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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

Republic of the Philippines CITY OF NAGA JOHN G. BONGAT

Mayor John G. Bongat’s Statement on the Passing of Secretary Jesse M. Robredo

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e, the people of Naga City, mourn the passing of our most admired public servant. We missed him once when he was called to serve the national government, and once again we will miss him because he did his best in the name of our nation's interest, regardless of the dangers ahead.

City Mayor

GABRIEL H. BORDADO, JR.

City Vice Mayor

Editor REUEL M. OLIVER

Supervising Editor JASON B. NEOLA

Managing Editor Layout & Design GERALD O. ENGUERO

Writer FLORENCIO T. MONGOSO, JR. CSEE PAUL JOHN F. BARROSA

Editorial Consultants FREDDIE B. LOPEZ ALBERT A. CECILIO

Editorial Assistants

ISSN 2094-9383

As a dynamic servant leader, then Mayor Robredo’s leadership was cited by no less than former President Corazon C. Aquino for the “strong belief (that) he has instilled among the Nagueños that governance is a shared responsibility of public officials and the citizenry, with government providing the people the tools for their meaningful participation and active engagement.” This is one admirable legacy that I vowed to nurture when he chose me to be his successor. The man who engineered Naga City as a happy place, or Maogmang Lugar, is now in God’s eternal grace. We, the people whose lives he touched, will sorely miss him, but definitely his spirit will remain forever in the heart of every Nagueño. So long, Mayor Jesse; farewell to you, Secretary Robredo. Naga City, August 22, 2012

NAGA SMILES MAGAZINE

Our gratitude to the following for the inspiring stories of their personal encounters with Sec. Jesse

ALEC FRANCIS A. SANTOS

ANSELMO B. MAÑO

Secretary Robredo is a man of the people, always doing what is best for the people. As the former mayor of our city, he has taught us, the citizens, to embrace the concept of “growth with equity” which became the core of his administration’s philosophy. He promoted economic development by sustaining pro-poor projects to ultimately build prosperity for the community at large. He believed that growth and prosperity must be tempered by an enlightened bias for the poor whose upliftment is an end to good governance.

The City Government of Naga wishes to thank the Robredo family—Atty. Leni, Aika, Tricia, and Jillian for their grace and courage, and for sharing with us a husband and a father...

All rights reserved. The Naga SMILES magazine is published quarterly by the City Government of Naga thru the City Publications and External Relations Office PESO-DOLE Building, City Hall Compound J. Miranda Avenue, Naga City, Philippines Tel. (63)(54) 473 4432 Email: info@naga.gov.ph Website: www.naga.gov.ph naga smiles to the world@facebook A Special Commemorative Issue Published in Naga City, Philippines

Andreo Calonzo Chiyo Kanda Conrado de Quiros Dean Tony La Viña Francis Isaac Fr. Kulandairaj Ambrose Harvey Keh Jason Neola Joy Aceron Manuel Caballero Marites Dañguilan Vitug Miriam Grace Go Patricia Evangelista Susan Ople TJ Burgunio Vice Mayor Gabriel Bordado, Jr. Wilfredo Prilles, Jr. These sites have helped us in providing invaluable information

Office of the President of the Philippines The Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation Bicol University De La Salle University Filipino Reporter GMA News Online Google Inquirer Online Rappler Online The Manila Standard Twitter News Wikipedia


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“Iba po talaga si Jesse. Kapag mayroon tayong matinding problemang kinakaharap, palagi naman pong nandiyan ang mga taong sumusuporta at magsasabing, ‘Nasa likod mo kami.’ Pero si Jesse po, kabilang sa mga bibihirang tao na ang sasabihin, ‘Sir, ako na lang ang haharap, ako na lang ang pu-pronta.’ Hindi po nasa likod. Handang-handa pong nasa harapan. Talagang kasama sa pilosopiya niya sa buhay ang hindi maging pabigat sa kapwa; ang palaging mag-ambag ng pinakamalaki niyang maiaambag, o lagpas pa, para makahanap ng solusyon.”

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NAGA SMILES MAGAZINE

President Benigno S. Aquino III’s Eulogy during the Requiem Mass for DILG Secretary Jesse M. Robredo The Philippine Legion of Honor Response of Atty. Leni Robredo after Accepting the Philippine Legion of Honor Tricia Robredo’s Eulogy Aika Robredo’s Source of Inspiration Jesse Robredo, a Man for Others Jesse Robredo: ‘If I were President...’ A Modern-day Magsaysay JMR: Champion of the Masses, Cherished Gem of the Poor Ramon Magsaysay Award Citation Quezon Service Cross Conferred on Robredo Things I Learned from Sec. Jesse Robredo 5 Ways Filipinos can Continue the Legacy of Jesse Robredo The Simple Lifestyle of Jesse Robredo Profile of a Mayor The Genius of Jesse Manalastas Robredo The Faith of Jesse Robredo He was Always Hurrying Home Robredo in Top List of Google 2012 Newsmakers, is ‘WikiPinoy of the Year’ Robredo’s Legacy Hard to Dismiss House Confers Medal of Achievement to Robredo A Tribute to DILG Secretary Jesse M. Robredo Paalam, Kuya Jesse Jesse Robredo, Hero Sec. Robredo: Up Close and Personal De La Salle University Launches Jesse M. Robredo Institute of Governance Solidarity Message of Mayor John G. Bongat Jesse Robredo: A True Friend, Brother Rare ‘Tsinelas’ Leadership Puts Gov’t in Step with People Power


Sa kabila ng naabot niya, nanatiling simple ang kanyang pamumuhay, hindi nalalayo sa karaniwang tao na napakalapit sa kanyang puso.

President Benigno S. Aquino III’s Eulogy during the Requiem Mass for DILG Secretary Jesse M. Robredo Basilica Minore de Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia Naga City, Camarines Sur August 28, 2012

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inulungan po tayo ni Kasamang Jesse ng kaunting Bikol: “Marahay na udto sa indo gabos.” Mali na naman ho yata.

Attorney Leni Robredo, Aika, Tricia, Jillian, Mr. Butch Robredo, Dr. Jocelyn Austria, Mr. Freddie Bondoc, Miss Jing Tan, relatives and friends of Secretary Robredo, Father Ambrose, members of the clergy, members of the Cabinet, members of the Senate and the House of Representatives, officials and staff of the Department of the Interior and Local Government and its attached agencies, fellow workers in government, mga minamahal ko pong kababayan.

Hindi madaling tanggapin ang biglaang pagkawala ni Jesse. Hindi po natin inaasahan ang pangyayaring ito, ngunit sa kabila ng ating kaba at pagkabigla nang unang marinig ang balita, ginawa natin ang lahat ng ating magagawa upang mailigtas siya kung papalarin, at kung hindi man, upang mabigyan ng angkop at marangal na pagwawakas ang trahedyang sinapit natin. Habang humahaba po ang panahon, umasa tayo na isang minuto ay darating siya at sasabihing, “Pasensya na kayo, naabala ko kayong lahat sa tagal ng pagdating ko.”

Ngayon po, kaisa ako sa pagluluksa ng sambayanang napagkaitan ng isang tunay na lingkodbayan. Kung mayroon pong Diyos na nagmamahal sa atin at bukal ng katarungan, sigurado akong Bilang kawani ng gobyerno, tanggap na po dapat kapiling na niya ngayon si Kalihim Jesse Robredo. natin: Darating ang araw na bababa rin tayo sa Nawalan po ng asawa at ama ang kanyang pamilya; puwesto, sa madaling salita, mag-reretiro. Ngayon nawalan po ang bayan ng isang tapat at mahusay na pa lang po, nai-imagine ko nang magkikita-kita kami ng ating gabinete at iba pang mga kasamahan pinuno; nawalan po ako ng isang kapatid sa opisyal sa isang restaurant pag nag-retiro na na may kanya- na pamilya sa gabinete, ng kasangga sa mga ipinaglalaban, at ng kapartido; nawalan po ako ng kanyang senior citizen card na nakasilid sa pitaka. isang mabuting kaibigan. Magkakainan kami, magtatawanan, at pagkukuwentuhan kung ano ang mga pinagdaanan Sino po ba si Jesse Robredo? Talaga pong huwarang namin. Kung ano ang mga nagawa namin. lingkod-bayan si Jesse: nakatuon palagi sa kapwa at handang magsakripisyo. Sa lahat ng mga Hindi na po makakasama si Jesse sa mga kuwennakakausap ko, siya ang taong walang kapasetuhang iyon. Hindi na po makakabiruan si Jesse pasensya sa bola. Kay Jesse, what you see is what you tungkol sa pagkilatis sa mga manliligaw ng anak niya, at sa mga susunod pong taon, wala na rin siya get. Tahimik at masipag siyang nagtatrabaho. Hindi siya nagpapadala sa kapangyarihan. para makipaglaro sa magiging apo niya. 5

NAGA SMILES MAGAZINE

Si Jesse po ang tipo ng tao na batid ang kanyang mga kakayahan at limitasyon. Halimbawa po: sa kantahan. Kadalasan, kung may kasiyahan, kamikami lang din ang nag-eentertain sa sarili namin para makatipid. Si Jesse po, hahanap ng mga kasangga para may kasabay siyang kakanta ng chorus at hindi na siya mag-iindividual performance. Pinakabuo ang kanyang ngiti kapag pasampa na siya sa entablado; tawa po siya nang tawa. Sa dami po ng mga talentadong nagkukumpol-kumpol, nakakapagtaka na halos wala kaming marinig sa mga boses nila bagamat may mikroponong tangan at kinakanta. Dalawa raw po sa paborito niyang kanta ay “My Way” at “Impossible Dream.” Tatak nga po siguro ito ng mga paniniwala niya. Hindi siya naging kuntento sa status quo; pinatunayan niya sa Naga na posible ang pagbabago. Posibleng madaig ang sistemang matagal nang nangingibabaw; posibleng madaig ang mga pulitikong napakatagal namayagpag at kinasangkapan ang posisyon para sa pansariling interes. Trailblazer po si Jesse sa tuwid na daan. Pinatunayan niyang puwede palang magtagumpay sa pulitika nang hindi nagiging trapo. Hindi po madali ang pagtahak sa landas na ito, lalo na noong nagsisimula pa lamang siya sa serbisyong pampubliko. Malawak at malalim ang mga pagbabagong inasam niya, at sinimulan niya ito ng hindi nakakatiyak kung may patutunguhan nga bang tagumpay. Katambal ng kanyang mga pangarap ang napakaraming mga praktikal na kosiderasyon, ngunit pinili niyang lumihis sa mga nakasanayang pormula sa pulitika. Alam po ito ng mga tao na malapit sa kanya: mas pipiliin pa niyang makulong kaysa bumitaw sa mga kawsa na aming pinaniniwalaan. Nang nasa oposisyon po kami, hindi naman puwedeng suspendihin ganun lang ang mga nasa lehislatura, pero sa katulad niyang mayor, laging nakabinbin ang banta ng pang-aapi o dineretso ngang inapi na. Mas marami at mas mabigat ang pagtatayang ginawa niya sa kanyang buhay pulitika. Ito pong isyu ukol sa kanyang citizenship, alam naman natin ang motibasyon. Pero hindi siya

nagtanim ng galit sa mga nagsampa ng mga paulitulit na walang katuturang kasong ito. Alam po natin ang katotohanan sa pulitika: may ibang nakangiti kapag kaharap mo, pero kung tumalikod ka, pakiramdam mo sasaksakin ka. Napahanga talaga ako ni Jesse, dahil miski ang nagpakita sa kanya ng di-kagandahang ugali, kaya niyang harapin nang walang bahid na galit at pagkayamot. Bukod sa mabait, matino, at mahusay si Jesse, mabilis din siyang umaksyon. Lahat, ASAP sa kanya; hindi niya ugaling patagalin sa mesa ang mga magagawa naman ngayon. Kung kayang simulan, sinisimulan agad niya. Naalala ko nga po, minsan may mga informal settler na Napahanga talaga kailangang ilipat, dahil ako ni Jesse, dahil nakatira sa danger zone miski ang nagpakita sila kapag bumabaha. sa kanya ng di-kagandahang ugali, Nagtext po sa atin na kaya niyang harapin humihingi ng tulong at nang walang bahid saklolo; kinakabahan ng galit at sila sa paglilipat, at nagpagkayamot. tatanong kung may kabuhayan ba silang daratnan. Kinausap po sila ni Jesse. Matapos ang dalawang oras na meeting, ang mga SOS text naging thank you text na po. Salamat muli, Jesse. Iba po talaga si Jesse. Kapag mayroon tayong matinding problemang kinakaharap, palagi naman pong nandiyan ang mga taong sumusuporta at magsasabing, "Nasa likod mo kami." Pero si Jesse po, kabilang sa mga bibihirang tao na ang sasabihin, “Sir, ako na lang ang haharap, ako na lang po ang pu-pronta.” Hindi po nasa likod, handang-handa pong nasa harapan. Talagang kasama sa pilosopiya niya sa buhay ang hindi maging pabigat sa kapwa; ang palaging mag-ambag ng pinakamalaki niyang maiaambag, o lagpas pa, para makahanap ng solusyon. Kay Leni, at kina Aika, Tricia, at Jillian: Sa totoo lang, medyo nahihiya ako sa inyo. Kayo ang pamilya; sigurado akong pinakamabigat ang kalungkutang nararamdaman ninyo ngayon. Pero talagang pinapahanga niyo kami, dahil kayo 6


pa ang nagbibigay ng lakas sa amin, kayo pa ang nagbibitbit sa amin. Leni, alam mo naman na hindi tayo masyadong nagkakakilala, dahil na rin pinilit ni Jesse na magkaroon siya palagi ng private time kasama ang kanyang pamilya. Alam ng gabinete ito: Sa hirap ng aming mga pinagdadaanan, ang pinakagantimpala ko po sa kanila ay paminsan-minsan magpakain ng isang kaaya-ayang hapunan. Pero pag weekend ako nagyaya ng kainan, siguradong magpapaumanhin na si Jesse. Sagrado sa kanya ang oras kasama ang pamilya. Palagi siyang nagmamadaling makauwi sa Naga.

Ngunit wala naman siguro magsasabing may kulang pa sa mga inambag ni Jesse. Dapat po yata, tayong mga nakinabang sa kanyang buhay at pagsusumikap, ang tumumbas sa kanyang mga nagawa, at mag-ambag naman ng parte natin. Naalala ko pa po ang mga agam-agam namin nang biglaan ding pumanaw ang aking ama noong taong 1983. Marami po sa amin ang nagtanong: Paano na tayo? Sino ang magtutuloy? Parang ligaw na ligaw po kami; nawala ang aming pinuno.

Pero sabi nga po ng aking ina: “If cowardice is infectious, then bravery is all the more infectious.” Ang nag-iisa, dumami nang dumami hanggang Hindi lang ang mag-anak na Robredo ang nawalan nakamit na nga ng buong bayan ang pagbabago. ng Padre de Pamilya, pati ang buong DILG, ang Hindi mauubusan ng mga bayani ang lahing mga nagtatrabaho sa field, ang lahat ng natulungan Pilipino. At kung si Jesse ay isa sa mga naging niya, ang buong Naga parang nawalan ng ama. Kaya bunga ng sakripisyo ng aking ama, sigurado po nga po bukod sa kalungkutan, matinding panghihi- akong may ibubunga ring mga bagong bayani ang nayang din ang nararamdaman ko ngayon. Ang pagpanaw ni Jesse. dami niyang mga plano at talagang kitang-kita na po ang direksyon ng mga reporma. Namuno siya sa Sa ipinapakitang pagpupugay at pagmamahal ng pagpapa-totoo ng mga teorya sa pamamahala na taumbayan ngayon, sigurado ako, may isang pinag-uusapan lang sa mga libro. Ginawa po niya henerasyon na naman ng mga Pilipinong mabibiyan sa Naga at iyan din po ang nasimulan na niyang gyang-inspirasyon, at mahihimok na maglingkod gawin sa pambansang antas. sa ngalan ni Jesse. Sila po ang magdadala ng katiyakan: Katiyakang makikita natin ang plano ng Kayo na po ang mamili: sa Bureau of Fire ProtecDiyos sa likod ng pagkawala ni Jesse. Katiyakang tion, kung saan nakakuha siya ng mga fire trucks makukuha natin ang gantimpala ng katarungang na mas mura pero mas maganda ang kaledad at mas nagbubukal sa pagmamahal ng Diyos—na lahat marami ang kakayahan; o sa BJMP; sa PNP; pati na ang mga informal settlers. Maraming mga lumang problema na sa tulong ni Jesse, sa wakas, ay nakikitaan na natin ng solusyon. Sayang po talaga.

ng kagandahan at kabutihang naidulot at naipunla ni Jesse, ay tunay at buong-buong mapipitas dahil sa dulot niyang inspirasyon. Ang sabi po sa Pangalawang Liham ni Paul kay Timothy, Chapter 4, Verses 6 to 7: “For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course; I have kept the faith...” Angkop na angkop po ito kay Jesse—mission accomplished na siya sa mundong ito. Marapat lang na matamasa na niya ang mga gantimpala ng isang buo at mabuting buhay sa piling ng Diyos Ama. Nasa hanay na po si Jesse ng mga bayaning sumusubaybay sa atin mula sa kalangitan at nagbibigay-lakas sa atin upang ipagpatuloy ang kanilang mga mabubuting gawain.

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NAGA SMILES MAGAZINE

Kaya't huwag na po tayong lumuha. Sa halip, magpasalamat tayo—sa maikling panahong narito siya sa mundo, tayo pa ang nabiyayaan ng pagkakataong makapiling si Jesse Manalastas Robredo. Paalam, Jesse. Sa ngalan ng sambayanan: Maraming-maraming salamat. NSM

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Response of Atty. Leni Robredo after accepting the Philippine Legion of Honor conferred by President Benigno S. Aquino III

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n behalf of my children, my brother- and sisters-in-law, and our entire family, I accept this Legion of Honor award with deep and respectful gratitude. This award recognizes my husband’s achievements in public service, an affirmation of his life and work. I am honored. Our entire family is honored. If Jess were here with us today, I know he would shy away from excessive praise. He might find all the fuss, pomp and pageantry a little uncomfortable. But Jess, just this one time, allow us to celebrate your life in the way we think you deserve to be honored.

