, AUGUST 27,
By Cecille Suerte Felipe (Cover photo by Boy Santos) - Praises, tributes and words of admiration for Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Manalastas Robredo have been overwhelming.

Robredo died when the plane he took from Cebu to Naga City crashed in the waters off Masbate last Aug. 18, but his spirit and exemplary public service will live on in the hearts of the people he met – and the countless others he touched.

At the memorial mass at Camp Crame last Wednesday, a priest said of the DILG chief: “He gave us an example of how to serve... He is a saint in our midst.”

Robredo was one Cabinet official who lived and served embodying President Aquino’s motto, “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap (without corruption there will be no poor).”

Robredo truly believed if and when Aquino could clean the government of corruption, there would be no more poor Filipinos. “Yes. Walang corrupt will allow us to maximize use of government resources and authority to deliver better service outcomes, especially for the mahirap,” Robredo said.

“Walang corrupt will restore the trust of the people in their leaders and motivate them to make some sacrifice for the good of the public,” he added. “It will level the playing field, not only in the economic dimension of development but also in terms of the mahirap securing justice when aggrieved.”

A colleague in the Cabinet, Energy Secretary Jose Almedras, witnessed how Robredo epitomized an attitude of a dedicated public servant. “Sec. Robredo arrived in one of our meetings at the NDRRMC and showed me he was wearing a pair of slippers. Sabi nya ito talaga ang pambaha (He said this is real flood attire).”

True enough, when they and other Cabinet officials accompanied President Aquino to visit Paombong residents submerged in floodwaters recently, Almedras recalled, “Sec. Robredo gave me a thumbs up sign, showing he was wearing a pair of slippers.”

Robredo has impressive academic credentials, being an Edward Mason Fellow and earning a Masters in Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in 1999.

[PHOTO -Hours later, a light plane carrying Robredo and his aide and two pilots crashed at sea off Masbate. Yellow ribbons are tied on the iron grills of Robredo’s house in Naga City as search and rescue operations are undertaken for the downed plane and its passengers and pilots. JONJON VICENCIO/STAR]

Robredo completed his Masters in Business Administration at the University of the Philippines, where he ranked No. 1 as a university and college scholar.

He is an alumnus of the De La Salle University, having obtained undergraduate degrees in Industrial Management Engineering and Mechanical Engineering. Robredo joined San Miguel Corp., Magnolia ice cream division after his graduation from La Salle in 1980.

During the EDSA people power revolution, Robredo recalled how he camped out with thousands of others in front of the EDSA gate of Camp Crame in Quezon City to press for the ouster of then dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Returning home to Naga City in 1986, Robredo served as program director of the Bicol River Basin Development Program, an agency tasked to undertake integrated area development planning of the region’s three provinces.

Robredo was elected mayor of Naga City in 1988 at the age of 29, the youngest mayor in the country at the time. He served as president of the League of Cities of the Philippines in 1995.

Robredo was cited in 1999 by Asiaweek magazine for transforming Naga City from a lethargic Philippine municipality into one of the “Most Improved Cities in Asia.”

His success in turning the once-sleepy municipality into a trading, housing and education center won him many honors, including a 2000 Ramon Magsaysay award, Asia’s version of the Nobel Prize.

After serving nine years as city mayor, Robredo joined Aquino’s successful campaign for the presidency in 2010, endorsing his “walang corrupt, walang mahirap‚” reformist platform. Robredo was appointed DILG chief on July 10, 2010.

As DILG secretary, Robredo believed he could help other local government units in the country transform into progressive towns and cities just like Naga.

Robredo made sure there was a road map for improving the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), where previous leaders enriched themselves at the expense of the region and its people.

He also initiated and implemented reforms at the DILG’s three main attached agencies – the Philippine National Police (PNP), Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) and Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP).

Robredo personally reviewed procurements of fire trucks, firearms, mobile patrol vehicles and other equipment for police, fire and jail.

“At the end of the day, the public needs to feel this transformation and the moment of truth is how the police officer in the street treats the man on the street, how the fire officer responds to people in need of emergency rescue assistance or a conflagration, or how a BJMP officer treats the inmates under his watch,” he said.

As interior secretary, Robredo was in control of the country’s 147,000-strong PNP which has long been dogged by accusations of corruption and abuse.

Robredo recently ordered investigations into alleged financial irregularities in the construction of police stations and the purchase of helicopters and rescue boats. He ordered the filing of charges against police officials who were implicated in the allegedly anomalous transactions to procure police equipment.

[PHOTO -President Aquino with Robredo at the Galing Pook awards ceremony in Malacañang (top). Robredo, DOTC Secretary Mar Roxas and PNP chief Nicanor Bartolome put up Anti-Kotong stickers as part of the Kilos Laban sa Kotong campaign in Camp Crame (middle). Robredo catches up on the news while waiting for a flight at the NAIA (above).]

Born in Naga City on May 27, 1958, Jesse Robredo married lawyer Maria Leonor “Leni” Gerona, also a native of Naga. They have three daughters: Jessica Marie, 24, Janine Patricia, 18 and Jillian Therese, 12.

Robredo’s paternal grandfather was a Chinese immigrant named Lim Pay Co who arrived in the Philippines at the turn of the 20th century.

Lim Pay Co would later convert to Christianity and adopt the name Juan Lim Robredo, following the custom of Chinese immigrant converts to adopt the name of their godparents at baptism. Lim Pay Co chose the name of the priest who baptized him.

Jesse was the third of five children of Jose Chan Robredo Sr. and Marcelina Manalastas.

Leni had been very supportive of Robredo’s public service, and had been his highly principled adviser, but she had only one request: that if their children would not inherit anything material, at least let them inherit a good name.

With the tributes now pouring in, all unanimous in praise of “a good man” and “an honorable public servant,” Robredo has fulfilled his wife’s request of ensuring that his children would be proud to have him as their father.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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