[PHOTO - SURVIVOR: President Aquino listens to Senior Inspector Jun Abrazado, DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo’s aide who survived the plane crash.]

MANILA, AUGUST 21, 2012 (PHILSTAR) Masses were held and prayers tweeted in hopes that Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo would be found alive after a plane taking him to Camarines Sur crashed in the waters off Masbate Saturday afternoon.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said that all 4 p.m. Masses in the parishes of the province were “dedicated to the swift rescue of Robredo, the comfort of his family, the fortitude of the rescuers and the peace of an entire nation in anguish during this period of uncertainty.”

“I asked every Albayano to pray for that miracle for Jesse and to storm the gates of Heaven so every angel would descend to protect him,” Salceda said in an e-mail sent to The STAR.

In Naga City, hometown of Robredo, three parishes celebrated Masses for the safe recovery of the DILG secretary and the two pilots – Capt. Jessup Bahinting and Nepalese Kshitz Chand – who remained missing as of press time yesterday.

Tweets for Robredo

Top government officials, including senators, joined the Twitter nation in storming the heavens for his safe rescue.

The hashtags included #PrayForRobredo, #Robredo, and #Masbate.

“We pray for a miraculous rescue of our co-worker Sec. Jesse,” Sen. Francisco Pangilinan said in his Twitter account.

Sen. Francis Escudero, who was in Sorsogon for his father’s wake, expressed hope that Robredo would be found alive. “I also pray that his family be given strength during this difficult time,” he said.

Sen. Loren Legarda joined Robredo’s family in “praying for his safety and immediate rescue.”

“He is a strong ally in our efforts to make our country disaster-resilient through the DILG’s leadership in the regional Disaster Risk Reduction workshops,” Legarda said in her Twitter account.

“We are hopeful that amid this tragic incident, we will still find Sec. Robredo, and the two others missing, alive and well. I am praying for their safe and swift rescue,” she added.

“Prayers, prayers! Matino siyang tao, he deserves all our prayers,” Transportation Secretary Manuel Roxas II said in a text message.

The Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership joined the whole nation in prayer for the immediate rescue of Robredo, the group’s co-founder.

“Robredo is the epitome of effective, ethical and empowering leadership in our government. He has always been known to be a champion of transparency and public accountability ever since he first assumed office as the youngest mayor of Naga City and now, as the secretary of the DILG,” Kaya Natin said in a statement.

While many government leaders live extravagant lives, Kaya Natin said Robredo continues to lead by example in terms of his family’s simplicity of lifestyle.

“Never has Robredo been implicated in any form of illegal activity nor in any form of graft and corruption in his more than 20 years of public service. Certainly, we need more government leaders of untarnished integrity like Robredo,” the movement added. “We continue to request every Filipino to include our beloved DILG Sec. Robredo in our prayers that he may be rescued safely.”

JPE: Miracles do happen

It will take a miracle for the DILG secretary and his two companions to survive the plane crash, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said yesterday.

“I will tell you very frankly, if they have not found him. Even if he was able to extricate himself, no human being can swim that long, especially in seawater. You will develop cramps,” said Enrile, former defense minister during the Marcos regime.

“Maski na nakatalon siya, hanggang ngayon wala pa. (Even if he managed to jump, up to now he has not been found). It’s cold, you are in a cold water the whole night. You will lose energy, (develop) exhaustion, (and) dehydration. Wala na (it’s over), you (will) just sink,” he added.

“I pray that he is alive. Miracles can happen. If God does not wish you to die, even if you pass through hale of bullets, you will not,” Enrile added.

“It’s sad. He is a loss not only to the government and in Naga but the entire country. I think that this should serve a lesson for those who serve the government. Ako maingat ako sa pagpili ng eroplano at piloto (I carefully pick my plane and pilot),” the Senate chief said.

Under the circumstances of a plane crash, Enrile said the impact of the plane crashing into the sea has the same magnitude of hitting a concrete pavement.

The senator expressed belief that Robredo may have been ill-advised when he took the private plane in going home to Naga City after attending an official engagement in Cebu.

Enrile said he had studied different aircraft while he was in the defense department. He added that it was not advisable for Robredo or any government official to use a light plane, especially while passing bodies of water.

Meanwhile, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. led lawmakers yesterday in praying for Robredo’s safe rescue.

“We are all praying for Secretary Robredo’s safe return,” Belmonte said. “He’s a good man. A decent, hardworking man with no agenda.”

“Let us continue praying that Robredo and the two others can be found alive,” he said.

Former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said she “has high hopes that the good Secretary will eventually be found, out of harm’s way.”

“She is enjoining the nation as well to help by praying and to do whatever they can to help in the ongoing search and rescue operations,” Arroyo’s spokesperson, Ma. Elena Bautista-Horn, said.

“Let us have faith that we can come across this tragic event and that Secretary Jesse will be blessed to survive,” she said.

Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara said “whatever little hope there is for Secretary (Jesse) Robredo’s survival, we must hang on to that hope. He was truly one of the foremost practitioners of the “Daang Matuwid (straight path).”

“While others talked the talk, he walked it. Sa Filipino, hindi hangang salita lang, hindi lip service lang, hindi PR (It wasn’t just lip service or PR),” Angara said.

Ang Kasangga party-list Rep. Teodorico Haresco said “we should not lose Secretary Robredo.”

Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo, meanwhile, urged for an end to the reported infighting for Robredo’s post.

Castelo called for a suspension of any talks for Robredo’s replacement while search was ongoing.

“Any positioning or infighting for the DILG top post is in bad (taste) while the nation waits for a confirmation of what had happened to Secretary Robredo,” the lawmaker said.

“We join the entire nation and his family in our prayers for his quick return and safety. Those talks (of succession) and infighting don’t serve purpose at all,” Castelo said.

As people from all walks of life continue to say good words about him, Archbishop emeritus Oscar Cruz said Robredo, 54, is one of the very few good men in the government who are dedicated public servants.

“May kasabihan po tayo na yung mga mababait na tao ay unang kinukuha ni Lord, hindi na po applicable yun sa akin,(While there’s a saying that only the good die young, I no longer think it’s applicable to me),” Cruz said in jest in an interview over radio dzBB.

Cruz said he and Robredo have been together in the fight against jueteng.

The archbishop said Naga is one of the very few localities without jueteng operations. “For his success in handling Naga, Sec. Robredo received many awards, including the Ramon Magsaysay Award when he was still the mayor of Naga,” he said.

The Ramon Magsaysay Award is the Asian counterpart of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Even reporters who covered Robredo called for prayers since he has been accessible and always ready to give comments on issues in the government.

Robredo’s aide, survivor Chief Inspector Jun Abrazado, told President Aquino that he tried but failed to pull Robredo out of the ill-fated plane before it sank.

Abrazado said he even embraced his boss and made sure that his seatbelt was properly buckled up before the plane crashed into the sea. – Christina Mendez, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Cet Dematera, Celso Amo, Paolo Romero

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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