Malacañan Palace Be It Known To All Men By These Presents: That I, Benigno S. Aquino III, President of the Philippines by virtue of the powers vested in me by law, For being an advocate, as Mayor of Naga City from 1988 to 1998 and again from 2001 to 2010, and Secretary of the Interior and Local Government, of true and transformative change which led to a revitalized city and a vibrant culture of transparency, accountability, and people empowerment;. For being a mentor to public servants who are likewise supportive of change; For choosing to tread the straight and righteous path, even at the risk of political persecution, instead of taking the easy and crooked road of the unprincipled; For institutionalizing a virtuous cycle in the Department of the Interior and Local Government by establishing a full disclosure policy and seals of good housekeeping in local governments; For being a leader who set aside the ostentations of power, choosing the simplicity and honesty of genuine servant leadership; For his dedication to public service, which earned him the respect and acclaim of his peers and the public, as manifested in the countless accolades he received, such as the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service in 2000, the Konrad Adenauer Medal of Excellence as Most Outstanding City Mayor of the Philippines in 1998, the first ever “Dangal ng Bayan” Award of the Civil Service Commission, and inclusion in the Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines (TOYM), among many other awards; and For being an exemplar of principled, committed leadership, regardless of personal cost or danger, thereby making him a man of outstanding life achievement deserving of the highest recognition the President of the Philippines can confer, have caused to be inscribed in the roster of the Philippine Legion of Honor the name of Jesse M. Robredo Secretary of the Interior and Local Government with the rank of Chief Commander (Punong Komandante) (posthumous) Done in the City of Manila This 28th day of August in the year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Twelve

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NAGA SMILES MAGAZINE

THE PHILIPPINE LEGION OF HONOR The Philippine Legion of Honor is the oldest of the three Senior Honors of the Republic. Created by virtue of Army Circular No. 60 on July 3, 1947, it is the highest honor that the President of the Philippines may grant an individual without the concurrence of Congress. The Philippine Legion of Honor is awarded by the President of the Philippines. It can also be awarded by the Secretary of National Defense on behalf of the President. The latest recipient was former Director-General of the Philippine National Police Nicanor Bartolome, who was conferred on December 18, 2012 with the rank of Commander. Originally, the Philippine Legion of Honor had four ranks, with Legionnaire as the lowest and Chief Commander as the highest and most prestigious. However, on September 19, 2003, the ranks of the Philippine Legion of Honor were expanded to six. This only applies to the civilian branch as the Armed Forces has its own ranks of the Philippine Legion of Honor. The highest rank, Chief Commander has always been conferred on heads of state or governments, and distinguished individuals in recognition of their importance to the Republic or for life achievement. The first conferment of the rank of Chief Commander was on U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt (posthumous). The first Filipino to be conferred the rank of Chief Commander of the Philippine Legion of Honor was President Emilio Aguinaldo in 1957. The latest recipient was Secretary of the Interior and Local Government Jesse M. Robredo, who died in a plane crash off the coast of Masbate on August 18, 2012. He was conferred on the day of his interment in Naga City, August 28, 2012. Other distinguished recipients of this rank include Chief Justice Claudio Teehankee, Senator Lorenzo Tañada, and Chino Roces. For other ranks, the Philippine Legion of Honor serves as the nation’s order of military and security merit, in recognition of an individual’s contributions to the military and to the national security of the country. www.gov.ph

Mr. President, I know that my husband would have felt deeply touched not only with the award you have bestowed on him today but with what you have done. From the time we were all still hoping that he was still alive somewhere in Masbate until we learned that he was indeed gone and up until now when we are about to lay him to rest is way beyond what we expected. If we could hear Jess speak, I know he would be saying, “Sobra-sobra na ito.” We’ve all felt your care and commitment to Jess in a very personal way that you have ensured that my children and I can grieve and not worry about anything. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. My heartfelt gratitude also goes to Secretary Mar Roxas, Secretary Butch Abad and Congressman Jun Abaya who were always with Jess not just in death but also in life. Thank you for dreaming with him. Thank you for walking with him. Thank you for staying with him until the very end. To Secretary Dinky Soliman, who stayed with us and made sure that during those dark moments when we learned Jess was missing, the children and I were eating and sleeping and not worrying too much, thank you. Thank you also to Secretaries Ricky Carandang, Edwin Lacierda, Rene Almendras, Ging Deles and Leila de Lima, who rescued us and took charge of all the preparations for the wake. You really made things very easy for us. To the other members of the Cabinet, the search and rescue teams, the local government officials of Masbate, the Naga City

officialdom, the divers, and everyone involved in finding Jess, you pushed yourselves beyond the limits of your physical and mental capabilities to rescue him. The intensity of your dedication became a beacon of hope, and comfort for those of us waiting for him to come home. His death was unexpected and we have to deal with the searing grief of losing him. But I believe that for Jess it was not tragic, and he was not taken before his time. He was never fearful of his life. He was always ready to face his Creator. He often said, “Kung panahon mo na kahit anong gawin mong pagtatago, panahon mo na. Kung ano ang nakatakda siyang mangyayari.” Maybe for him it was the perfect end to a life well lived. Jess often told me he felt he would die young. During our moments together he would always say that between the two of us, he would be the first to go. I never believed him then. When he became a member of the Cabinet, I was always nervous whenever he would take a private plane or a helicopter. We constantly argued about the necessity of it all. But he made me understand that sometimes this could not be avoided because of his work. He promised me that he would take commercial flights whenever possible. But sometimes he still did not heed my request. He shielded me from this fear by simply not telling me about it. Last Saturday, the day of the crash, I was already on the phone with him early in the morning. There was a flurry of calls and text messages between us throughout the day. Early in the afternoon, I told him not to hurry home because my daughter’s competition finished early. I thought he would just be taking the bus bound for Naga that same night. But in true fashion, he still decided to fly home. He just wanted to surprise us and make us happy. When I first learned that he was pushing through with the trip, I texted him and he confirmed that he boarded the plane already. I was already very near 10


the airport to pick him up when he texted me again that his plane was going back to Cebu. He never told me why. I was able to reach him at 4:40 in the afternoon, just before the plane plunged into the sea. He told me in the calmest voice that he would call me later. He said he was just taking care of something. He never called me back.

enjoy the perks of his position because he was always afraid that he’d get used to it and be tempted to do all means just to stay in power. He used to tell me, “Mahirap nang masanay at baka hanaphanapin ko.” He was conscious not to spend beyond our means. He felt that if our needs and wants become unreasonable, he would be more vulnerable to temptations. He was never attached to material When the body bag carrying his remains was things. During one of his recent birthdays while he opened before my eyes, I was not at all surprised to was already Secretary of the DILG, he received a see that he was wearing his DILG uniform, the same number of signature shirts as gifts. He piled them uniform that he wore in that picture in front. That up inside his closet and told me while looking at was Jess to the very core. He was always working so those gifts, “Magagalit na nito sa akin ang Diyos.” hard but at the same time always rushing home to When he became DILG Secretary, coming home to be with his family. Naga every weekend kept him grounded and made him stronger against temptations. The weekend When Jess was still mayor of Naga, we both worked before that fateful crash, he fixed everything in the hard in making sure that the children would not house—busted lights, broken doorbell, leaking feel any sense of entitlement because of his faucets. He always looked for work to feel like a position. He always told us that the greatest gift he regular man of the house. He said these simple could give our children is a good name. In death, he tasks made him feel important to his family and gave my children that gift and the best way we can strengthens him. all honor him is to guard that name and make him proud. My husband was always cautious not to 11

NAGA SMILES MAGAZINE

Much has been said about how great Jess was as a public servant. But to us, his family, we will remember him most as an exceptional husband and father. He died with nothing left unsaid. He constantly showered us with “I love you’s.” He always told me he was lucky that he married me. He constantly told my children he was proud of them. On a normal day, he would text or call me several times. His first text message of the day would always be, “Ma, gising na ako.” Between us there is a constant narrative of, “in the car already,” “going to the office na,” “proceeding to the next appointment,” and so on and so forth.

ng mga anak mo. About to start my evening ritual.” By this, he meant that he would now start signing the voluminous office documents that are brought home for his signature. Before he sleeps, he would call and talk to Jillian and me. He would drop everything for our girls. He wasn’t there just for the big events but also for the small ones. He would badger many people, Secretary Mar included, just to ask for UAAP tickets for Aika, who almost never misses an Ateneo basketball game. Whenever Tricia had an upcoming exam, he would text me, “Ma, please go to the blessed sacrament, Trish has exams today.” He tutors Jillian in Math by telephone and he would even do sample math problems Sometimes, when he was in the middle of a difficult for her to solve while attending important meetconversation, he would text me, “hirap naman ings. He was never too busy for all of us. nitong kausap ko.” Or sometimes when attending a formal function at some flashy hotel, he would text 2012 was supposed to be a banner year for us. Two me, “Bok, fine dining na naman, siguradong gutom months ago, we celebrated our silver wedding na naman ako nito.” Often, he is home early enough anniversary. The day of our anniversary fell on a to eat dinner with Aika and Tricia. After dinner he weekday. Although we already celebrated the prior would often text me, “tapos na kaming mag-dinner

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weekend, he still came home for a few hours to surprise me, bringing with him a hodgepodge of flowers he got along the way. This loving gesture was all that was needed for our last anniversary to be memorable. In a moment of reflection, we agreed that we have been truly blessed not only because we have three wonderful children, but also because life has generally been good to us. That was when he first told me that he had already fulfilled all his dreams for himself. People would remember my husband as a hardworking and dedicated public servant, who made a difference in the lives of people. He had his own brand of leadership and preferred to keep everything simple. His heart always cries out to the poor and the marginalized. When he talks to me about his work, he would always tell me, “kawawa talaga ang mahihirap,” and hope that he could do more to make life easier for them. He found fulfillment when he worked as Mayor of Naga City because outcomes could be seen and felt quickly. Things were different at the national level. He worked so much harder, but he often wondered if his efforts were appreciated. “Hindi ko alam kung may patutunguhan ang lahat na ito,” were his exact words. But the immensity of the public response to his death and the collective grief being displayed gives us comfort that his efforts have made their

mark. We did not expect this kind of reaction. I am sure Jess did not expect this either. I am amazed to see big burly men crying over his death. When the funeral cortege passed by the streets of Manila and Naga there were as much cheers as there were tears. So many people have said very kind and inspiring words to us, and told us how Jess touched their lives. It seems that everyone had a personal encounter with him and had a story to tell. During his last Sunday with us, he told me in the car, while I was driving him to the airport, “Quotang-quota na ako. Hindi ko na pinangarap ang lahat na ito. Sobra-sobra na ang ibinigay sa akin ng Diyos.” His cup was indeed overflowing, his dreams for himself were simple and God gave him so much more than he asked for. Jess, thank you for the gift of your life. How lucky we are that you shared your life with us. We are truly blessed to have been loved by you. As my daughter said, you may have been prepared to die, but we were not prepared to lose you. We are devastated by your loss, but even if we are grieving we will continue to live because your spirit lives in us. I will make sure that your dreams for our children will be fulfilled. I will not say goodbye because I know that you will never leave us, and will always be in our midst. You are home now. You are back where you truly belong. Rest well. We will love you forever. NSM

EULOGY by Tricia G. Robredo

Tricia Robredo's speech during the necrological services for the late Interior Secretary, held at the People's Hall of the Naga City Hall on Sunday evening, August 26, 2012.

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ko po ang pangalawang anak ni Secretary Robredo. Baka hindi n'yo po alam kasi mas matangkad ako sa ate ko, kaya baka isipin n'yo ako ang unang anak. Pangalawa po ako. Sa pamilya po namin ako ang pinakamadrama, sabi nila. Kahapon, habang naghihintay kami sa mga tao na bibisita kay Papa sa Malacañang, nakagawa na sana ako ng sasabihin ko ngayong gabi. Binasa ko uli 'yung sinulat ko, umiyak ako nang umiyak. Talagang madrama ako. Kaya kaninang umaga, binago ko 'yun, tapos bago kami pumunta dito, tinext ko si Papa, sabi ko sa kanya, “Pa, kung feeling mo iiyak na ako, please, kilitiin mo ako,” kasi ayoko na magpakita sa inyo na umiiyak.

Si Jillian po, ang bunsong kapatid ko, alam n'yo po gusto niya talaga mag-artista. Ilang oras pagkatapos naming malaman na wala na si Papa, ano ang unang tanong niya kay Mama? “Ma, ilang taon si Kris (Aquino) noong namatay si Ninoy?” Baka daw kasi puwede siyang maging isang Kris Aquino paglaki niya. Ako naman po, nitong mga nakaraang araw, kung nakikita niyo ang mga litrato sa mga newspaper o sa TV—di ko pa nakikita kasi ayaw ko manood ng balita—sigurado ako na ang nandoon, kung hindi ako umiiyak, nagpupunas ako ng ilong. Kaya pagkatapos na hindi ako nagsalita tungkol sa nangyari, nagpaalam ako kay Mama na gusto ko rin magsalita tungkol kay Papa.

Si Ate naman kinausap din si Papa kanina. Sabi niya, “Pa, tapakan mo ang paa ni Tricia pag umiiyak Siguro, ngayon, tinatawanan ako ni Sec Jess. 'Di pa na siya, kasi hindi kami puwedeng magpakita na siya nagpaparamdam sa akin, pero sana magmahina ang loob namin dahil sa mga nangyari.” paramdam na siya. Parang naririnig ko rin siya na nagsasabi, “Ayos ka Bok, isang week pa lang, nagSa aming magkakapatid, ako ang pinakamahiyain. bago ka na.” Sabi naman ng iba, ako naman ang pinakamahina ang loob. Kung nakita n'yo, si Ate nagsalita para sa pamilya namin, sinagot lahat ng mga tanong ng mga reporter maski mahirap sumagot ng mga tanong tungkol kay Papa. Pero nakita niyo naman na nagawa niya iyon, kahit mahirap, gaya nu'ng sa ANC (interview). Matibay talaga (ang loob) ni Ate. Si Jillian naman po, may kuwento ako tungkol sa kanya. Sana tumawa kayo kasi medyo sad ang atmosphere ngayon. Sana matuwa kayo. 13

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Dati po kasi di ako masyadong nakikipag-usap sa ibang tao. 'Yung mga friends po nila Mama at Papa, alam iyan. Mahiyain nga po ako, hindi ako gaya ni Jillian na gusto maging Kris Aquino, so madalas hindi na lang ako nagsasalita. Nagsasalita lang ako kapag kailangan. Pero lahat iyan nagbago nitong nakaraang linggo. Binibiro ko nga si Papa bago matulog, mas marami pa akong nakausap nitong linggo kaysa sa mga nakausap ko nitong nakaraang taon.

magtatanong kung anong puwedeng i-regalo kasi gusto niya talaga i-surprise si Mama. Mahal niya talaga si Mama, na maski birthday niya inaalay niya kay Mama. Naalala ko isang beses, birthday niya sa City Hall, pinakanta siya. So kumanta siya, hindi naman siya nahihiya. Tapos ide-dedicate niya raw yung song na kakantahin niya kay Mama. Anong kinanta niya? “Please Release Me.” Pero gusto lang nilang pasayahin si Mama.

Hindi normal ang ganitong ugali, lalo na sa ganitong edad, ang mga ka-edad ko laging gusto maraming kasama. Ako, solo lang. Kung puwedeng gawin ko mag-isa ang mga bagay, gagawin ko mag-isa. Killjoy, 'di ba? Minsan nga parang nakakainis na. Pero, alam n'yo, 'di sa akin pinaramdam ni Papa na mali ang ganitong ugali.

Pamilya muna

Noong pinag-usapan namin ito, ngumiti lang siya, tumango, at sinabi, “Ano naman, anak? Labs na labs ka naman ni Papa.”

Marunong magmahal Marami na tayong kuwento na narinig tungkol kay Papa: Matibay siya na Mayor, matibay siya na Secretary, mabuti siyang kaibigan o ka-brod, mabuti siyang anak, mabuti siyang kapatid, mabuti siyang anak. Pero natanong n'yo na ba kung bakit siya matibay, kung bakit siya mabuti? Kung ako tatanungin niyo, ito ang sagot ko: naging matibay at mabuti si Papa dahil marunong siya magmahal: Magmahal sa trabaho, magmahal sa tao. Paano magmahal si Papa? Sabi ng Lola ko sa isang interview, maraming may gusto kay Mama noong dalaga pa siya, pero sa dinami-rami ng lalaki na nanligaw sa kanya, si Papa ang pinili niya. Hindi ko alam ang rason, dahil 'pag nagtatanong ako 'di niya ako sinasagot. Pero subukan n'yo itanong, baka sagutin kayo. Try n'yo lang. Pero sa mga nakita ko sa kanila, si Papa mahilig i-surprise si Mama. Si Papa rin, bago mag-birthday si Mama, or magwedding anniversary, or mag-Mother's Day, papasok iyan sa kuwarto naming magkakapatid kapag akala niya tulog na si Mama, tapos 15

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Sa aming magkakapatid mahaba ang pasensya niyan. Ako po, pre-med ngayon, medyo mahirap ang course—sabayan pa ng paglipat sa Manila. Mahal na mahal ko ang Naga, ibang-iba sa Manila. Kaya kadalasan nagtataray ako, lalo na kapag sobrang inis na ako. Minsan nga sinusuntok ko ang malaking tiyan ni Papa kapag sobrang galit na ako, pero okay lang sa kanya. Pero 'pag ganyan, pupunta na lang iyan sa kuwarto ko, 'di lang magsasalita dahil nga galit na ako, mag-iiwan ng pagkain, tapos tatawagin si Mama: “Ma, magdasal na tayo para sa test ni Tricia.” Minsan nga hahanapan niya pa ako ng tutor. Wala na sa job description niya, pero ginagawa pa rin niya. 'Pag araw na ng test ko, magtetext nalang 'yan ng “Go La Salle, Trish!”—pero taga-Ateneo po ako. Pagkatapos ng test ko tatawag iyan, o pag-uusapan namin kapag nagkita na kami.

Si Ate naman, graduate na iyan ng Ateneo apat na taon na ang nakakaraan, pero grabe pa rin kung manood ng UAAP games. Kung sinu-sino na tinatawagan ni Papa para lang makahingi ng ticket sa UAAP basketball games.

Si Jillian po lagi niyang hinihilot bago matulog. Lagi rin silang naka-holding hands. Kapag tumabi na si Jillian sa kanila sa kama, sasabihin na niyan, “Anak, Our Father na tayo.”

Kapag naiiwan sila sa Manila, lumalabas sila ni Ate para kumain sa mga kainan malapit sa amin.

Noong mayor pa siya, pinapa-encode pa niya ang mga practice tests ni Jillian para ready na siya 'pag magpapa-tutor na siya.

Labs na labs talaga kami ni Papa. Pero kahit sobrasobra na, meron pa rin siyang space sa puso niya para mahalin ang bawat isa sa inyo. Sinisiguro ko iyan sa inyo.

Marami pang ganitong moments kasama si Papa, pero kung kailangan ko itong i-summarize sa isang sentence, sinisiguro na muna na tapos ang assignments namin bago ang trabaho niya. Baka nakakaoffend sa iba kasi baka isipin niyo, inuuna niya kami, pero sorry po, ganoon talaga siya. Mas una kami. Kami ang priority ni Papa. Maski divided ang time niya, alam namin na may oras siya para sa amin.

Naaalala ko noong bata pa ako, pag-uwi ko galing eskwelahan, nakita ko siya nakatayo sa pagitan ng isang babae at isang lalaki, tapos may iba pang mga tao. Pagdaan ko, may kinakasal pala siya—pero may sakit siya noon. Isipin niyo: Naka-pajama siya, nakayapak, at hindi lang iyan—nakasuwero pa siya. Pero kinasal pa rin niya ang mga dapat ikasal kasi trabaho niya iyon.

Pagmamahal sa bayan

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Kapag galit na iyan, gaya ng sinabi kanina ni Ninong Gabby (Naga Vice Mayor Gabriel Bordado Jr.), kakagatin na lang niya ang daliri niya kaysa sa magsalita ng masama. Galit na nga siya, sinasaktan pa niya sarili niya. Noong may sumabog malapit sa convoy niya, sa Mindanao ata iyon, tumawa lang siya tapos tumuloy sa mga meeting niya. Sabi pa niya sa amin noong nagkukuwento siya, feeling niya nasa teleserye siya. Nakakainis 'di ba? Kami kinakabahan, naiiyak sa nangyari, tapos siya, sabi niya, feeling niya siya si Fernando Poe Jr. Hindi niya magagawa o malalampasan ang mga nangyaring ito kung hindi siya malakas. Hindi siya magi-ging malakas kung hindi niya mahal ang ginagawa niya.

