[PHOTO -Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad]

DAVAO CITY, AUGUST 22, 2012 (INQUIRER) Tributes for the late Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo poured out from various places in Mindanao Tuesday morning as soon as official word came in that his body had been recovered from the wreckage of a plane that crashed into the sea off Masbate late Saturday afternoon.

All over Davao del Sur flags were lowered to half staff, and officials attending a peace and order council meeting that Robredo had been scheduled to attend Tuesday fell silent and offered prayers for him when news arrived that his body had been found.

Basilan Bishop Martin Jumoad described Robredo’s passing as a “great loss to the Filipino nation.”

“His heart was always for the people,” Jumoad said.

Robredo was supposed to fly to Basilan Tuesday to attend the provincial peace and order council meeting, which was aimed at tackling the recent wave violence in the province, including attacks by suspected Abu Sayyaf bandits on rubber plantations.

When news that Robredo’s body had been found, officials attending the council meeting, including civil society members, offered special prayers for the late interior secretary.

“I am very sad because Sec Jesse is gone,” Jumoad said.

Jumoad said Robredo was quick to contact him whenever he said something strong about the deteriorating peace and order situation in Basilan.

“He was really very approachable and he always responded once you sent him a message or called him,” he said.

“Secretary Jesse is one government official who was always around for everyone,” Jumoad added.

Acting Governor Mujiv Hataman of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao described Robredo as a reformist.

“He was very consistent in supporting the reform initiatives and played a crucial role in uniting ARMM leaders,” he said.

Lanao del Sur Gov. Mamintal Adiong said “Jesse was one of the most decent public servants this country has ever produced.”

“He’s very amiable. We could easily take up with him any problem affecting my province,” Adiong said of Robredo, who was his fraternity brother in the Alpha Phi Omega.

“He was a gentleman, level-headed, unassuming and a very competent public servant,” Sulu Gov. Abdusakur Tan said in a text message.

In Cotabato City, a misty-eyed Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu said he would have wished that Robredo was found alive but “Allah has His ways.”

He described Robredo as “a dear friend to us.”

“We would have wanted to see him back but we put our trust and faith in Allah,” Mangudadatu said.

In Digos City, Davao del Sur Gov. Douglas Cagas said he could not understand “why good men die ahead of the bad ones.”

Cagas, who regarded Robredo as a good friend since 1986, said the secretary’s death was big loss, not only to the government, but the nation as a whole.

“God bless the soul of this good man,” said Ma. Febes Barlaan, Davao del Sur election officer.

In Bansalan, also in Davao del Sur, Senior Inspector Milgrace Driz said Robredo was the epitome of a true leader.

“He died with dignity and honor as a devoted public servant,” she said.

Digos City local government officer Debbie Torres broke into tears on news of Robredo’s death and could not utter a word for a while. “He was not only our boss, he was our father,” Torres said a while later.

Abito Bernasor, Davao del Sur DILG provincial director, said Robredo was “a true person and a very committed public servant.”

“He always walked the talk,” he said.

Senior Superintendent Ronaldo Llanera, Davao del Sur police director, said he did not expect Robredo would be found alive given the length of time since the crash. But still the news came as a shock.

“It was already expected but the confirmation of his death still triggered sad emotions in us,” he said.

Mayor Joel Ray Lopez of Sta. Cruz town said Robredo was one official who was very serious about the fight against corruption.

“He really encouraged us to implement good housekeeping in government service. He is a great loss for us, knowing that he is really dedicated in his anti-corruption campaign. We are saddened by his death,” Lopez said.

All over Davao del Sur, the flag was lowered at half staff when Robredo’s death was confirmed.—Reports from Julie Alipala, Charlie Señase, Edwin Fernandez and Orlando Dinoy, Inquirer Mindanao


Nation mourns Robredo by Jason Gutierrez, Agence France-Presse Posted at 08/21/2012 7:03 PM | Updated as of 08/21/2012 7:43

Aircraft broken into '3 big chunks'

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE) - The Philippines was in mourning on Tuesday after divers recovered the body of one of its most influential politicians, who died when a plane carrying him and three others crashed into the sea.

Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo's body was found 55 metres (180 feet) under water near the coast of the island of Masbate, where the plane went down on Saturday, Transportation and Communications Secretary Mar Roxas said.

Divers battled strong currents to reach the wreck of the twin-engine Piper Seneca, which was lying overturned and broken into pieces on the seabed, about 800 metres from the shore. Robredo's body was brought up on Tuesday morning.

The 54-year-old, a father of three daughters, was a popular and well-liked statesman widely considered to be incorruptible, in a country where graft is endemic and politicians often distrusted.

The dramatic search-and-rescue efforts had gripped the Catholic nation of nearly 100 million people, with hundreds joining prayer vigils and longtime friend President Benigno Aquino going to Masbate initially to help.

Aquino returned to the central island on Tuesday to fetch Robredo's flag-draped casket, which he then delivered aboard a military airplane to the grieving family in their hometown of Naga in the eastern Philippines.

'Big loss'

"He is a very big loss to the cabinet and to the entire nation," an emotional presidential spokeswoman, Abigail Valte, told reporters at a church in Manila where a mass for Robredo was held.

Jose Fabian Cadiz, a vice mayor of a suburban Manila district and a close Robredo friend, said people in Naga were feeling a deep sense of loss.

"He was a very good man and an even greater public servant. He will be very missed," Cadiz told AFP by phone from Robredo's home, where he was comforting the politician's wife and daughters -- aged 12, 18 and 24.

Flags in all government offices flew at half mast, while the Australian, British and US governments extended sympathies to the Philippines.

Aquino's office said it planned a state funeral.

Robredo was flying to Naga from the central Philippines, where he was on an official trip, when the plane developed engine trouble, fell short of the runway and plunged into the sea.

Robredo's aide, one of the four people on board, survived the crash with non-life threatening injuries after hauling himself out of the plane as it was about to sink. Fishermen plucked him out of the water.

But the two pilots -- Filipino Jessup Bahinting and Nepalese Kshitiz Chand -- died and divers had not yet been able to recover their bodies from the sunken fuselage.

British diver found wreckage

Roxas said a volunteer British diver led the rescue team to the wreckage.

The diver described the plane as broken into "three big chunks" with the three bodies intact inside the fuselage, according to Roxas.

As interior secretary, Robredo was in control of the country's 143,000-strong police force.

Robredo was in charge of efforts to tackle police corruption, part of a much-publicised anti-graft programme Aquino has been implementing across all sectors of society since coming to power in 2010.

Robredo's portfolio also included overseeing all local governments.

In this role he won plaudits for implementing a sensitive policy aimed at boosting transparency that required local governments to disclose key financial documents.

He was also credited with helping local governments put in place disaster mitigation schemes, such as early warning systems for typhoons, a vital task in a country where thousands of people die each year in natural calamities.

A former town mayor, Robredo became a rising political star in 2000 when he won the Ramon Magsaysay Award for good governance, in recognition of transforming Naga from a backwater into a bustling commercial centre.

The well-respected award recognises high-achieving and honourable people annually across Asia.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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