.

Awards and Recognitions

In recognition of his outstanding performance in public service, Jess Robredo received 14 major individual awards, including:

The 2000 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service
 (Asia's version of the Nobel Prize) for his good governance,

1998 Konrad Adenauer Medal of Excellence as Most Outstanding City Mayor of the Philippines,

1994 Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World (TOYP) Honoree

1990 The Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines (TOYM)

and the first ever Dangal ng Bayan Award of the Civil Service Commission. 

In March 2008, Robredo was conferred an honorary Doctor of Humanities degree by the Far Eastern University in Manila. He was also a trustee of Synergeia Foundation Inc., a coalition of individuals, institutions, and organizations that works together to improve the quality of basic education in the Philippines as it collaborates with local governments, the Department of Education, socio-civic groups, schools, teachers, parents and students to implement systemic programs that will improve the processes, systems and structures of learning and teaching.

Robredo, along with former Isabela Governor Grace Padaca and former Pampanga Governor Ed Panlilio, launched the Kaya Natin! movement through a meeting facilitated by the Ateneo de Manila University - School of Government on June 2008 which has been regarded as a national movement that seeks to bring genuine change and ethical leadership in the Philippines.

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