Pagpapasalamat Ngayong gabi po, nagpapasalamat po kaming buong pamilya sa pagpapakita at pagpaparamdam sa amin at kay Papa na mahal n'yo rin siya. Mahirap mawalan ng tatay. Nakakalungkot isipin na mabubuhay kami na wala siya. Pero alam namin na hindi lang kami ang nawalan, na hindi namin kaila-ngan mag-isa para malampasan namin ito. Salamat sa pakikiisa sa amin sa pagdarasal at umasa rin na makuha si Papa ng mga fishermen. Sabi nga ng ilang kaibigan ko na pumunta sa bahay noong nawawala pa si Papa, “Tricia, 'wag ka mag-alala. Nakuha lang iyon ng tribo, may mga dahon-dahon sa ulo para ma-heal ang mga sugat niya.” Salamat po sa pagpalit n'yo ng mga profile picture niyo sa Facebook, sa pagbigay ng tribute para kay Papa, pati pakikipag-away sa mga taong hindi natin maintindihan sa Twitter. Maraming salamat po. Kung hindi n'yo iyon ginawa, siguro ako na ang nakipag-away sa kanila. Pero sinabihan din naman ako ni Papa na 'wag makipag-away, so baka 'di ko rin gawin iyon. Salamat sa mga nakahanap ng oras para bisitahin si Papa, para makausap siya sa huling pagkakataon. Noong sinasamahan ko si Papa nitong mga nakaraang araw, marami akong nakitang nakasuot 17

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ng yellow T-shirt, may mga yellow ribbons, meron pang may malaking picture ni Papa. Siguro kung buhay pa si Papa at ginawa niyo iyan, kakantyawan na namin si Papa— “grabe ka, mukha mo nasa Tshirt na ng mga tao. Hindi ka pa ba satisfied na 'yung mukha mo nasa harap na nila?” Pero sige, dahil wala na siya, pagbibigyan na namin. Nakakataba ng puso kapag may nakikita kami na umiiyak, sumasaludo, at nagdarasal para sa kanya. Hindi namin inakala na ganito karami ang tao na nagmamahal sa Papa namin. Siguro ngayon, kinikilig na si Pogi, nanonood lang sa langit. Ang laki siguro ng ngiti niya, kita na ang pustiso. Pinakaimportante sa lahat, salamat sa pagbigay sa kanya ng lakas para magawa niya ang lahat ng nagawa niya. Salamat sa pagpapasaya sa kanya. Salamat sa pagpapaalam sa kanya na may babalikan siya sa Naga. Kahit na nasa Manila na siya, gusto niya lagi umuwi. Sigurado ako na isa sa mga rason ay dahil nandito kayo.

'Ang importante ang hindi nasasabi' Marami pa akong gustong sabihin tungkol kay Papa, pero kung iisa-isahin ko yun, hindi ako matatapos. Wala pa siguro ako sa kalahati, sinusundo na ako ni Papa. Sa school po, may natutunan ako, nabasa ko sa isang article na sinulat ni Padre (Roque) Ferriols (Jesuit priest/philosopher): “Pag nasabi na ang lahat ng masasabi, ang importante ang hindi nasasabi.” Malaki na ang pasasalamat na ibinigay natin kay Papa; oras na para may gawin tayo para sa kanya— ang ipagpatuloy ang ginawa niya para sa atin, para hindi masayang ang pinaghirapan niya. Sana ipagpatuloy natin ang mga sinimulan niya.

wala? Sinasabi doon ni Papa na humanap tayo ng hero sa ating mga sarili. Siguro po, ngayong wala na si Papa, kailangan nating malaman na bawat isa sa atin may magagawa para sa siyudad na ito. Kahit na masaya na tayo—“An Maogmang Lugar”—marami nang pagbabago, hindi pa tapos ang laban. Sana bawat isa sa atin kumilos bilang respeto kay Papa.

Sec, Mayor, Pogi, Boss, Bright Boy, Papa, hindi matatapos sa Facebook, sa Twitter, o sa TV ang pangako naming ipagpatuloy ang nasimulan mo. Ako na po ang bahala kay Mama—Senator Leni. Joke!

Kami naman pong magkakapatid, nangangako kami, kahit hindi kami magpulitika, gagawin Alam ko kaya natin; sinasabi nga niya, maski maliit namin ang lahat para ipagpatuloy ang ginawa ni na tao may magagawang malaking bagay, hindi Papa. Kung ako, sabihin na nating maging doctor in lang para sa siyudad, kundi para sa bansa rin. 4 years, si Ate maging mas successful, si Jillian maging Kris Aquino, promise po babalik kami dito. Papa, maybe you were ready to die, but we were not Tatapusin namin, ipagpapatuloy namin ang ready to lose you. Although I don't understand why sinimulan niyang laban. you had to leave so soon, I'm still very grateful to have been raised and loved by you. Pa, hindi kami magsasawa na magkuwento sa mga anak namin, at sa mga anak ng mga anak namin, Hindi ko po alam kung anong mangyayari pagbalik tungkol sa malateleserye mong buhay. Para kang si ko ng Manila, kasi nasanay po akong nandoon din FPJ, pero higit pa. siya. Pero sanayan na lang talaga. Hindi ko po kayang ipahiwatig sa salita ang aking Jesse sa bawat isa sa atin pasasalamat na naging anak n'yo ako. Hindi ko rin kayang ipahiwatig sa salita ang pagpapasalamat ko Wala na ang katawan niya, pero sabi nga po ni sa inyong lahat. Kahit 54 years old lang si Papa, (Naga City) Mayor John (Bongat), nakikita niya si sigurado ako lampas pang-100 years old ang Papa sa ating lahat. Sana nga po totoong may Jesse experiences niya. Nalulungkot man kami kay Papa, Robredo sa bawat isa sa atin. ang suporta n'yo ang nagpapalakas sa amin. Kapag naiisip naming masaya na si Papa, na hindi siya Promise, Pa, hindi kami magbo-boyfriend ni Ate at talaga mawawala, na kinikilig na siguro siya, iyon ni Jill kung hindi sila kasimpogi o kasimbait mo. ang tumutulong sa amin na ma-accept na wala na Nakakatawa nga po, noong wake sa Archbishop's talaga siya. Palace, maraming lumalapit sa amin ni Ate: “Kung magbo-boyfriend kayo, dadaan muna sila sa amin.” Pero ito ang challenge sa ating lahat: Na sana ang Naku, kulang na lang ipakilala namin sa buong pagkamatay ni Papa ay hindi para sa wala. Sana may Naga kapag nagka-boyfriend kami! Kaya Papa, makuha tayo sa nangyari sa kanya. pinapahirapan mo pa kami—kailangan pa namin sila i-introduce sa mga tao! I love you forever, Pa. See you on the other side. Maraming salamat po sa inyong lahat.

NSM

Isa sa mga favorite quotes na nabasa ko sa Facebook nitong mga nakaraang araw, na sinabi pala ni Papa na hindi ko alam sinabi niya, ay iyong sinabi niya na marami tayong lider sa national level na tinuturing na “the best people,” ang mga sikat, ang magagaling, uupo nalang sa isang posisyon—pero bakit lumalaki lalo ang gap sa pagitan ng meron at 18


If there was one thing that convinced me that he is truly deserving of the award, it is this: He has never made me feel I was different from others just because he is my father. As he goes about serving others, I have never been left wanting for his time and attention. He eats lunch and dinner with us seven days a week, even if it means he has to take two or three more meals because he has to attend a constituent’s wedding or birthday reception. No occasion is too trivial for him. He is there for us not only during PTA meetings or piano or ballet recitals, but even when my math homework gets a little too difficult.

by Jessica Marie G. Robredo

I

was only 12 years old in August 2000 when Jesse Manalastas Robredo was proclaimed as the recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service. I was a witness to how honored the man felt with the recognition given to him. But it was not until I was asked by my English teacher to go over the list of past and present Ramon Magsaysay awardees and write an essay on one of them that I was able to fully understand the great significance of the award. The awardees, I quickly learned, were exceptional men and women who bravely dared to make a difference in making Asia, and maybe the world, a better place. It was easy for me to pick Jesse Robredo from the list of 229 awardees because he was one person who truly inspired me, and who continues to inspire me to make a difference. To write about his life and his work, however, is a very daunting task, because he is very close to my heart. Much has been written about his outstanding work as mayor of Naga City from 1988 to 1998 and how he bravely fought corruption, vice, poverty, economic stagnation and dramatically transformed Naga from an inefficient and dispirited city into one of the most progressive in the country. When the euphoria brought about by the Edsa People Power Revolution started to wane and people were starting to doubt if a more authoritarian leadership would work better for the Filipino people, Robredo 19

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showed us all that the people are still the most important resource and restored our faith in democracy. He not only worked for the poor but worked with them and involved them every step of the way. He has always pushed for growth with equity, transparency, integrity and he brought honor to his office. But the most essential part of his accomplishments are those that are invisible to the naked eye. I am 15, but I must admit that to this day, the lessons of democracy, of fiscal management, of people empowerment, are still quite difficult for me to comprehend. What I do understand is that the people of Naga look up to him because he succeeded in making them feel he is just like any one of them. He is simple and humble in his ways. He wears the city government uniform to work. He is in his office before eight o’clock in the morning. He goes around without bodyguards, and he does not believe he is

Now that I am a little older, sometimes people would come up to me to tell me what great things my father has done for them. I feel entitled to special perks just ... greatness of spirit can proud. But what puts a because of his office. He lives be achieved not through smile in my heart is very modestly as his house and knowing that he also office would reveal. wealth, power or did small things for popularity, but by living some people—things He is a very dedicated public your life with quiet dignity like bringing back a servant and practices what he and by becoming a man wayward son to his preaches. No task is ever too medistraught mother, nial for him, whether it is for others helping a male driving around the city at night employee patch things to check busted lampposts or up with his wife, or joining street cleaners and garbage collectors in playing basketball on a street corner with the performing their regular chores. neighborhood kids. Such things may appear inconsequential, but they have brought great joy to People see the best in him during the worst of others and made them feel important. times. He is always the last man on the street during typhoons, making sure that people are safe, His decision to continue serving his native city and and the first one to shovel the mud out of the city resist the lure of national prominence, which a after the floods. higher elective post could have brought him, had In 1998, after serving his third consecutive term as the deepest impact on me and imparted to me lifelong lessons: that no deed is too small nor too big if mayor of the city, he stepped down quietly, ignorit makes other people’s burden lighter and their ing suggestions for him to seek higher office or lives better; that greatness of spirit can be achieved perpetuate himself in power by asking a family not through wealth, power or popularity, but by member to run in his stead. living your life with quiet dignity and by becoming a man for others. By his example, I have been truly Now that I know what the Ramon Magsaysay Award is all about, I feel truly blessed that I happen inspired to dare to make a difference, break ground, stand up for my own convictions and serve to be his daughter. I was born exactly six days others selflessly and with integrity in whatever before he was first elected mayor and I spent the field I will find myself in. NSM first 10 years of my life with him at City Hall. 20


by Tony La Viña, Dean, Ateneo de Manila University School of Government

A simple life

J

esse Robredo and I belonged to the same generation of Ateneans. He was a student of Ateneo de Naga High School at the same time I was studying in Xavier University-Ateneo de Cagayan.

Jesse Robredo lived simply. Stories abound of how Jesse was so unassuming, dressed always modestly, lived in ordinary abodes (not villas nor mansions), had simple (but great) taste in food, and was always comfortable, as the mayor of Naga and Interior secretary, to “mix it up” with his constituents and his staff.

He must have been exposed to the same Jesuit mantra as all of us in that generation were: “You are called to be men and women for others,” a phrase coined by Fr. Pedro Arrupe, S.J., Father General of the Society of Jesus, in a 1973 speech to alumni of Jesuit schools.

Indeed, as one of his staff commented on television, he enjoyed being with people on the ground and the streets more than being with those in social events.

Later in the same speech, Arrupe elaborates and says a man-and-woman-for-others lived simply, committed to a life of service, and sought to change unjust social structures. This is an accurate description of Jesse Robredo and how he lived both his private (to the limited extent I was exposed to this) and public life.

His record at the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) will show how transparent and scrupulous he was about government finances. Because of this, he made many political enemies but he persisted and eventually the DILG bureaucracy, as did the Naga City Hall, became more appreciative of what he was doing.

My colleagues Joy Aceron and Francis Isaac, in Frontline Leadership, a book published by the Upon hearing of the crash of Jesse’s airplane while I Ateneo School of Government, described how the was in Kathmandu, Nepal last Saturday, as a way of way Jesse dressed gave “the impression that fashion coping with my helplessness and worry, I decided to is not among his priorities.” prepare for the worst and began thinking of how to They recount his wife Leni’s story of how she once honor this great man. bought her husband a Lacoste shirt and how he never wore it, knowing perhaps how much it cost. I did not have to look farther than what our Jesuit Robredo, according to Aceron and Isaac, attributed mentors taught us. More than anything, as a leader’s leader, a servant of the people, and a family his simple taste to his parents. “Growing up in a family that did not put a premium on material man, Jesse Robredo was truly a man for others. goods or riches, he and his siblings were taught by Let us recall Arrupe’s definition of “men and women for others,” the prime educational objective their parents to refrain from seeking any favor or special privileges, and instead to measure the of Jesuit institutions: “men and women who will live not for themselves but for God and his Christ— degree of their success based on the amount of labor that they have exerted.” for the God-man who lived and died for all the world; men and women who cannot even conceive This simplicity was not just a personal, private of love of God which does not include love for the thing. As a government official, he was also very least of their neighbors; men and women comthrifty. He rejected all types of extravagance and pletely convinced that love of God which does not was extra careful with the people’s money. issue in justice for others is a farce.”

Then Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo with Kaya Natin co-founders, Pampanga Governor Ed Panlilio and Isabela Governor Grace Padaca, during their ‘Islands of Hope’ campus tour in 2008.

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Life of service Jesse Robredo lived a life of service with a strong commitment to help the poor. His early years in Naga were formative in this respect. According to Aceron and Isaac, Robredo grew up and became friends with poor children coming from a nearby urban poor community. This experience “opened his eyes to the sharp division between the rich and the poor.” Jesse told the authors: Lumaki ako na ang mga kaibigan ko ay mga iskwater sa likod ng bahay namin. Ang kasama ko sa basketball team mahihirap. Nag-aaral na ako sa La Salle, ang mga kalaro ko ng basketball, hindi nga nag-college. Parang na-balance ’yung pananaw ko na may mga taong mahihirap na kailangang tulungan. (I grew up with my friends who were squatters living at the back of our house. My basketball teammates were all poor. When I was already studying in La Salle, my basketball playmates were not even going to college. Somehow, it gave me a more balanced view that there are poor people who needed to be helped.) This preferential option for the poor defined and determined Jesse’s days as a mayor and DILG Secretary. He worked hard and demanded excellence from himself and from those who worked with him. But he did not do this because he was a perfectionist. He did and sought the best because he wanted the best for the Filipino people, especially the poor. He treated rich and poor people alike but clearly his heart belonged to the poor. That was why the delivery of basic services was so central to him as a public official. Jesse exemplified the servantleader described by Robert K. Greenleaf in The Servant as Leader, first published in 1970. 23

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He said, “The servant-leader is servant first…It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead.” Whether as Naga City Mayor or DILG Secretary, Jesse always got his feet wet, was on the ground first, and showed by example what service and leadership meant. In this way, he was a leader who inspired.

A reformer’s life In his 1973 speech, Fr. Arrupe said that men and women for others must have “a firm resolve to be agents of change in society; not merely resisting unjust structures and arrangements, but actively undertaking to reform them.” How accurate a description this is of the kind of leader and public servant Jesse Robredo was. While he has made many contributions as a national and local official, ultimately, it is the reforms that he initiated in his various offices—when they stand the test of time and political transitions—that we will remember Jesse Robredo for. In Naga City, also known as “An Maogmang Lugar” (The Happy Place), Jesse reinvented its bureaucracy through a productivity improvement program. He was also instrumental in strengthening the city government’s participatory mechanisms by crafting the Naga City Citizens Charter as a guidebook on the 130 key services being offered by the local government unit (LGU).

Lastly, under Robredo’s watch, Naga established the i-Governance Program that encourages ordinary citizens to participate in all matters of governance by providing a 24/7 venue for engagement and feedback-gathering through the city website and short messaging service. Access to this is made more available through numerous cyber-schools and cyber-barangays. During his stint in the DILG, short as it was, he initiated fundamental reforms in procurement and local government administration that have far-reaching consequences. In procurement, he brought DILG procedures into the 21st century, making sure the process would be the most transparent as possible and ensure that tax money was properly spent. But more than anything, he will be remembered for the ways he engaged and inspired local government reforms. Local governments are the most critical government agencies in the country, far more important,

I believe, than any department or national agency. Governors and mayors are the most powerful and important government officials, excluding of course the President, who is still the most powerful official of the land. But the capacity of local governments is still limited, and they need help, including setting directions and implementing reforms. Jesse Robredo was the first DILG secretary who really paid attention to local governments. Other secretaries tended to concentrate on the police side of the work as it was more glamorous. But Jesse, true to his background, focused on local governments and how to make them engines for development and vehicles for peace and justice. As in procurement, Jesse focused also on making LGUs more transparent, insisting on a full disclosure policy. He made disaster risk reduction a priority. As in Naga, the delivery of basic services and the role of local governments were central to his vision. 24


Beyond Naga city After 6 terms as Naga City mayor, Jesse knew it was time to move on. It was in this context that I got to know him well. As Dean of the Ateneo School of Government, I asked him to teach at the school, among others, and to go around the country to share with other local governments his experience in instituting reforms.

In all of these, he had one consistent message, passionately delivered: there is a solution to our problems as a country: it is good governance. “Kaya natin!”—we can do it—was always his final word.

Kaya natin. We can all be men-and-women-forothers. We can all be like Jesse Robredo and serve the people and country, without fanfare, with He also graced many of our forums, roundtable dis- utmost sincerity, with the best that we can do. cussions and executive education seminars. Later, when our school facilitated the creation of the Kaya And we can make a difference. If we want to honor Natin Movement, Jesse went around the country to Jesse’s memory, we must remember this and not be defeated by this sad moment. Kaya natin. NSM preach the gospel of ethical and effective goverAugust 21, 2012 nance.

“Our country is in dire need of servant leaders whose sense of compassion and service is truly awakened. We cannot bring the Philippines to lasting greatness without leaders of this caliber working in the government.”

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Jesse Robredo: 'If I were President...' by Miriam Grace A. Go

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t was initially ironic, in the eyes of some fellow journalists, that I couldn’t immediately type away a tribute to Jesse Robredo.

I practically grew up with him professionally. He was head of the League of Cities at the time the Local Government Code was up for a first review since its enactment. I was a newspaper reporter urged by my editors to keep an eye on this sector that had started pushing for more powers, autonomy, and resources from the national government.

interviewer who knew what to ask. He recognized it when you really came for answers, and not just to perfunctorily get a quote. Whenever he said, “O meron pa?” or “Okay na tayo?” it didn’t mean he was trying to cut short the interview. He was telling you, “If you have more questions, I’d be willing to answer them until I’ve helped you understand this issue.”

And how he made time. During his first term after Harvard, I remember texting him at his two numbers early in the morning to request an interview by phone. I had forgotten that a storm had just hit The coverage evolved into conversations over the Bicol, and the hours that passed without any reply years. Local governance was our common passion; from him made me forget that I had even texted good administration, both our ideal. Politics was a reality we both grappled with whenever I asked the him. Around 9 pm, he was returning the call: “Nasa practical, at times awkward, questions. Campaigns bundok kasi kami maghapon, kabababa lang, nagand elections were a most absurd necessity we often check kami sa mga kababayan nating binagyo.” afforded to laugh about only when they were over. Another time, in 2006, I was on a tight deadline and needed a sit-down interview with him anytime Face to face, voice calls, text messages—he would he would be in Manila. He replied late in the answer; he had answers. Truthful. Realistic. Someevening when he arrived in San Juan, where he used times pragmatic. But always—always—giving you to sleep over at his sister’s house, and promised to the feeling that it’s alright, even this once, to shed squeeze me into his packed schedule the following off a bit of your cynicism; that it’s not strange if day. you wrap up an interview feeling a bit hopeful for this country, or for the countryside at least. The window turned out to be at 7 am, at Greenwich at the Greenhills Shopping Center. I came 20 He was pleased, I can tell you, when a journalist minutes before schedule, because I had this sense wanted to talk about good governance—not just in that he was the type who would arrive earlier than terms of vague academic concepts, but how it’s call time, so to speak. True enough, he came at 6:50, introduced to a society so used to traditional poliapologetic that he made me wait and that he set the tics; how it’s funded in a perennially financiallyinterview perhaps too early in the day. challenged government; how it’s sustained when the dirty toes you inevitably step on would, by But he didn’t have—and I didn’t want him—to aporeflex, kick back to frustrate your efforts. logize. Over my convenience as a journalist, I would choose anytime to honor the man’s far nobler comIf only time permitted, he would talk endlessly. mitment—that of finishing his business every time Reporters would tell you, he knew an intent stuhe’s in Manila within as short a time as possible, so dent when he was talking to one. He respected an 26


he could immediately go home to his family and his constituents in Naga.

former local official would be at the helm of the DILG, were telling journalists without attribution, “Ano ba naman ’yung Naga, eh maliit lang ’yun?”

Letting things slide I was affected by his death, my friends realized, as we sat in the conference room last Friday and the rest of the newsroom was busy with updates on his wake in Malacañang. Quickly, one’s “DILG Queen, bakit di ka nagsusulat?” changed to “Wala na ang tatay mo...” (We often referred to close and regular sources in terms of family members.) “Umiyak ka ba, Miss Gigi?” asked another. I did, as soon as I knew from the initial details of the crash that only a miracle would render him alive. The next day, while I still hoped for a miracle for Mayor Jesse (I never got to progress to calling him “Secretary”), my prayers already focused on his family. This was a family that was raised to be unaffected by the trappings of influence and power, shielded from material comfort and bragging rights that connection to city hall could’ve afforded them. I thought, we were only missing a good public servant; Attorney Leni, Aika, Patricia, and Jillian were losing their devoted family man. By Monday night, the 20th, my prayer was for his body to at least be recovered—that would be a big help in the family’s healing. In the morning of Tuesday, I got a text message that his remains were found. I felt numb, took hours to tweet a prayer for the family, and decided to shut out any more news for the day. I was afraid I’d come across some politicians who would tell us what a big loss Mayor Jesse’s death would be to our quest for good and transparent governance. They who made themselves scarce when he needed firm and unequivocal support to automatically bag the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) appointment, be confirmed right away, and get to exercise full authority over the entire department and its attached agencies.

Or I might sense the hand of some political tacticians shoving their clients closer so they could be deodorized by any association with Mayor Jesse. They who used to brand him haughty every time he said honest and efficient management of public affairs was possible if the leader really wanted it. Or I might hear some folks saying he would’ve been the best president or senator we could have had. They who, I’m sure, mostly didn’t appreciate what he was doing, because the last time his name was floated in surveys, only 0.8% intended to vote him to the Senate. Then I would’ve turned into the nasty version of myself toward these bandwagoners. And Mayor Jesse—I could imagine if I brought up such issues in our conversations—would’ve chuckled to say, “I get your point,” acknowledged that some of my observations were valid, and gone on to try to make me broaden my perspective. He would say, there are things you let slide or learn to live with, as long as your core principles remain intact, because there are things you had set out to accomplish. One car, by installment But, tell me, Mayor Jesse, did you really think most of these pampered politicians understood “modest” when they expressed admiration for your family’s way of life? The Robredos have lived in a sort of a townhouse, without a lawn or hall for people’s day gatherings that’s staple in local politicians' residences. (To keep people from lining up outside his house for various concerns, Mayor Jesse would have early breakfast and head for city hall before office hours.)

They didn’t have many cars; in fact, they only had one at a time, at least before he became a Cabinet Or I might see some local officials extolling him for member. I remember him proudly recounting years Naga’s best practices that could be widely replicated ago how he sold his old car so he could get a Meracross the country. They who, instead of instinccedes van that’s big enough for the whole family— tively and collectively welcoming the first time a he was paying for it by installment over 5 years. 27

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Before the era of budget airfares, he rarely traveled to Manila by plane, even if he was on official business—he didn’t want to strain the city government’s budget, so he preferred to travel by land. On the day his plane crashed and his two older daughters were rushing home to Naga to be with their mother and youngest sister, I realized nothing had changed. The girls were taking the bus from Manila and were expected to arrive at the province by 4 am the following day yet. “Hindi tayo makakapagsalita para sa iba, ayaw nating magkumpara,” I could almost predict Mayor Jesse would say. And then he would tell you he’s just raising his family the way his parents did—no sense of entitlement, enjoying only what you worked hard for, making a difference wherever you find yourself in, giving back because life has been good to you. Okay, sir, but we both know that

the politics of these so-called allies are not as straight as yours, right? And Mayor Jesse would say: Maybe, but by standing by your principles, you would’ve earned their respect, and they wouldn’t attempt to ask you to compromise. In 1998, a presidential election year, I snuck into a closed-door meeting of Lakas, where they appealed to local candidates not to junk standard-bearer Joe de Venecia (JDV). The politicians were called to a room, by region, and were given big envelopes. Mayor Jesse was among the first, if not the first, to leave the place. What did you get in the envelope? I asked him the following day. Posters, campaign paraphernalia for distribution, he said. Uh-oh, the other politicians got campaign funds—some even complaining how one got more than the others.

And there went the news room joke, “Nabukulan si Robredo.” He didn’t mind. Maybe he expected it. Early on in the campaign, he made clear to party officials that, being Bicolano— and, I’m sure, because he subscribed to the same brand of politics—he was going to support the presidential bid of Raul Roco, De Venecia’s opponent. The arrangement he proposed, because he still officially belonged to Lakas, was that, even if he wouldn’t endorse JDV, he would make all the necessary preparations for the sorties that the Lakas candidates planned in his area. If he were any other party member, I was pretty sure the Lakas leadership would’ve subjected him to disciplinary action. But then, this was somebody whom they never caught saying one thing and doing another, so they let him be. 28


Clamor for Leni: A replay ‘If I were President...’ During the 2010 campaign, when Mayor Jesse was minding Noynoy Aquino’s networking with local officials, I was tempted to ask him: How can you stand this candidate who, when asked about local government issues, had nothing to say but, “Pagaaralan ho natin ’yan?” But I didn’t want to dampen his hopes. The Liberal Party, to which he now belonged, had assured him of the DILG portfolio if Noynoy won. And I was sure he wasn’t after it for the clout or the fame. Genuinely, he wanted to be in a position to introduce—even impose in a subtle, perfectly legal, way— good, transparent, efficient administration in local governments across the country. I didn’t even think it was some conscious “I’ll prove that the Naga way is possible anywhere else” effort; he just wanted this chance to do good on a larger scale the way he knew best. In April 2006, Newsbreak asked him to complete this sentence: “If I were President...” He replied, almost instantly that you knew he had thought this over before: “I will drastically change the allocation of government resources to favor local governments. I will make LGU leaders accountable to their constituents in a measurable way.” That last part, he was able to do as DILG chief. I remember him stressing that any program, any platform, had to have “clear milestones” because they would give your constituents, your clientele, a sense of security where all these efforts were going. Like in a campaign, he said, “We didn’t just say we would address the flooding problem. We identified which streets we would fix when.” I realized how single-minded he had become about this whole thing. He stood pat even when the President insulted him with this illegal move of limiting his authority to just the local government half of the department, and reserving the interior half for Noynoy’s shooting buddy. Because there were bigger things that just had to be done. 29

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“If I were President... I will drastically change the allocation of government resources to favor local governments. I will make LGU leaders accountable to their constituents in a measurable way.”

The political significance of the date when his body was found wasn’t lost on me. As soon as I got the text in the morning of August 21, I started to fear that people, either overwhelmed by their love for Mayor Jesse or desperate to clinch an elusive additional senatorial seat for the ruling party, would egg on Mrs. Robredo to run for the Senate. Which crafty political strategist wouldn’t be itching to point out, and exploit, the parallelisms? Twenty-nine years ago, Ninoy Aquino, hero, died August 21. Sympathetic public swept his widow to the presidency. (Bonus, bonus, their son is now president, too!) That widow president gave Jesse his break in government when he was 29 years old. He was confirmed dead last August 21. Now, as I was starting to write this piece, news was being tweeted: “Leni Robredo for senator? Why not?” Clamor to run for public office is not something new to Attorney Leni. The first time Mayor Jesse reached his term limit in 1998, supporters were afraid that the reforms he instituted in Naga would be undone if somebody not him would take over city hall. They wanted his wife.

Leni would’ve a career apart from his very public job. So Mayor Jesse’s drawing power—his vote share averaged at 80% every election—was instead thrown behind local partymates in the two times he reached his term limit, in 1998 and in 2010. I don’t know if anything has changed since that merienda that a friend and I had with Mayor Jesse in 2009 at Chocolate Kiss on Roces. Explaining why Attorney Leni wasn’t going to be coaxed into seeking electoral office, he said: “May sariling buhay ang misis ko. Hindi ’yan asawa lang ng mayor. Alam niya ang gusto niyang gawin.” On that note, he would’ve put an end to all these trial balloons today and asked us: “O meron pa? Okay na tayo?” And I would’ve answered, I think that would be all, sir. #Salamat Jesse.

NSM

August 27, 2012

She refused—instantly, firmly. The position, the Robredos believed, was not something up to be inherited; they didn’t have a monopoly on it. Leni gave her services pro bono to Nagueños as her way of supporting her husband’s administration. If he were not mayor, Jesse said, Attorney 30


That he served quietly, but effectively, and without a communications unit to publicize his deeds.

JESSE M. ROBREDO

A modern-day Magsaysay

I would conclude that Secretary Robredo is the Philippines’ modern-day Ramon Magsaysay, the well-loved 7th President of the Philippines referred to in the native country’s history as “man of the masses,” who, like Robredo, also died of airplane crash in 1957. (Ironically, the late Sec. Robredo received Asia’s counterpart of Europe’s Nobel Prize, the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service in 2000 after three terms as mayor of Naga City.) According to news accounts about Sec. Robredo and my memory of the late President Magsaysay, the two were similar in many ways, especially in humility and in advocacy of simple living.

by Manuel Caballero

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’ll write something I have not written before.

I will praise President Benigno Aquino III. I will laud Mr. Aquino for the manner he looked after his subordinate, Secretary Jesse M. Robredo and the family he left behind, from the time of the grim news of the Sec’s airplane crash up to interment day. Twelve days in the life of a nation’s president, who virtually did nothing else, but paid close attention to his departed subordinate and appointed a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. From supervising the search and rescue operation, to retrieval; to flying personally to the family twice, to inform and update them of the search, and on second time, to inform them of the sad news; to declaring six days of national mourning; to ordering flying of flags at half-mast; to offering a state funeral at Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ Cemetery) to the family who politely refused; to personally overseeing preparations for the transport and arrival of the corpse for two days of wake in the presidential palace and its return trip to Naga City; and for attending the interment. Above all, I praise this President’s order to his Communications Department to cover all wake and interment activities by live stream so they could be seen by Filipinos everywhere around the world on the Internet. I watched them daily last week from my study room in New Jersey. 31

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Both practiced servant leadership. I don’t know if such attention and kindness were routine for this president to do. Perhaps, there was some self reproach because of evident misjudgment on the ability of Secretary Robredo to lead his department as evidenced by non-confirmation (up to his death) of the secretary’s appointment, by the Commission on Appointments, which, the President could have swayed had he used his influence over its members. Or remorse, for not mentioning Secretary Robredo’s name when, one by one, Mr. Aquino praised members of his cabinet during his latest State of the Nation Address last July. All those are water under the bridge. Be those reasons as they may, still, I will commend the Commander-in-Chief for the utmost care he showed to the Robredos and to the countless Filipinos who poured out their love and sympathy for the departed cabinet member. The extraordinary show of love by Filipinos from all walks of life to Secretary Robredo and the family he left behind was beyond one’s imagination nor expectation. It only pointed out to one thing: that the late public servant walked the talk. That he did the right things.

Both wore slippers (tsinelas) as they visited their constituents in the barrios. Both paid genuine attention to the needs of the masses. Both gave true meaning to public position as a position of public trust. Both died in the prime of their usefulness to society: Magsaysay was 50, Robredo was 54. p Now, about the fine women Sec. Robredo left behind. The grace, dignity and simplicity of appearance of the three Robredo daughters (Aika, Tricia and Jillian) and his wife (Atty. Maria Leonor “Leni” Robredo) as seen by us on television and computer during the entire week of celebrating the life of Secretary Jesse Robredo in Manila and in Naga showed us how the family was reared and shaped by the late model public servant and family man. One way to remember this man is, as correctly proposed by a genuine Nagueño, Fiorel Salvo (Naga born but now lives in New Jersey), to the Naga City Council, is to erect a monument of the late secretary in front of Naga City Hall, which Sec. Robredo served as mayor for three consecutive terms. Or the establishment of an award by a private entity in the native country to be called the Jesse M. Robredo Award, which shall be given to Filipinos who will

emulate the practice and character of the late public servant. Indeed, a person’s societal value shows at the time of death. This was witnessed in the Philippines when President Ramon Magsaysay, Sen. Ninoy Aquino, Jaime Cardinal Sin, President Cory Aquino, and most recently, Secretary Jesse M. Robredo left their beloved country and people. p Now that the widely-loved Secretary Jesse M. Robredo had been laid to rest, there is one piece of information, I consider important, that I failed to write last week because I did not know then. I’d like to share it with our readers now with modesty. My good friend, Sonny Aguiling, informed us that the late secretary and his wife, Atty. Leni Robredo, were active members of Couples for Christ (CFC). This was later confirmed by a written statement from the International Council of CFC in Manila. In fact, Bro. Jesse (that’s how we address fellow CFC male members) used to be a coordinator of Youth for Christ or YFC in Naga, one of the family ministries of CFC. I’m proud to know that, being a coordinator myself of Servants of the Lord (SOLD) in New Jersey, another CFC family ministry composed of single men over 40 who are supposed to be matured. (LOL!) As I always joke, we are called SOLD for short, but we are all for sale. Unlike Bro. Jesse, though, I don’t go to confession two to three times a month, as revealed by his wife in an interview. Seriously, this CFC membership of the Robredos partly explains to me the character that Bro. Jesse manifested as a loving father and husband, as well as a public servant, shaped and guided by faithfulness to God. Even the refined behavior of the children that we saw on television were “very much CFC.” (There is a culture of distinct behavior in CFC. But, I must admit after eight years as member, I’m still trying to adapt totally to its beautiful culture. As the song goes, “Oh Lord, it’s hard to be humble...”). NSM 32


Niel, who graduated salutatorian from Tabuco Elementary School, valedictorian from Naga City Science High School and Magna Cum Laude with distinction in Accountancy and Achievement Award from the Ateneo de Naga University, is now one of the trusted employees of the reputable Sycip, Gorres and Velayo (SGV) accounting firm.

JMR:

Champion of the masses, cherished gem of the poor

O

by Jason B. Neola Managing Editor, NSM

ne of the first things that Jesse Manalastas have less in life opened many opportunities to the Robredo did when he assumed office as Nagueños, especially the masses and those in the urban poor communities. City Mayor of Naga in 1988 was to spearhead a massive cleanup drive along ‘Light at the tunnel’s end’ with his coworkers in City Hall and “The public never supporters in the city’s 27 barangays. thought that the “Jesse was not the usual government man who started official who only does his mandated The effort made the public realize that his public life by tasks and stops there. He was resultsthe 27-year-old political neophyte was spearheading a oriented. He always saw to it that more focused on doing his job than herd that swept the every work he performed would bring enjoying the privileges that the law has streets of garbage accorded to the country’s duly elected in the city he called good results even if it would require Maogmang Lugar him to go beyond the limitations of local chief executives like him. (Happy Place) the rules,” said 56-year-old Teresita would be hailed by (Tia Teresing) Lalas of Barangay His less than 5-minute inaugural the entire nation Triangulo. speech when he was first sworn into for his good office as city mayor 24 years ago governance.” Tia Teresing, an urban poor commupromised reforms in the operations of nity resident, said she came to know the local government with emphasis on more about Robredo when he enlisted her son Niel the management of the city’s garbage disposal in Sanggawadan, a brainchild of Robredo that system. provides support to parents, allowing their children to focus on their education thru “Sa aga mismo, magiging malinig an ciudad kan incentives like free school supplies and rice, based Naga (You can expect a clean city of Naga tomoron their actual attendance in school. row),” Robredo said in his speech as he assured the public that he was ridding the city streets of garbage and other litter that made almost all corners of Naga then, especially the Naga City Public Market, stink. Niel in his Robredo’s early show of level-headedness at work than being eager beaver to enjoy the privileges and benefits of the powers-that-be elicited admiration from his constituents. It couldn’t be denied that Robredo’s management style whose priorities had favored those who 33

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Tia Teresing admitted that Robredo had supported Niel all the way up to high school and college and until the time he took the licensure examinations for Certified Public Accountants in October, 2011. She said Robredo was always there for Niel “like a light at the end of the tunnel, who never abandoned us” even after he was appointed secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government. Lalas, federation president of the Family Welfare Club of Naga, an organization composed mainly of single parents, also lauded Robredo for his unwavering support to the organization’s livelihood projects.

‘My beloved mayor’ For 72-year-old community leader Nelly Bacares of Barangay Sta. Cruz, Robredo was not only a political ally, but a “kapamilya” whom she said was more than willing to serve not only within the sphere of his public ministry but in his personal life as well. Ina also remembered telling him that she was not happy about his work as DILG secretary after the news broke out last year about a bombing incident

in Zamboanga City when Robredo visited near the area. But Robredo responded saying: “Kung oras ko na, oras ko na.” (If it’s my time, so be it). “He respected me as a mother and I treated him like a son,” recalled Bacares who is popularly called Ina (mother) who used to tell him that she was ready to take an assassin’s bullet just to save him. “Mas dakol pa kaya siyang marhay na magigibo sa iba mientras na ako gurang na.” (He can still help so many others while I am already old). “Jesse was a likable person as he made everyone feel comfortable with him. In spite of his status and popularity, he remained to be approachable and accommodating and always available to respond to any call for help if ever he was in the city,” she added. Like in other barangays, Robredo was thanked for the speedy installation of public faucets in urban poor areas which he began to undertake when he was just first elected as City Mayor. He is also remembered by the urban poor for his Special Program for Employment of Students (SPES), which provides summer jobs for youths and students from poor families. Ina concluded her story about her beloved mayor by saying that Robredo was a gift by God to his generation which is “lucky enough to have seen and interacted with him who lived as a people’s person and a true public servant.”

LALAS: “Farewell to a very dear family friend.”

workstation at the accounting firm SGV.

BACARES: “Jess respected me as a mother and I treated him like a son.”

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Ramon Magsaysay Awards Presentation Ceremonies, August 31, 2000, Manila, Philippines

‘Wind beneath our wings’ If there’s one thing that residents of Maogma Village in Barangay Balatas will be missing about Robredo, it was his enormous passion to help make life in the urban poor communities better. So says Analyn San Diego, village president, whose high regards for the man as champion of the urban poor will never wilt or become weak, and whose guidance and counseling have made the sector even stronger as indispensable partner of urban development. They remember Robredo as a public official who sees the poor as a productive sector of society and the strength of his administration in the achievement of progress and development. She says aside from the city’s Kaantabay sa Kauswagan (Partners in Development) Program, a socialized housing program established in 1997 by the City Government of Naga, Robredo has been lauded by the sector for institutionalizing the Bayadnihan program.

Conceptualized by Robredo himself and sponsored in the Sangguniang Panlungsod by former City Councilor Simeon Adan, the program was created thru Ordinance 2001-078 with the following objectives: 1. To provide an opportunity to urban poor beneficiaries to work for and apply their earnings for the settlement of their homelot amortization payments and thus ensure transfer of ownership of the homelots to their rightful beneficiaries; NAGA SMILES MAGAZINE

The public never thought that the man who started his public life by spearheading a herd that swept the streets of garbage in the city he called Maogmang Lugar (Happy Place) would be hailed by the entire nation for his good governance. NSM

Urban poor leaders Analyn San Diego and Angela Rodriguez.

The Bayadnihan program is a homelot acquisition scheme which can be availed by the urban poor beneficiaries to settle their lot amortizations thru participation in the implementation of the city’s infrastructure projects, their maintenance, or by rendering frontline services.

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2. To develop a sense of responsibility among urban poor beneficiaries and for them to appreciate gainful work; 3. To promote employment and improve the economic usefulness of family members of homelot beneficiaries, and; 4. To prevent beneficiaries from mortgaging, selling or otherwise disposing their homelots due to their inability to pay their amortization thus defeating the purpose of the Kaantabay sa Kauswagan Program.

The Maogma Village Subdivision in Barangay Balatas is one of 64 urban poor communities in Naga City which was established by Gawad Kalinga and Habitat in partnership with then City Mayor Jesse M. Robredo.

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JESSE M. ROBREDO MAGSAYSAY AWARD CITATION

t is sad but true. Democratic government is not necessarily good government. Too often, elections yield power to the few, not the many. Injustices linger beneath the rhetoric of equality. Corruption and incompetence go on and on. Voters, alas, do not always choose wisely. And yet, in Asia and the world at large, much is at risk when democracy founders, because democracy is the hope of so many. Jesse Manalastas Robredo entered Philippine politics at a time when hope was high. As mayor of Naga City from 1988 to 1998 he demonstrated that democratic government can also be good government. In the wake of his country's People Power Revolution in 1986, Jesse Robredo responded to President Corazon Aquino's call to public service. He abandoned his executive position at San Miguel Corporation to head the Bicol River Basin Development Program in Naga, his hometown. In 1988, he stood for election as mayor and won by a slim margin. He was twenty-nine. Once the queen city of the Bicol region, Naga in 1989 was a dispirited provincial town of 120,000 souls. Traffic clogged its tawdry business district and vice syndicates operated at will. City services were fitful at best. Meanwhile, thousands of squatters filled Naga's vacant lands, despite the dearth of jobs in the city's stagnant economy. Indeed, Naga's revenues were so low that it had been downgraded officially from a first-class to a third-class city. Robredo began with a strike against patronage. He introduced a merit-based system of hiring and promotion and reorganized city employees on the basis of aptitude and competence. He then moved against local vice lords, ridding Naga of gambling and smut. Next, he relocated the bus and jeepney terminals outside the city center, ending gridlock and spurring new enterprises at the city's edge. In partnership with business, he revitalized Naga's economy. Public revenues rose and by 1990 Naga was a first-class city again. Robredo's constituents took heart and reelected him. Spurning bodyguards, Robredo moved freely among

the people. By enlisting the support and active assistance of Naga's NGOs and citizens, he improved public services dramatically. He established day-care centers in each of Naga's twenty-seven districts and added five new high schools. He built a public hospital for lowincome citizens. He set up a dependable twenty-fourhour emergency service. He constructed a network of farm-to-market roads and provided clean and reliable water systems in Naga's rural communities. He launched programs for youth, farmers, laborers, women, the elderly, and the handicapped—drawing thousands into civic action in the process. No civic deed was too small, he told the people, including the simple act of reporting a broken street lamp. He sometimes swept the streets himself. Consistently, Robredo prioritized the needs of the poor. Through his Kaantabay sa Kauswagan (Partners in Development) program, over forty-five hundred once-homeless families moved to home-lots of their own. They became part of Naga's revival. So did a revitalized city government. Applying techniques from business, Robredo raised performance, productivity, and morale among city employees. As a culture of excellence overtook the culture of mediocrity at City Hall, Naga's businesses doubled and local revenues rose by 573 percent. Reelected without opposition in 1995, Robredo urged the Naga City Council to enact a unique Empowerment Ordinance. This created a People's Council to institutionalize the participation of NGOs and people's organizations in all future municipal deliberations. When obliged by law to step down after his third term, the popular Robredo made no effort to entrench his family. His advice to would-be leaders? “You have to have credibility.” In electing Jesse Robredo to receive the 2000 Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service, the board of trustees recognizes his giving credence to the promise of democracy by demonstrating that effective city management is compatible with yielding power to the people. NSM 36


THE QUEZON SERVICE CROSS REPUBLIKA NG PILIPINAS Be it known to all men by these presents:

by T.J. Burgunio | November 26, 2012

“For his life work, which showed all our countrymen how true public servants must act--with the Filipino people always foremost in mind, regardless of Excellency Benigno S. Aquino III personal cost or danger” His President, Republic of the Philippines

President Benigno Aquino III on Monday conferred the Quezon Service Cross on late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo for his exemplary service to the country.

“By conferring him the award, we are recognizing his contributions to the new spring of the republic that we are now experiencing,’’ Aquino said in his ~ speech during the rites in Malacanang.

The Quezon Service Cross is the highest award the republic could bestow on a Filipino for exemplary service to the country “in such a manner and degree as to add prestige to the Philippines or to contribute to the lasting benefit of its people.’’

Robredo’s wife Leni, joined by their three daughters, accepted the award from the President. She said her family would “forever be grateful that he has not been forgotten.’’ She said that for Robredo to join the company of Romulo, Aguinaldo, Magsaysay and Aquino was “truly a huge honor.’’

The award was conferred with the concurrence of the Senate and the House of Representatives on the 100th day since Robredo perished in a plane crash in the waters off Masbate on Aug . 18. With the posthumous award, Robredo joined the ranks of Carlos P. Romulo, Emilio Aguinaldo, the late President Ramon Magsaysay and the late Sen. Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., former awardees.

“Jesse always believed that good governance can be the conclusion to our unfinished revolution. This revolution can be achieved in this administration under a President who leads his people under a ‘daang matuwid’ (straight and narrow path),’’ she said.

For embodying the values and principles every Filipino should aspire for. His tenure as Mayor of Naga City showed the whole nation a brand of public service that was fueled by humility, selflessness, and dedication. The way he improved Naga City earned him the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Good Governance in 2000, making him the first Filipino Mayor to receive the award. More than that, he showed his city, his region, and the entire nation how local governance is supposed to work. For remaining faithful to his advocacy of true transformative change as Secretary of the Interior and Local Government. He began a virtuous cycle in the Department of the Interior and Local Government. He established a full disclosure policy, and awarded seals of good housekeeping to local governments that performed well. For his life work, which showed all our countrymen how true public servants must act— with the Filipino people always foremost in mind, regardless of personal cost or danger. That I, Benigno S. Aquino III, President of the Philippines by virtue of Senate Resolution No. 125, series of 2012 and House Resolution No. 281, series of 2012, pursuant to the Honors Code of the Philippines and Joint Resolution No. 4, series of 1946 have conferred the Quezon Service Cross on Jesse M. Robredo

The Quezon Service Cross (Filipino: Krus ng Serbisyo ni Quezon) is the highest national recognition of the Republic of the Philippines. It has been awarded to only five Filipinos since its creation in 1946. The award was created by Joint Resolution No. 4 dated October 21, 1946 of the 1st Congress of the Philippines. A joint resolution of the Congress of the Philippines has the force of law. The Quezon Service Cross is a decoration conferred by the President of the Philippines with the concurrence of the Congress of the Philippines on Filipino citizens for “exemplary service to the nation in such a manner and such a degree as to add great prestige to the Republic of the Philippines, or as to contribute to the lasting benefit of its people.” Nominations for the Quezon Service Cross need to state the services meriting the award and are made only in cases where the service performed or contribution made can be measured on the scale established by what the joint resolution terms “the benefaction” of the late President Manuel L. Quezon, after whom the decoration is named. The Quezon Service Cross was proposed by President Manuel Roxas. It is also referred to as the Congressional Quezon Service Cross, as conferment requires the approval of the Congress of the Philippines and is seldom awarded. Only five Filipinos have been conferred this decoration: Carlos P. Romulo, April 12, 1951 Emilio Aguinaldo, June 12, 1956 Ramon Magsaysay, July 4, 1957 (posthumous) Benigno S. Aquino, Jr., August 21, 2004 (posthumous) Jesse M. Robredo, November 26, 2012 (posthumous)

For exemplary service to the nation in such a manner and such a degree as to add great prestige to the Republic of the Philippines Done in the City of Manila This 26th day of November in the year of Our Lord Two Thousand and Twelve

Atty. Leni G. Robredo and family after accepting the posthumous Quezon Service Cross award for the late DILG Sec. Jesse M. Robredo. Malacañang Photo Bureau

Jesse M. Robredo, the fifth recipient of the Quezon Service Cross In the Order of Precedence of Philippine Honors and State Decorations, the Quezon Service Cross is the top recognition a Filipino can receive from the Republic. It is unique in that the President nominates individuals (limited to Filipino citizens only), but the nomination must be approved by Congress.

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THINGS I LEARNED FROM SEC. JESSE ROBREDO

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met Secretary Jesse Robredo in 2001 at an event organized by Synergeia Foundation, one of the country’s more effective institutions in improving our public education system. Since then, Sec. Robredo has become one of the people I have looked up to for advice. His effective brand of leadership has been a constant source of inspiration for me. As such, I wanted to share the things that I have learned through the years that I worked with him: I learned that there are still people like him who remain ethical despite being in government service. Many people dissuaded me from entering government service, telling me that no one survives the current system of pervasive graft and corruption. Sec. Robredo showed that one need not compromise his or her values and principles to be able to govern and deliver basic services to the people in an effective manner. When I asked him what was his secret for being steadfast in his values, he told me that his faith in God and his family are his main foundations, and this is the second lesson that I learned from him. In a society where we hear of politicians having several wives and families, we have someone like Sec. Robredo who had put premium on his being a loyal husband and a loving father who devoted time to his three daughters.

by Harvey S. Keh Sec. Robredo showed that he was a man who stood up for what he believed in even if he knew that majority were no longer with him. In the 2004 elections, he chose to support the late Senator Raul Roco believing that he would make a good President for our country even if surveys showed that Roco had a slim chance of winning. Standing up and holding on to their own principles is something that is clearly lacking in many of our leaders today. Our present-day leaders would support issues or people that would promote their own interests.

NAGA SMILES MAGAZINE

by Harvey S. Keh

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s the New Year begins and our country enters another election year, many Filipinos continue to long for the kind of “tsinelas” leadership that the late DILG Sec. Jesse Robredo practiced in his more than 20 years in government service. Hopefully, we will demand this same kind of leadership when we discern who to support and vote for in the coming 2013 elections.

One of the most important lessons I learned from Sec. Robredo is the simplicity of his way of life. Mention the word “politician’’ and large houses and expensive cars would come to mind. But after being the mayor of Naga, a first class city, for six terms, he continued to live in a very simple home.

In order for this to happen, all of us must do our own small share towards promoting good governance and leadership with integrity in our country.

I remember one time when we met in my office in Quezon City and I saw him taking a cab, without any bodyguards, to reach our office. I was quite surprised since I was used to seeing politicians with their big cars, blaring sirens and their throngs of bodyguards.

1. Vote and participate in our elections

Among all of these lessons, I think what Sec. Robredo has shown me is that there is still much to hope for in our country if we have more principled leaders like him who will continue to deliver proper I remember a time when he failed to attend one of services to the people and will always put the our Kaya Natin! Caravan of Good Governance events in the province since his daughter sought his interests of our country above his or her own help for her school project. Many politicians would interests. NSM jump at the chance to speak before thousands of August 25, 2012 students but Sec. Robredo chose to be with his daughter who needed him during that time. 39

5 ways Filipinos can continue the legacy of Jesse Robredo

Here are some simple and practical ways that ordinary Filipinos can do to help continue the legacy of Jesse Robredo.

Billions of pesos are lost every year due to graft and corruption in our government. These funds can easily provide adequate housing to the homeless, social health insurance to the poor and college scholarships to our youth. It is therefore important that we choose the right leaders for our country, and this begins by performing our duty as responsible Filipino citizens to vote, support and campaign for effective, ethical and empowering leaders every elections.

2. Know the duties and responsibilities of our government officials Do you know the duties and responsibilities of your Councilor or Vice Mayor? Chances are like many Filipinos, you don’t. How can we demand better service or accountability from our government officials if we don’t even know what we need to expect from them? Thus, as good citizens, we need to understand and educate ourselves about the roles and responsibilities of our government officials and their respective offices. Recently, the Ateneo School of Government, Kaya Natin! Movement and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF) launched Gov 101: A New Voter’s Guide to the Philippine Government, a booklet that describes what services we can expect from our government officials. 3. Give your time to volunteer for clean and honest elections Unfortunately, our country has been known as having elections which are often marred by rampant cheating, vote-buying and electoral fraud. Sadly, this has discouraged many good and wellmeaning Filipinos from running for public office. Due to limited resources, our Commission on Elections (COMELEC) cannot ensure that it will be

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able to police all corners of our country thus, we need to support and volunteer for organizations such as the National Movement for Free Elections (NAMFREL) and the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) that help ensure clean and honest elections in our country. Hopefully, this will help more leaders like the late Jesse Robredo to be elected in our country. 4. Keep yourself informed and take a stand on issues concerning our country In this age where information has become very accessible due to the internet and mobile technology, there is no excuse for us not to know what is happening in our country. Make time to read the newspaper and listen to the news regularly to understand the different socio-economic and political issues that are currently being discussed or debated upon. Aside from this, make your own stand known about these issues by using the power of social media such as Facebook or Twitter. In a strong democratic society, it is the true will of the people that should be followed and if we don't do our own share to express our views, insights and opinions then we will always be dictated upon by the selfish interests of a few.

5. Volunteer and participate in organizations that promote nation-building As you have seen in the life of Jesse Robredo, he was not only involved in the promotion of good governance but also in other advocacies close to his heart such as public education reform and uplifting the quality of life of persons with disabilities. You can also help continue his legacy by making time to share your resources and volunteer as well for organizations or institutions such as Kaya Natin!, Synergeia Foundation and Physicians for Peace that aim to do their own small share in nationbuilding. If every Filipino will make time to volunteer in a particular advocacy that they feel strongly about then our country would be able to solve so many of its social problems. We have to realize that government alone will not be able to solve all our problems, we need to also do our own share as citizens to move our country towards the kind of future that we want to attain. Hopefully, the leadership and sacrifices made by the late Jesse Robredo will not just be a feel good story for every Filipino but it will hopefully inspire each one of us to do our own small share towards working together for a better future for every Filipino. NSM January 4, 2013

The simple lifestyle of Jesse Robredo by Natashya Gutierrez Tsinelas, shorts and a simple t-shirt... This was the favorite get-up of the late Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo. When Robredo died, he was among the country's highest ranking officials. But he returned home every week to his simple life in Naga City, where he was happiest. LENI ROBREDO: Naga has always been his home. He always tells me this is his happy place.

Robredo and his 4 siblings grew up in a simple house in Barangay Tabuco, where his parents still live today. He went to Naga Parochial for grade school, a private Catholic school, where he is remembered as one of the role models. During his wake, 5th and 6th graders from the school traveled to the Archbishop’s palace to say goodbye. LENI ROBREDO: I know he would shy away from excessive praise. He might find all the fuss, pomp and pageantry a little uncomfortable.

But in the words of his wife, it is a fitting celebration to a life well-lived..

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GABRIEL BORDADO: Down to earth as a Mayor. Wala siyang mga ere-ere. Wala siyang mga cordon sanitaire. Very approachable. But at the same time, very intense sa trabaho niya.

When Robredo became DILG secretary, he maintained his modest lifestyle. He came home on weekends to be with his family… a humble 3-storey home in Barangay Dayangdang. He biked everywhere around the city, and went to mass every Sunday at the tiny open-air barangay church two streets away before returning to Malacañang for the week. A true son of Naga, Robredo was a faithful devotee to the Virgin of Peñafrancia, the patroness of Bicol. Friends and neighbors remember Robredo as generous and always smiling. LENI ROBREDO: I wasn’t surprised when I opened the body bag, he was still wearing his DILG uniform.

When Jess was still Mayor of Naga, we both worked hard in making sure the children did not feel a sense of entitlement. Naga's favorite son stayed humble despite his accomplishments… to many Filipinos, a life worth emulating. NSM August 29, 2012

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For the most part, Robredo remained largely apolitical until August 1983, when opposition leader Benigno Aquino, Jr. was gunned down as he was stepping out of an airplane. Two days after the assassination, Robredo queued outside the Aquino home in Quezon City to pay his respects to a fallen hero. With that simple act of defiance, Robredo soon found himself marching along Ayala Avenue, joining thousands of Filipinos calling for the ouster of Ferdinand Marcos and the restoration of democracy in the country.

PROFILE OF A MAYOR by Francis Isaac and Joy Aceron This article is based on a chapter from the book, “Frontline Leadership: Stories of 5 Local Chief Executives” published by the Ateneo School of Government and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung in 2007.

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ANILA, Philippines - At 35 years old, Jonathan Chua is already a veteran of countless street demonstrations. A Leftwing radical from Caloocan, Chua had always treated government officials with cynicism and suspicion, believing they are all cut from the same cloth. “Pare-pereho lang ang mga ‘yan,” he would often remark. (They’re all the same.) Chua, however, had a political metanoia in late 2006, when he was invited to attend a basic sectors’ conference in Naga City. Before returning to Manila, Chua and a few others went to City Hall to pay a courtesy call to then Mayor Jesse Robredo. Unaware of the Mayor’s background, the very first thing that caught Chua’s attention was the attire that Robredo wore on that day, which consisted of a blue polo jacket and a pair of faded denim pants. Hoping to pull a fast one on the mayor, Chua broke into a sarcastic grin and said, “Sir, ok ang suot natin, ah! Parang konduktor lang.” (Sir, what you're wearing looks good! You look like a bus conductor.) Unperturbed, Robredo simply gave a gentle smile and replied, “Oo nga, eh. Pero hindi naman ‘yan ang mahalaga. Ang mahalaga, ang makapaglingkod tayo nang tapat sa taumbayan” (That’s true. But that's not important. What’s important is that we are able to serve our people with honesty and integrity.) 43

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Not expecting such a reaction from the mayor of a bustling urban center, Robredo’s words caught Chua by surprise. “Hindi ko akalain na meron pa palang matitinong tao sa gobyerno (I didn’t expect to still find good people in government),” Chua quips as he recalls that incident, adding that since then, he began referring to Robredo as “Idol.” Such disarming simplicity is, of course, quintessential Robredo. And that is perhaps the main reason why he was able to endear himself to his constituents, and to all those who have met and worked with him throughout the years that he had served as Naga mayor and DILG secretary.

Late bloomer Ironically, in spite of his short yet stellar political career, no one (not even his closest family members) ever expected Robredo to enter public service. One of his cousins even described him as a “late bloomer” since Robredo initially did not display any political inclination, nor did he perform particularly well while he was still in college and high school. In fact, Robredo shied away from politics during his student days, preferring instead to spend his free time playing basketball either with his neighbors or as part of the De La Salle Engineering basketball team.

After EDSA 1, Robredo returned to Naga, and in April 1986 was appointed executive director of the Bicol River Basin Development Program (BRBDP). A former employee of San Miguel Corp., Robredo quickly brought a new sense of dynamism to BRBDP by infusing management principles and techniques he had learned from the corporate world and from his masteral studies in business administration (MBA) at the University of the Philippines (UP).

Naga’s long-time Vice Mayor Gabriel Bordado claims that Robredo’s ability to find solutions is due to his result-oriented attitude and his “scientific way of approaching problems.”

Two years later, in 1988, Robredo ran for mayor and narrowly won over his closest electoral opponent with just 947 votes. Garnering barely 24% of the total number of votes, Robredo was a minority mayor with only 4 allies in the Sangguniang Panlungsod (City Council).

Such qualities are further complemented by his “high energy level” and his hands-on approach to city management. This was witnessed firsthand by Naga’s former city administrator Frank Mendoza.

Undeterred, he again introduced his practice of corporate management—this time to City Hall. Early in his term, Robredo began dismantling the system of political patronage by requiring all City Hall employees to undergo an aptitude test, and by introducing a merit-based system for hiring and promotion.

Leadership by example But apart from his superb managerial skills, Robredo also displayed his brand of hands-on leadership by being an assiduous, no-nonsense public servant. Rising up at 5 in the morning, he would depart for City Hall by 7 am and would be seen working at his desk until 5 pm. By combining administrative knowhow with his excellent work ethic, Robredo was soon perceived by his colleagues as a “born problem-solver.”

His wife Leni, on the other hand, attributes this to her late husband’s uncanny use of logic to convince people. “Sa mga problema, mabilis siyang mag-isip (He can think quickly when confronted with problems),” Leni attests.

He said, “Nauuna pa siya sa bumbero kung may sunog, baha o aksidente. 'Pag may bagyo, nasa labas siya, naglilinis, nagpapala. Masaya siyang gawin ang mga mundane tasks.” (He always arrives earlier than the firefighters every time there is a fire, a flood or an accident. If there’s a typhoon, he's out on the streets cleaning and shoveling. He's quite happy doing mundane tasks.) Characterizing his approach as “leadership by example,” Vice Mayor Bordado narrates how Robredo and the entire City Council dealt with the destruction brought about by Typhoon Monang in 1993: All the councilors and (top) officials were cleaning the darkest parts of the city. The people loved him because of that…People had to be ashamed; the mayor himself was cleaning the streets. So the people also worked. Even during fires, cleaning up the river, he’s always at the forefront. The people can see that. 44


This image of Robredo has become so iconic that newspaper columnist and fellow Bicolano Conrado de Quiros depicted him as a “solitary figure shoveling the muck of the city.”

Night watch Robredo, however, was not only an excellent manager; he was also an astute politician. Once the clock ticked at 5:00 pm, he would immediately tell his secretary, “Ang listahan” (the catalog), which contained the list of wakes that he would have to attend for the night. These evening rituals, according to Robredo, have a political purpose, since they ensure his visibility to the public and further endear him to the people. “Ito ‘yung traditional part ng politics,” he added. (This is the traditional part of politics.) His supporters, however, are quick to emphasize that there was nothing bogus or contrived in his display of sympathy and solicitude. Quite the contrary, these were an outcome of his approachability and his natural ability to connect with people. In his recollection, Robredo admitted that while he was still mayor, he would attend an average of 5 wakes a day, and would do so even during holidays. But despite the hand-pressing and expression of condolences, not once did he hand out money to the bereaved. Instead, Robredo and his team set up a process specifically designed to provide assistance to the relatives of the deceased: “Yung sa patay, ang standard niyan, pupunta ‘yan sa office, pipirma lang, may P500 sa DSWD. 'Pag pumunta ako sa patay, oras lang talaga.” (When it comes to the deceased, the standard is, a family member goes to the office, signs a receipt and then receives P500 from the Department of Social Welfare and Development. When I go to a wake, time is the only thing that I spend.)

‘Kuyom na palad ’ Robredo’s leadership style, however, had earned him quite a number of detractors who describe him as “kuripot” or “super-kuripot.” He, however, did not seem to mind, replying instead that, “I may be 45 NAGA SMILES MAGAZINE

kuripot, but rightfully so.” In fact, Robredo’s being a miser has become so legendary among his fellow Nagueños that he was often jokingly referred to as the president of the Kuyom na Palad (Misers' Foundation). Though a self-confessed miser, Robredo claims that this attitude of his springs from his careful handling of taxpayers’ money. As he once attested, the entire city government strictly adheres to procedures, issuing receipts for every conceivable transaction it engages in. “We will not pay for these expenses (without proper accounting),” Robredo explains. “Because in our line of work, once we pay (without accounting), we will begin to get money which doesn’t belong to us.” His careful attitude towards money is best summed up in an anecdote once shared by his longtime colleague Frank Mendoza: One time, after officiating a wedding, he was given a thick envelope containing P200,000. Nobody knew about it. When he got back to City Hall, he ordered that a receipt be issued to the couple, saying that the money will be used for the construction of a new school building.

Naga transformed Unsurprisingly, Robredo’s miserliness took its toll on City Hall, one of the smallest and most dilapidated government buildings in the whole Bicol region. Robredo however was unfazed, saying, “Bakit ako gagasta ng maraming pera para sa City Hall? Ipapagawa ko na lang ng kalsada. Ano’ng returns sa pagpapaganda ng City Hall?” (Why should I spend so much money for City Hall? I’ll just use it for road construction. What returns shall we get from remodeling City Hall?) Despite the physical condition of their office building, Robredo’s tight fiscal discipline generated a lot of savings for the city government. His administration’s policy of “fiscal prudence” and bureaucratic efficiency also attracted numerous investors, allowing Naga to eventually outpace its longtime rival Legazpi City. In fact, after more than a decade since Robredo’s election as mayor, Naga’s gross city product even

outpaced the country’s GDP by 115%, while its average household income was 42% higher than the national and 126% higher than the Bicol average. And even at the height of the 1997 Asian economic crisis, when the rest of the country was experiencing economic decline, Naga was able to enjoy a growth rate of 6.5%. But Robredo’s hometown was not always the economic dynamo that it is now. In fact, when he first took over as mayor in 1988, Naga was a typical third-class city with a budget deficit of P1 million. By successfully transforming Naga from provincial backwater to premiere city, Robredo was given the highly prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service in August 2000. Not surprisingly, even his beloved City was also able to earn its own list of citations—winning more than 140 regional, national and international awards for government efficiency and people participation. As Vice Mayor Bordado jokingly remarks, “Kulang na lang URIAN at FAMAS sa list ng mga awards (URIAN and FAMAS are the only ones we don't have in our list of awards).” ‘Ubos

kung Ubos! Gabos kung gabos!’ With all that he has done for Naga, Robredo’s grateful kababayans have repeatedly elected him as their mayor, defeating all those who tried to challenge him at the polls. With his sterling political record, Robredo became so influential in Naga politics that since his first reelection bid in 1993, his choices for vice mayor and councilors all emerged victorious.

After assuming his last post as DILG secretary, Robredo continued to exert significant influence over Naga politics. In fact, his expected endorsement of Bordado’s congressional bid was viewed as extremely critical in giving his long-time friend and ally a fighting chance to win over the chosen candidate of the Villafuertes—Camarines Sur’s dominant political clan. With Robredo’s untimely demise, Robredo’s allies and supporters will surely feel the void that he has left since his plane went down over the waters of Masbate more than a week ago. His death will test whether his team of reform-minded advocates can still carry on his defiant message of “Ubos kung Ubos! Gabos kung Gabos!” even without him, or whether they would allow this battle mantra to fade into oblivion. Jesse Robredo has certainly left a gaping hole, not only in Naga politics, but in the entire country as well. But if Naga is to remain faithful to the memory of one of its greatest sons, then it has no choice but to rise up to the occasion. For Bordado on the other hand, he will have to face the challenge of dismantling Robredo’s long-time political foes to prove that his friend’s life and death will continue to make a difference in the country. And Robredo, who had worked tirelessly in their behalf, would expect nothing less from his beloved Nagueños and from his fellow Filipinos. NSM

With his election battle cry, “Ubos kung Ubos! Gabos kung Gabos!” (All or Nothing), Robredo time and again called on the electorate to allow his slate a clean sweep. But more than being a catchy slogan, Robredo’s campaign mantra also reveals his inner self: kind, humble and approachable, but one who gives no quarter when fighting trapo politics. As he explained in one speaking engagement, it is not his job to be generous to his opponents. He expects bad people to be smart and to fight hard; so to defeat them, good should also fight harder. 46


The Citizens Charter

The genius of Jesse Manalastas Robredo

by Wilfredo B. Prilles, Jr.

The author started working with Mayor Jesse Robredo in 1991 as a wide-eyed 23-year old young man. He is currently the planning and development coordinator of Naga City.

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UGUST 21, the day his lifeless body was finally found was the day my wife and I grieved over the loss of a mentor, a friend and a leader. Surfing the internet in between cries and sobs, following links that Facebook wonderfully put together, tremendously eased the pain—especially given the impact he had, and by extension we who worked with him at Naga City Hall had, on many people’s lives. In 2009, he told ANC’s Storyline: “I think the Filipino culture is more EQ than IQ. We are inspired not by how smart or how intelligent our leaders are. We are inspired by the kind of character he demonstrates, the kind of feeling he evokes from us. When the going gets tough, the leader must be the first to face all these challenges and these problems..” Looking back, I realize I was one of those privileged to see firsthand the genius of Jesse Manalastas Robredo as a leader. His genius lies in seamlessly combining both EQ (emotional intelligence) and IQ (plain or conventional intelligence) in changing Naga and transforming how the city government is run.

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The School Board reinvention The picture below, which found its way on Facebook, is of a regular meeting of the Naga City School Board. What inspired most commenters, including teachers who even wrote a poem about it, is the simple snacks served in the meeting, consisting of maruya (banana fritters) and Coke. The stark contrast with how other Filipino government officials comport themselves (the Le Cirque excesses easily come to mind) is palpable. The exchanges prompted me to chime in (most of which are in Bikol, which I took the liberty of translating in English): “The greatness of Mayor/Sec Jess, I think, lies in his ability to bridge the EQ and IQ requirements of leadership. What stands out in this thread is the power of leading by example in the local government, as shown by the Coke and banana fritters. This is what Filipinos long to see in their leaders, which explains the tremendous affection and admiration they showed when Secretary Robredo died. “What is not so evident in the picture are the changes he introduced in the Local School Board, which is a powerful government institution that allocates millions of pesos to support public schools. Unlike most others, whose members are limited to DepEd, the local government, parents and teachers, the LSB in Naga has two sitting (private school) principals from Ateneo de Naga (Mr. Greg Abonal) and UNC, and representatives from the chamber (of commerce) and the Naga City People’s Council. (As a result), meetings are more productive, yielding better decisions. This is probably what Antoine de Saint-Exupéry had in mind when he said: ‘What is essential is invisible to the eye.’ ”

Watching that episode on Failon Ngayon! focusing on the Citizen’s Charter that contrasted public service delivery in Naga on the one hand, and Manila and Quezon City on the other, reinforced this thesis. In this light, how we came to have our own Citizen’s Charter—which that TV show glossed over—needs to be told. Thanks to Republic Act 9485 or the “Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007,” all Philippine government offices and agencies today, including local government units (LGU) and government owned or controlled corporations (GOCC) should have a citizen’s charter. The Charter is a guidebook that documents all frontline government services—breaking it down into stepFast-forward to December 15, 2001, at the time by-step procedures, the response time, and the Naga City’s Charter Day. It was a big day for us, as persons responsible for each step. we had none other than the still esteemed President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (well before the infaBut as early as 2001, six years before the ARTA mous Hello! Garci scandal ruined her) as guest of Law, Naga already had the first edition of its honor. She brought along with her Sen. Raul S. Roco Citizen’s Charter. And while most others can only and his brother Congressman Sulpicio “Cho” Roco, muster one, we already have three—and counting. Jr., our former mayor who already moved up to Congress, representing the second district of When Jesse M. Robredo returned to City Hall after Camarines Sur. Other political heavyweights of the a one-term hiatus, which saw him complete his province were also there, among them House Harvard schooling, he was looking for new ideas to Speaker Arnulfo Fuentebella of Partido district. implement. As a newly minted Ramon Magsaysay With these big-name personalities in attendance, awardee, I felt he had nothing more to prove. But who would ever pay attention to the launching of a for my boss, the challenge is always to “make the non-descript two-inch thick inkjet-printed docubest better” (which incidentally became the title for ment bound in plastic ring binder? Nobody of his book that my colleague Joe Perez put together). course bothered to listen when I dutifully breezed through my Powerpoint—except probably my boss Running out of options, what I offered him someill-at-ease with the veritable snub of his latest baby time in August 2001 was one of the raw outputs of by the maddening crowd. the USAID-funded Governance and Local Democracy (GOLD) Project in Naga. Piloted in five of the But after seeing our little project impact national 30 or so city hall departments, GOLD helped us policy, and Ted Failon praise Naga to high heavens, document one frontline service per department I can’t help but smile at the genius of Jesse chosen from among the ones listed in their respec- Manalastas Robredo. I can imagine him grinning tive Performance Pledges. The idea is to take that back at me with that patented ear to ear, squintdepartmental pledge to the next level. He immedi- eyed wide smile of his, telling me: “Sabi ko saimo, ately greenlighted it, which then meant growing Wil!” [“I told you so, Wil!”] NSM the list from five to all frontline services, whatever that entailed! Three long months later, when Mike Rico and I were done cleaning up drafts prepared by the various departments, the number eventually settled down to around 120.

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The faith of Jesse Robredo

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e are told that Jesse Robredo was not meant to be inside that plane, on that day, at that time. His wife did not know he had boarded the 6-seater, twin-engine Piper PA34 Seneca. He was expected to take a flight from Cebu to Manila that afternoon, and a bus to Naga City later that night with his two daughters. Instead, the Piper Seneca bound for Naga took off at around three in the afternoon from Cebu. At 4:40 in the afternoon, Leni Robredo finally managed to call her husband. He was calm, she said. He said he would call her back. He never did. These were the details, and for 3 days the national media pushed headline after headline before an increasingly anxious public, each new fact adding another layer of proof to the possibility that the former mayor of Naga lay many feet under the Masbate sea. Those of us whose duty it was to tell the story discussed Robredo’s chances, sitting in newsrooms whose desk editors filed photos from reporters standing on beaches watching divers surface empty-handed. We were told that every passing hour lowered the chances of Robredo’s rescue. We were told the word “rescue” was already a euphemism for recovery.

by Patricia Evangelista

elections in some island off Scarborough while drying out his mobile phone. I thought I understood, more than most, that death very often does not make sense. It was only when his body was found, 800 meters off the coast of Masbate, that I realized I had up to that moment refused to believe that Jesse Robredo was dead. I do not claim any sort of special relationship between myself and the former mayor of Naga. Like most journalists, I have, with his permission, barged into his office, disrupted his day, assaulted him with a barrage of questions, and reached the same conclusion every reporter has—that the Secretary of the Interior is an unusual man. He does not field questions; he answers them. He does not protect himself, even while he protects his own people. He does not pander, he does not pretend to misinterpret statements, he does not launch into the distraction of the overblown compliment. Neither does he disappear just as the last dangerous question is posed.

He will do all in his power to arrest Jovito Palparan, but he does not promise he will succeed. He holds his own policemen accountable for beating protestors already in custody after the bloody demolition I was aware of this, and believed myself to have at Silverio Compound, but he is unwilling to join accepted it. I am a human rights reporter, the beat I the left-wing bandwagon that put the entirety of cover demands keeping a list of the dead, in my the tragedy in the hands of the Philippine National head if nowhere else, a sort of memorial for the lost Police. In 2010 he ran to the Quirino Grandstand to whose bodies I may or may not have shot in the do what he could, even knowing he had been withaftermath of violence or disaster. People like me are held the power to command the PNP. One year realists by necessity. later, he took responsibility for the death of eight tourists, even after his own President withdrew his Men die, even when they shouldn’t. They have apology to the people of Hongkong. names, faces, family; my job is to tell their stories. I did not, however, believe it odd that I was In the tense days after the murder of Fausto Tentoconstructing a different story for Jesse Robredo, rio, pastor of the blue church at the foot of Arakan one whose many elaborate storylines involved his Valley, Jesse Robredo was there, talking to the pohaving been kidnapped by Indonesian pirates, lice, closeted with priests, interviewing the colonels struck by amnesia, perhaps organizing local 49

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of the armed forces. Long after the media moved on from the story of the Italian priest who bled into the soil of North Cotabato, long after I had stopped asking questions and demanding answers, Jesse Robredo was on the phone, calling past midnight, sending text messages, asking, do you know this, have you heard of this, does your witness know, could you verify. And because I am not the sort of journalist that Jesse Robredo thought I was, I never returned to Arakan Valley, never managed to verify if he was right, never found out if my witness knew this or saw that.

A good man I am better at writing about bad men, or hypocritical men, or men who believe they speak with the voice of God. These men never disappoint, because the bar is placed so low, and every door is usually the same door opening to the same senator or congressman or mayor grinning with robotic amiability. Maybe the Lacoste crocodiles on their shirts will vary in size, maybe the platitudes they spout will occasionally contain some nugget of truth, maybe they have compromised less or lied more or said today exactly what they promised yesterday never to say. Hands are shook, pleasantries are exchanged, and little will change beyond tomorrow’s sound bite. Robredo is a difficult man to write about, because he is a good man, and the existence of a good man demands more from those around them, including 26-year-old journalists who once promised to stand fast. We are told many things about Jesse Robredo. They say he took the bus regularly from Manila to Naga City, even after he became Secretary of the Interior and Local Government, the same sort of bus that he was meant to take on the evening of August 18, 2012. We are told that as mayor he wore the blue city government uniform to work, that he was in his office at eight in the morning and that he received his constituents directly, instead of asking them to go through his secretary. We are told he was a regular sight on the streets of Naga after typhoons, shoveling away at the mud long before city employees came in to work, and long after they went home.

The reason Jesse Robredo is mourned is not only because he was extraordinary, but because this is a country so content with the ordinary that men like Robredo have no choice but to die legends. If he had lived and continued he would have failed, again and again, because not even the son of God could have succeeded in a country that refuses to believe in better. The City of Naga, said Robredo, was good not because he was brilliant, but because Naga wanted to be brilliant, and demanded it from him. The kind of revolution in governance that the Aquino administration promises would not have come to pass in the term of Jesse Robredo, but he would have kept the faith, and the story would have changed, if only by a little, through the sheer strength of his will and his unwavering faith that people can do better. But Jesse Robredo is dead, and by his death we are diminished. I am a journalist, the stories I tell do not change the world, and I doubt they ever can. But I promise to keep the faith, to try, to ask better questions and all the questions after that, to ask my witness whether he knew this or saw that even when the issue is reduced to a sidebar on a human rights web page. I will attempt to give the benefit of the doubt to the next man who sits in the seat Jesse Robredo left, and will at the same time demand from him the head of Jovito Palparan. And I will tell this story, again and again, the same as I tell the stories of the bastards and the liars and his honor the plagiarist, as proof to myself and everyone else not so much that good men die young, but that good men can live. NSM August 28, 2012

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He was always hurrying home

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’m surprised to remember that I met Jesse Robredo only in the late 1990s. I feel like I’ve always known him. I left Naga where I grew up (I wasn’t born there, I was born in Manila) after high school and have been going back there only sparingly, on the occasions that I’m invited to talk.

We went back to Manila. Before we landed, Francis told me to wait, Jesse would negotiate for a flight to Legazpi from where we could just drive to Naga. Maybe I would like to join them. Certainly, I said, and waited.

I had heard about Jesse throughout the 1990s but hadn’t met him. I met him curiously enough on a plane, in circumstances believers in these things might call an omen. Or signos, as Bicolanos call it.

Alas, that too wouldn’t happen. All flights to Legazpi had just been canceled as Mayon was acting up, spewing ash in the air. Better to err on the side of caution, PAL ruled. I went home shortly after that, cursing my bad luck.

I hadn’t been to Naga for about five years or so and was looking forward to it. I had been invited to talk in a literary event and was eager to meet the writers. While we were in midair, Francis Soler, Jesse’s aide, came up to my seat, introduced himself as the brother of my classmate in high school, Nilo, and said Jesse had recognized me from the papers and wanted to meet me. But of course, I said, I had heard good things about him as the mayor of Naga. He came over and we spoke briefly. He was surprised that I grew up in Naga and saw my identity as a Bicolano notwithstanding that I had lived in Manila nearly all my life. I said Naga was my formative years, Bicol was my cradle language. He said we should have dinner once we got to Naga City. I said yes. Alas, that dinner never took place. Shortly before we were to land, the plane went on a holding pattern because of poor visibility on the ground. I wondered about that because it wasn’t raining, but that apparently happened often, the early morning fog would not lift and the pilot, who needed to physically see the notoriously short runway, couldn’t land. After circling for about 15 minutes, the pilot announced that he was turning back to Manila. I felt frustrated. So near and yet so far, it was maddening. 51

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I would learn later that Jesse and company decided later on to just motor their way home. No one longed to go back to Naga more than Jesse, notwithstanding that he never stayed, or strayed, from it for any long period of time. That was what he was doing on Saturday night, hurrying home. He had every reason to. It was a long weekend, a good time to rest sore and weary bones. It was a time of celebration, his daughter had just won a medal in a swimming competition. And it was Naga City, he was going back to the welcoming arms of his loved ones, he was going back to the welcoming arms of home. That was what kept going through my mind the first time I heard the news that Jess’ plane had crashed. It should have been a joyous occasion. Instead it became a nightmare. Jesse had been unduly delayed, to the unimaginable anxiety of his family. It would turn out, permanently. Ah, but your heart just bleeds for the family. I don’t know what Jesse’s plans were, whether he would have run next year as a senator or just held on to his post at the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), as his Kaya Natin coconvenor, Harvey Keh, asserts. I hadn’t spoken to Jesse for some time. The last time we spoke at some length was at the vin d’honneur in

Malacañang early this year. I did bump into him early last week, but he was rushing off somewhere and it was just hello and goodbye. At least I managed to say goodbye.

mayor of Naga City that he will always be remembered by his grateful constituents there. It was in that capacity that he left a legacy to governance, a fact recognized by the Ramon Magsaysay Award.

Too big a fish

It was in that capacity that he left a legacy to the nation, which gave him a higher office than governor, or congressman, or senator. It was in that capacity that he became a national figure after all.

I had always been egging him to seek higher office, figuring he had become much too big a fish for much too small a pond. But until he became DILG secretary, he never did, preferring to stay in Naga and preferring to run only as mayor. That was so even after he won the Ramon Magsaysay Award for governance, the first Filipino local official to have done so. His aides would tell me he did worry about his enemies’ threat to put his nationality under question— he had Chinese ancestry—a thing that bowled me over. That, I said, was like questioning Fernando Poe Jr.’s nationality. Would anyone be willing to risk being laughed at and scorned for suggesting that the Magsaysay Foundation gave the award for governance not to a Filipino but to a Chinese?

Naga City never had a better mayor. A thing Nagueños so deeply appreciated they would have voted him mayor for life, if it hadn’t been for term limits, and if he hadn’t gone on to become DILG head. He could always have run unopposed, or only with token opposition, his opponent running only for having nothing better to do. That was how well he was loved. That was how well he was respected. That was how deeply Nagueños appreciated what he had done for them.

Amazing transformation

As mayor for most of the 1990s, he wrought an amazing transformation on the city, turning it into We’ll never know the answer to that. the real capital of Bicol. Before he became so, in Jesse’s transition into higher office, or at least into a 1988, at age 29, which made him the youngest mayor in the country, Naga City was a sluggish national one, did not come smoothly. He was waytown, home to poverty and small-town politics as laid early on by controversy, ending up in a feud with his second-in-command, Rico Puno, after the much as the province, Camarines Sur, that circumscribed it. hostage-taking crisis at Luneta that led to a bloodbath. It was a city characterized only by its more enterThat was not his finest moment. But he appeared to prising residents trying to escape it, either by going have patched up his differences with Puno later on, to Manila or going abroad. Though owning a separate charter from Camarines Sur, Naga City and went on to make up for the initial stumble by was not much separated from it in quality of life. going on an easy stride afterward. That would change after Jesse took over. I don’t know that he would have ended first on the Over more than a decade that Jesse was mayor of finish line if he had been given the opportunity to Naga City, he turned it into a refuge from the finish the race. He embarked on his job like a man on a mission, becoming one of the hardest working storm, or an enclave in a vast area known more for jueteng and criminality than for enterprise and members of P-Noy’s Cabinet. That he was working ingenuity. on Saturday, the first day of a long weekend, attending a law enforcement meeting in Cebu, Until only about five or so years ago, when Catestified to his zeal. marines Sur became Cam Sur and went from one of Naga City mayor the country’s most impoverished provinces to one of its most progressive ones, Naga City was that, a But however he is weighed as a secretary, it is as the beacon of light amid the surrounding darkness. 52


Obstacles, pain Folk there still talk of the feud between the city government and the provincial one throughout the 1990s, which at some junctures threatened to turn violent. Jesse hinted of it when he received his Ramon Magsaysay Award in 2000: “We had many obstacles and pains when we started to experiment with a government system that veered away from the traditional. During that period, we’ve been threatened by ways that inflicted the social, political and moral fabric of the community—rampant illegal gambling, indecent entertainment, crime, occasional abuse by the owers-that-be, poor tax collection, rising unemployment and sheer indifference. “Important political benefactors whose interests ran contrary to our reform agenda disowned us. Businessmen who were my friends and were affected by the city’s honest-to-goodness tax collection campaign questioned our intentions and loyalties. We however stood our ground, strengthened our resolve and entrusted our faith to the people. We brought our office beyond the walls of City Hall and promised to make Naga a better place to live in.”

confine the huge firms to an industrial and commercial enclave on the outskirts of the city. City Hall’s message was clear: Naga would grow, but by its own terms. Some NGOs would also tell me at that time that they were hard put to keep up with the energies of City Hall. Here was a case where the local government itself took up the cudgels for causes that were dear to civil society’s heart. Naga lost its squatters. Government put up a lowcost housing area for the poor at the fringes of the city and offered them livelihood opportunities. When I went there early in the last decade, some of the residents had already managed to fence off their property with low walls made of hollow blocks. Jesse was a great manager, that was his strong suit. But more than that, he was a dedicated public official, which was his stronger suit. Throughout his long years as mayor of Naga, I never heard him accused of pilfering from the public till. Throughout his long years as mayor of Naga, I never heard him accused of having power get to his head. He continued to take public transport. He continued to live simply.

The result was impressive, which was felt not just by the residents but by public officials themselves. Government employees found a new sense of enthusiasm. Government itself acquired a sense of direction and purpose.

Nothing demonstrated that than a story a friend told me some years ago.

Encounter with sm

Several typhoons had lashed at Bicol in the mid1990s, and a particularly ferocious one had made a direct hit of Naga. The storm had caused the earth to loosen and tumble into the city square from the force of the floodwater. My friend was driving back to Manila at break of day, and while passing through the chapel near the centro, she saw a solitary figure against the gray sky shoveling muck in the doorway of a church.

Francis Soler told me later that “SIM City” became their favorite game at City Hall. It helped them conceptualize urban planning. It helped them hone their skills at looking at the alternative use of resources. That life imitating art, or government imitating game, was not just conducive to fantasy, results soon became patent. Applications from big businesses in Manila started coming in. Shoe Mart, sniffing profit in the new growth area, wanted to put up a mall inside the centro. The city government refused, and ruled instead to 53

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Things from the heart

As she drew near, she recognized the figure. It was the mayor of Naga City. Clad in shorts and T-shirt, Jesse was trying to carve a path to the church. He had risen earlier than his staff and had decided to go ahead and ease the pains of a worsted city. At the time, Jesse had just come home from Harvard after receiving the Ramon Magsaysay Award

for governance. I was certain he did not learn this from Harvard. Some things you can’t teach. Some things just come from the heart. That is how I will always remember Jesse. Today, I look at the tears of his overwrought family, the anguish of his overwrought kabanwa, the grief of his overwrought kababayan, and I know he is such a great loss.

But I also look at the admiration of his fellow Filipinos, the appreciation of his nation, the gratefulness of his beloved Nagueños, and I know something else. It might not have been how he planned it but, as he has always done before, he has come through. He has come home.

NSM

August 22, 2012

Robredo in top list of Google 2012 newsmakers, is ‘Wikipinoy of the Year’

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wo of the country’s celebrated personalities who passed away this year were the top newsmakers of 2012, based on the number of times stories about them [were viewed] on search engine Google.com. The Silicon Valley giant’s annual Zeitgeist report showed that former Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse M. Robredo and actor Rodolfo “Dolphy” Vera Quizon, who both died in 2012, dominated the year’s headlines as millions mourned their passing. “This year’s list also demonstrates Filipinos’ inclination to be involved in and informed of relevant news, whether it is about entertainment, sports or political news,” Google said in a statement Wednesday.

searched politicians. Coming in at second was former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona, followed by reelected United States President Barack Obama. Meanwhile, after a month-long voting process, the public has chosen the late Interior Secretary Jesse M. Robredo as the WikiPinoy for 2012, according to a local online, free content encyclopedia group. With 86% of all the votes cast, it was a landslide for Robredo, said WikiPilipinas.Org, which bestows the WikiPinoy of the Year to the person who made a great impression on the public during the year. “A WikiPinoy will not be content just sitting behind an office desk. A WikiPinoy is proactive— just like Robredo,” the group said in a statement.

“The extensive use of social networking websites like Twitter, Facebook and YouTube allowed Pinoys to voice out their opinions and be indirectly involved in the issues and news in the country,” the company said.

“Though we are devastated by his sudden death, he left us with his own brand of leadership—Tsinelas, focusing on simplicity and humility as embodied by Robredo with his signature plain white shirt and slippers,” it said.

Google’s annual search report, the Zeitgeist, is derived from the same German word meaning “spirit of the times.” It is a tally of all terms searched for by a country’s Internet users using Google.com, the world’s largest search engine.

Robredo was known to conduct on-ground public service wearing his slippers—in contrast to the formal ensemble of more traditional politicos.

“Pinoys became involved with the various tragedies in the nation, with the death of celebrities or personalities,” Google said. Robredo, a former mayor of Naga City and a Ramon Magsaysay awardee, was at the top of the list of “movers and shakers,” a list of the most-

WikiPilipinas.org is the biggest collaborative writing project in the Philippines with over 60,000 articles in English and 6,000 articles in Filipino. It hosts WikiPilipinas, an online, free content encyclopedia on the Philippines. NSM January 3, 2013

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ast Thursday, August 23, Secretary Jesse Robredo was supposed to speak in a media seminar on health and local governance. When we invited him weeks ago, he promptly confirmed. This was going to be the first in a series of meetings with the press on vital health issues as they relate to governance. The organizers, which include the Journalism for Nation Building Foundation (JNBF) and the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare Association of the Philippines, were excited about it. (Disclosure: I head the JNBF.) But as that sad Saturday afternoon slowly rolled into a long, dark night and Sunday and Monday turned out to be bad-news days, with no sighting of the Secretary, we decided to push through, knowing that his colleagues at the Department of the Interior and Local Government would only be too willing to take his place and do their duty. We were not wrong. Undersecretary Austere Panadero, who has been with the DILG for many years and is well-versed with its policies and programs, agreed to sub for Robredo. But, at the last minute, he was called to an urgent meeting by the Executive Secretary, who is the DILG’s officer in charge. Panadero sent Manuel Gotis, director of the Bureau of Local Government Development, to pitch in. “Knowing that he [Robredo] is a principled man,” Gotis said, reading the prepared speech of Panadero, “we are fulfilling his commitment to your group to attend this activity. Yes, we lost Sec. Jesse, but his legacy shall live on. We shall carry on his ideals of good governance.”

Robredo’s legacy hard to dismiss by Marites Dañguilan Vitug

in the hotel room where journalists, doctors and public officials gathered. Seal of good housekeeping Robredo, Gotis said, always talked about the need for concrete indicators to assess the quality of work of local government units or LGUs. He would ask, “How do we measure the performance of LGUs?”

In a way, Robredo was present during the seminar. What he had done to improve the quality of local governance during his 2-year stint as DILG secretary was repeatedly mentioned. His legacy hovered 55

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Despite meager resources, Lorenzo has successfully provided health services to a 4th class municipality. She is part of Kaya Natin!, an advocacy group of good-governance advocates co-founded by Robredo. San Isidro has become a model for other LGUs, often cited as a best practice.

We ended Thursday's seminar with the recognition that the legacy of Robredo would be hard to brush off. Many in the bureaucracy have seen how these reforms have worked. Many have benefited. The most logical thing to do is for the next leader of the DILG to continue the honest and good work that Robredo has started. NSM August 24, 2012

House confers medal of achievement to Robredo by Andreo C. Calonzo

Thus, under Robredo’s watch, the DILG came up with an incentive for LGUs to upgrade their performance, especially in meeting the high standards of transparency and accountability: the seal of good housekeeping. This seal came with rewards. But first, the LGUs should fulfill two things: there should be no adverse findings from the Commission on Audit; and that they fully disclose their budget and financial transactions either on their websites or in local publications. Each winner was given a hefty P1-million prize. “Take the case of the municipality of Cervantes in Ilocos Sur,” Gotis said. “The town lacked the funds to finish the construction of its rural health unit (RHU) building. When the town was stamped with the seal of good housekeeping…it was awarded with the Performance Challenge Fund of P1 million, which they used for the building’s completion.” The RHU no longer shared space with the municipal health office. It could accommodate all its clients. Next level

Gotis bit his lips as he read this, pausing as if to control his tears.

Lorenzo’s eyes turned red as she spoke of Robredo’s plan. She said that she accepted her current job as executive director of the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines on Robredo’s prodding, so that government would have allies in pushing for reforms.

Former Mayor Sonia Lorenzo of San Isidro, Nueva Ecija, who also spoke during the seminar, informed us that Robredo had planned to take the seal of good housekeeping to a next step: it would include indicators in health and nutrition such as a potable water system, among others.

AWARD FOR ROBREDO. House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. holds up the Congressional Medal of Achievement awarded to the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, September 12, 2012. Atty. Leni Robredo, the widow of the secretary, looks on with their daughter, Jillian. Photo: www.twitter.com /MRSNewsfeeds

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he House of Representatives on Wednesday honored the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo with a posthumous congressional medal of achievement for his 24 years of “exceptional public service.” House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. handed the medal to Robredo's wife, Leni, who was accompanied by her youngest daughter Jillian, during the session on Wednesday afternoon. Robredo, a recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service, died in a plane crash off Masbate City last month. The aircraft’s pilot, Jessup Bahinting, and his co-pilot Kshitiz Chand, also died in the incident.

Naga City mayor from 1988 to 1998, and then from 2001 to 2010. The chamber also adopted House Resolution 280, which describes Robredo as a “pillar of good governance.” The resolution also said Robredo “personified rare qualities of ethical leadership and transparency.” The resolution was authored by Robredo’s fellow Liberal Party members: Belmonte, Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada III, House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, Cavite Rep. Joseph Emilio Abaya and Batanes Rep. Henedina Abad. House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez also authored the resolution. NSM

Prior to his stint in the Cabinet, Robredo served as 56


A Tribute to DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo Tribute delivered by Ms. Chiyo Kanda of World Bank Philippines on August 24, 2012 at Kalayaan Hall, Malacañang Palace during the wake of the late DILG Secretary Jesse M. Robredo

Chiyo Kanda, Acting Country Director, World Bank Philippines Co-Convenor, Philippines Development Forum

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onorable Government Officials and Local Chief Executives, Partners from the Development Community and Civil Society, Distinguished Guests, Colleagues and Friends, Ladies and Gentlemen: As co-chair of the Philippines Development Forum and co-convenor of the Working Group on Decentralization and Local Government, we would like to express our deepest sympathies to the family, Atty. Leni and their three daughters, and other relatives and friends of Secretary Jesse Robredo. Also our sincere condolences to the Government of the Philippines and to the millions of Filipinos who have been inspired by the life of a great public servant, Secretary Jesse Robredo. Reform Agenda The World Bank, together with many partners in development, salute you, Secretary Robredo—or Jesse, as you would always want us to call you.

The development community has a long history of partnership in supporting decentralization and local governance reforms in the Philippines. Yet your appointment as head of the Department of the Interior and Local Government marked an important shift in the focus and commitment of the government to reforms. At the beginning of your term, you chaired a meeting of the Working Group on Decentralization and Local Government, and how delighted we were to hear the principles of your reform agenda, which you then outlined as: “Empowered and Accountable Local Government Units, Transparent and Effective Local Governance, and Engaged Citizenry.” You quickly put this agenda into action. The Full Disclosure Policy, the Seal of Good Housekeeping,

and the Performance Challenge Fund were just a few of the innovations and reforms that you have successfully implemented in your two short years as the leader of DILG. But your greatest legacy, perhaps, even from the time you were Mayor of Naga City, was your unwavering belief in the genuine participation of the people. And you created the space and mechanisms for civil society to be meaningfully involved in local governments. Last week, just two days before the tragic accident, I had the honor to be with you during the launch of a knowledge partnership in monitoring local public services at the De La Salle University. In your keynote speech, you said: “Good local governance can be the conclusion of our unfinished revolution. This revolution can also be anchored on people like you who serve rather than criticize, collaborate rather than divide, build up rather than tear down. People who engage to understand.” These are indeed the words of wisdom which will guide us henceforth in completing the reforms that you started.

Sustaining Reforms Your passing, Secretary Jesse, represents a tremendous personal loss for many of us in the development community who have known and worked with you even dating back to your Naga City days. We have been inspired by your commitment to excellence and refusal to accept mediocrity. You advocated not only for straight and open governance but smart governance as well. We were humbled by your personal integrity, simplicity, and kindness. Many people are asking, how will all the reforms you initiated be sustained? Perhaps, we can get the answer from you when at one point you said that the people should be protecting and demanding for good governance. This may be the reason why you have always fought for an engaged citizenry because they would be the ones to sustain and demand for good governance. As co-chair of the Philippines Development Forum, the World Bank stands committed to continue our support for strengthening transparent and accountable local governments and genuine citizen participation in local governance.

We trust that the new leadership of the Department will sustain and scale up the reforms for effective local governance that you initiated. But the real driving force to continue the reforms—as you always reminded us—can only come from the ordinary citizens who don’t succumb to the status quo. Let me end my remarks by quoting from your speech which you gave during the 20th Anniversary of the Local Government Code last year: “What brings us together is far more powerful than what pulls us apart. What brings us together is the welfare of our people, the greatness of this nation, the best legacy that we can provide to our children’s children is the knowledge that we walked the ‘matuwid na daan’ and turned this nation into a great one.” Your legacy will continue—so long as the people of the Philippines remember you. Your dream will live on—so long as we all embrace your spirit in our hearts. Secretary Jesse, maraming salamat.

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NSM

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Paalam, Kuya Jesse

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auna ka na naman. Hanggan ba naman sa kamatayan ay nagmamadali ka? Di pa uso ang katagang “daang matuwid,” itinuwid mo na ang daan ng Naga. Wala pang maiinit na debate tungkol dyan sa Freedom of Information Act, matagal ng naka-post na sa website ng inyong lungsod ang kaperahan ng pamahalaang lokal. Naka-ilang imbestigasyon na nga ang Senado tungkol sa jueteng, ibinuwis mo na ang iyong buhay at nagwagi ka laban dito kaya’t mahigit isang dekada na “jueteng-free” ang Naga City. Di pa nga uso ang Twitter, ang dami mo ng followers dahil marunong kang makisama sa tao. Ilang buhay ba ang ipinagkasya mo sa iyong sariling buhay? Padre de pamilya, uliran at romantikong asawa, action star ng Naga, Ramon Magsaysay Awardee, Kalihim at konsensya sa loob at labas ng administrasyong Aquino, sa edad na 54 anyos. Partido na nga ‘yung lagi ka lang nakasandalyas eh. Kuya Jesse, balikan ko lang ang circa 1998 nang namimili tayo ng kurso sa Kennedy School of Government sa Cambridge, Massachusetts. Akala ko

LITTLE NOTES by Susan Ople

nga mayabang ka kasi sikat na mayor ka nga. Maski nga sa Cambridge, nauna ka rin sa aming dumating. Mga kursong nagustuhan ko ay tungkol sa political communications, non-profits, at iba pa. Si Amina Rasul mahilig sa leadership at conflict resolution. Si Arlene Pamintuan, environment at energy ang pinuntirya. At si Corina Unson naman, management courses. Pero ikaw, tanging ikaw ang sobrang masaya ka dahil naisama mo sa listahan mo ang kurso na Ethics. Lagi mo pang ibinibida sa akin na pinag-iisip ka ng malalim ng teacher mo. Kung kailan wala ka na, ikaw pa ang nagsisilbing titser ng lahat ng Pilipino tungkol sa ethics. Bagay kasi na textbook ang buhay mo. Maski noong bumalik ang batch natin ng Maynila, nag-balik-Mayor ka, pagkatapos naging Cabinet Secretary pa, hindi ka naman nagbago. Kuya ka pa rin—dumami lang nga mga kapatid mo. Kapatid na pulis, bombero, taga-media, urban poor sa pangkalahatan ng bansa, pati nga mga OFWs na sawi ang mga pangarap, inampon mo rin. Pati nga Presidente ng Pilipinas, higit pa sa kapatid ang turing mo. Ka-textmate mo ang madla—mula media hanggang mga bagong kakilala kung saang lupalop sa bansa. Puno lagi ang araw mo, ang daming kausap at ang daming inaayos. Alam ko naman na noon hanggang ngayon, ang nakakapagtanggal ng lahat ng pagod ay ang iyong pamilya at mga kaibigan sa Naga. True love mo forever and always ang Naga City. Kami sa Maynila, parang

laban sa illegal recruitment at human trafficking. Ang miting ninyo ni Secretary Linda Baldoz ng DOLE ay inaayos ko na sana. Last week lang yata yon, Naaalala mo pa ba noong may sosyalan sa Harvard at nagpaalam pa ako kay Secretary Baldoz para sa niyayaya ka namin nila Amina na sumayaw? Ano sabi agenda na gusto natin. Bilin sa akin ni Secretary Baldoz, itanong mo na lang kay Sec. Jesse kung kailan mo sa amin? Bakit, taga-Naga ba kayo? siya puwede. Pero nauna ka na naman. Ayos lang, Kuya. Siguro mas kailangan ng langit, sanhi na rin ng Sabay hagikhikan ang lahat kasi nga totoo naman. Maski nga mga Amerikano nating mga kaklase hindi kaguluhan sa mundo, ang isang walking moral compass na katulad mo. Hindi ka naman namin mo masyadong pinapansin. Basta’t ang mahalaga sa kayang ipagkait dahil ikaw mismo ay hindi iyo ay ang makauwi ng maaga para makasalo sa makasarili. pagkain si Leni at ang mga bata. Si Ate Leni naman ang number one sa puso mo. Siya at ang mga bata, Mahirap lang isipin na hindi ko na ikaw walang kaagaw sa iyo. mapapadalhan ng text pag napapanood kita sa TV o Fast-forward to the month of June 2012. Tumawag ka kaya kung may biktima na kailangan kong sa akin, 9 pm ng gabi. Akala ko kung ano na nangyari. patulungan. Noong habagat, ilang buhay ang iyong natulungan dahil sa walang patid na habilin at “Toots, ano ba ang puwede nating gawin para pakiusap gamit ang text. Wala ka talagang sinasayang tulungan mga OFWs?” Nagulat ako sa tanong mo, na oras. Bawat minuto ay may saysay sa iyo. Kuya. Kasi medyo di naman malapit sa sikmura ng DILG ang OFW sector. Sabi ko pa, “Kuya, bakit mo Alam ko kung gaano kahirap ang maiwanan sina Ate naman naisip ‘yan?” Naaawa ka kasi sa kanila, ‘yan Leni, si Aika, Trisha at Jill. Pero kung makita mo sila ang sabi mo. Kasi nga naman, mayor ka pa lang ay batid mo na ang mga problema ng mga OFWs lalo na Kuya, at malamang nga ay napapanood mo sila, sobrang aapaw ang puso mo sa pagmamahal. At dahil ‘yung naging biktima ng illegal recruitment at mahal ka ng bansa, tinitiyak ko na sila ay nasa dasal at human trafficking. puso ng lahat. Ang bilis mo talagang kumilos. Nagmiting tayo, alasSalamat, Kuya. Iniwan mo kaming uhaw na maging otso ng umaga pagkatapos mamaya-maya, may isang katulad mo. Ikaw na nga ang naging pamantechnical working group na ang DILG at POEA. May tayan ng kurso na gustong-gusto mo. Ganito ang Memorandum of Agreement na napirmahan noong formula sa ngayon: Ethics = Jesse Robredo. Hulyo pero hindi ka nakadalo kasi kailangan mong basahin ang talumpati ni Pnoy sa Aklan. Sayang lang nga at kailangan ka pang sumisid ng malalim para matauhan ang lahat. Kinantiyawan kita. “Di ka naman nagpunta eh!” Mabilis ang iyong resbak: “Ayusin mo na lang na Bantayan mo na lang kami mula sa Itaas. Mahirap magpirmahan ulit kami ni Secretary Baldoz. Maski ang homework na iyong iniwan. ako na ang pumunta sa kanila. Tapos gawin na lang natin kung ano kailangang gawin.” Ang gusto mo kasi ay pakilusin ang mga LGUs lalo na ang mga barangay Paalam, Kuya Jesse. I love you. NSM sidecar lang—nakikiangkas lang sa mga nadagdag na obligasyon sa buhay ni Jesse Robredo.

September 12, 2012

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t is only fitting that Jesse Robredo is laid to rest on the week we celebrate National Heroes Day, for everyone will agree that he certainly qualifies for the noble title. His life’s work is also the perfect commentary for the kind of hero we need in our daily life, and that will carry the Philippines to her future. Robredo stands somewhat in contrast to many heroes I have written about, e.g., martyrs like Ninoy Aquino and Jose Rizal, those who rise in defense of the common man like Andres Bonifacio, Edgar Jopson, and Jose W. Diokno, or those whose struggles bring glory to the Filipino nation, like Manny Pacquiao. Their heroism is forged primarily in the crucible of conflict, from our revolutionary past to our chaotic present; in the arena of battle, politics, or sporting competition. Robredo’s heroism has its own nature. Jesse himself also had to overcome the odds to achieve his life’s work in governance reform, and the shining

achievements of his public service, even earning the ire of his original political patrons in Naga when he went against their wishes. Robredo would fight for what’s right, but the heroism that marks his life is primarily forged from a different, equally crucial crucible.

or other gratuity to curry favors.

It’s the heroism forged from ordinary living. We praise Jesse Robredo not for having felled Goliaths, but for doing his job in the example set forth by Christ in the Gospel of Mark: “And they were astonished beyond measure, saying, ‘He has done all things well.’”

In that sense, Robredo sought to cross boundaries (between power and principle) and unite worlds. He also crossed social borders, the poverty divide especially. He had grown up in a well-to-do family, initially worked in the management of Magnolia, but as Aceron and Isaac note, even then he reached out to both the rich and poor, working and playing alongside mestizos and the masses, and in political power he aimed to improve the latter’s lot even while treating the former fairly and justly. He also united government and civil society, giving the latter access to the policy process through the Naga City People’s Council.

Excellence in duty is one of the hallmarks of Robredo’s heroism. One of his most cited achievements in both Naga City Hall and the Department of the Interior and Local Government is to bring a sense of merit-based, competent professionalism to each agency, to supplant cultures of inefficient patronage. He was able to bring in all he had learned working in the corporate world of Magnolia Dairy Products, a Masters in Business Administration from the University of the Philippines, and a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, to streamline and maximize government operations and public service. A second hallmark to note is the humility born out of service. Robert K. Greenleaf wrote that the “servant-leader is servant first.” Robredo lived this creed, whether by shoveling the detritus of typhoons from Naga streets or by focusing his efforts on the local governance side of the DILG, a side I described elsewhere as lacking in the “sexy” visibility of the Department’s police functions. He wasn’t interested in the sexy, but in good results. Those who’ve worked with him would also testify to his thriftiness: all that glitters, after all, is not gold.

He earned the people’s favor through the fruits of public service. Political awareness can help navigate principle around obstacles; principle, to guide political action to right ends.

These and other hallmarks of heroism are shared by heroes cut from the cloths of both conflict and mundane living, but the latter requires the perseverance to live such heroism every day, instead of at the moment of glory. No doubt Jesse Robredo had an abundance of perseverance (yet another hallmark) to live through the tough demands of the Naga mayorship and his DILG post. The cloth from which Secretary Jesse Robredo is cut should be the fabric of the nation: persevering service, marrying power and principle, excellence in results and performance, compassion for the poor and vulnerable. In honoring his memory and heeding the call of “Everyone a Robredo,” may we recall these hallmarks of his heroism, the glory of ordinary duty, and find ways to integrate them into our own ordinary duties, and make the ordinary extraordinary. This is how we uplift a nation, as Jesse Robredo did with Naga and DILG. NSM August 28, 2012

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by Dean Tony La Viña

One of his most admirable traits is how he had managed to marry both principle and political power, proving that they don’t have to be mutually exclusive in good governance. For example, like the traditional politico, he did attend the weddings and wakes of ordinary Nagueños to touch base, but unlike the former, he did not distribute money 62


Sec. Robredo: Up close and personal This article will form part of a book on the life and times of Jesse Manalastas Robredo.

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atricia Evangelista, the youthful and incisive columnist of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, averred that “(Jesse) Robredo is a difficult man to write about because he is a good man, and the existence of a good man demands more from those around him.” Forty days after Secretary Jesse M. Robredo’s death, however, I feel that I can no longer use Ms. Evangelista’s statement as an excuse. I must write something about this “good man” notwithstanding the “demands.” Besides, I was given the privilege to have worked with him for more than a quarter of a century!

by Gabriel Hidalgo Bordado Vice Mayor, Naga City

cognizance of his innate power to command respect—and even awe. He treated me like a longlost pal although I hadn’t ever met him before that interview. And prior to my BRBDP stint, I had been drifting from one government entity to another, unable to find my mark or niche. But in the case of the Sec, I was sure that the working relationship would last for long. At the BRBDP, the Sec used the so-called New Public Management principles (he graduated on the top of his MBA class at UP Diliman) to give the moribund agency a new lease on life. His leadership style, aggressive yet populist, gradually earned the respect and admiration of the jaded BRBDP employees. It also attracted the best and the brightest, including a pretty and intelligent lass from the UP School of Economics named Maria Leonor Gerona (aka Leni). The 21-year-old Leni would soon catch the fancy of the 28-year-old bachelor—a perfect match, it turned out. (Did you know that Leni reported for work at the BRBDP on August 18, 1986? And August 18 was also the date when Sec figured in that fatal plane crash.)

I first met the Sec (that was the way I addressed him right after President Aquino appointed him as Secretary of the Interior and Local Government) in 1986. Politicized by the events in the aftermath of the assassination of Ninoy Aquino in 1983 and heeding the call of President Cory for young professionals to join her government, the Sec, at that time, opted to get out of his well-paying job in a multi-national food conglomerate and try his hand in running a regional government agency, the Despite dwindling support from international funding agencies, the BRBDP thrived under the Bicol River Basin Development Program. Sec’s stewardship. Everybody seemed to be inspired A mutual friend (who later became the godfather in to work not just because of the prevailing leadership by example template but also because of the our respective weddings), former Camarines Sur Board Member Ernesto G. Verdadero, arranged for brewing Jesse-Leni romance! me a one-on-one interview in the office of the Sec’s elder brother, Butch. The interview lasted for At first, I never noticed anything unusual. It was almost an hour. Fortunately, after a couple of days, customary for the Sec to freely mingle with the employees. He queued up at the office canteen the feature article based on the interview was published by a national paper. The Sec called me up during lunch breaks, eschewing any special and offered me the position of public information treatment. He mixed it up with the boys after office hours. Occasionally, the Sec boarded the office bus officer at the BRBDP. That was the beginning of which ferried the employees from Naga City to the our decades-long collaboration. BRBDP office in Pili, Camarines Sur. This one There was something about the Sec which made me puzzled me a bit because the Sec had a service vehicle. And he refused to take a seat, preferring to immediately feel at ease but at the same time take

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clamber up the rusty handrails of the rickety bus. Of course, I also had to do the same thing! I learned later that it was his way of making “pa-charming” to his ladylove Leni! (They were married a few months later in simple Catholic rites in Manila). But not everything proved to be a bed of roses! The almost idyllic set-up at the BRBDP was shattered by the political maneuverings of the powers-that-be. Remember that it was the time of the Officers-inCharge (OICs), a unique offshoot of the Cory Administration’s revolutionary period when people thought to be loyal to the dictatorial regime were weeded out of the government. It was also the time when the Sec’s true mettle was tested to the hilt—a defining moment, as it were. One day, the nephew of a powerful politician dropped by the Sec’s office carrying a letter from a high ranking national official. The letter essentially directed the Sec to replace his incumbent deputy director (supposedly a Marcos loyalist) with the politician’s nephew.

media, we decided to barricade the entire BRBDP program office and set up a virtual commune ala— The Diliman Republic of the 1970s. All through the unfolding drama, the Sec never buckled under pressure, prompting one employee to remark that “this man is worth dying for.” The politician, his nephew, and the PC troopers backed off. For six days and six nights, we maintained the barricade, our morale boosted by the Sec’s unwavering faith in justice and fair play. This also encouraged the residents of Naga City and the adjoining municipalities to support the commune by way of sending food and other goods. On the seventh day, the barricade ended when a temporary restraining order was issued by the regional trial court. But, for all intents and purposes, the amazing saga of the Sec had just begun. NSM

The Sec vehemently refused to do so, arguing that the incumbent deputy director was a career executive and had the full credentials and experience for the job. The politician’s nephew left with nary a word. After a few days, he came back, armed with a letter ousting the Sec himself. He was also backed up by his uncle and a platoon of Philippine Constabulary troopers in full battle gear. Providentially, the night before, somebody tipped the Sec and I about the imminent “invasion.” The employees (except for four who were relatives of the powerful politician) almost acted as one in defending the beleaguered Sec. After contacting the local and national

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De La Salle University launches Jesse M. Robredo Institute of Governance

Solidarity Message of Mayor John G. Bongat

Bicol University names Institute of Local Governance after Robredo

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ccording to Bro. Ricardo P. Laguda FSC, President and Chancellor of DLSU, Robredo's outstanding achievements in public service and his brand of leadership that is ethical, innovative, collaborative, knowledge-based, and resultsoriented conform to the Lasallian core values of Faith, Service and Communion in Mission. A DLSU alumnus with dual degrees in Industrial Engineering and Mechanical Engineering, Robredo exemplified an unwavering passion to serve, believing that good governance is not only possible, but doable. The legacy of good governance that Robredo cultivated when he served as Mayor of Naga City for six terms and Secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) from 2010 to 2012 provides a rich source of knowledge and inspiration to the university as it continues to strengthen its research, advocacy, and training programs in the fields of policy and governance. The unveiling of the marker for the DLSU Jesse M. Robredo Institute of Governance was held on October 4, 2012 in the presence of Atty. Maria Leonor Robredo, widow of the late DILG Secretary. During the renaming ceremony, messages of solidarity were delivered by Bro. Bernard Oca FSC, Vice Chancellor for Lasallian Mission and Alumni Relations, Commissioner Maria Cynthia Rose Bautista of the Commission on Higher Education, Mayor John Bongat of Naga City, Dr. Eddie Dorotan of the Galing Pook Foundation, Domnina Rances of the DILG, and Dr. Andrew Parker of the Australian Agency for International Development. Dr. Francisco A. Magno, director of the new Robredo Institute, also presented the general plan that will involve collaborative, multi-sectoral engagement.

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Message delivered during the launch of the DLSU Jesse M. Robredo Institute of Governance on October 4, 2012 at the Marilen Gaerlan Observatory, De La Salle University.

Meanwhile in Legazpi City, the Bicol University renamed its Institute for Local Governance in honor of the late Interior Secretary last September 24. To immortalize Secretary Jesse M. Robredo’s legacy of transformative and servant leadership, transparent, accountable, and good governance, and egalitarian ethics, the Institute of Local Governance (ILG) of Bicol University has been renamed the Bicol University Jesse M. Robredo Institute of Local Governance (BUJMRILG). The renaming of the Institute of Local Governance, which was established on September 7, 1994, was made possible by virtue of Board of Regents (BOR) Resolution No. 040 s. 2012 dated September 3, 2012. This initiative, led by Dr. Fay Lea Patria M. Lauraya, Bicol University President, is a recognition of the late DILG Secretary Jesse M. Robredo’s legacies and his invaluable contribution to the Bicol University Graduate School—for his having been instrumental in the development and implementation of the Diploma Program in Local Government Management as its consultant and affiliate faculty. The Launch and Dedication Program, held on September 20, 2012, at the Bicol University Amphitheater, was one of the highlights of the Bicol University 43rd Foundation Anniversary. The event was attended by his wife, Atty. Leni Robredo, who led the Unveiling Ceremony of the newly-renamed institute, and Naga City Mayor John G. Bongat. Secretary Robredo’s friends and colleagues in both public and private institutions who worked closely with him and former students gave tribute during the program. NSM

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tty. Leni Robredo, DepEd Secretary and former President of De La Salle, my friend Bro. Armin Luistro, DPWH Sec. Rogelio Singson, La Salle President Bro. Ricardo Laguda, Bro. Bernie, Governance Institute Director Dr. Francisco Magno, Dr. Ed Dorotan of Galing Pook, the Alumni Association, classmates and friends of Sec. Jesse M. Robredo, friends and guests; Dios marhay na hapon saindo gabos.

sacrificing quality time for his family. Until the very last text messages he sent to Leni on August 18th aboard the ill-fated Piper Seneca plane, he promised his loving wife that he will be home for his family.

When he was Mayor of Naga, he was fond of saying, “Maging marhay kita kesa dati,” always believing in the strength and capability of every Nagueño to be better than before. He always believed in the principle that: “An yaman kan Naga iyo an lambang Nagueño,” The greatest “While we treasure of the city is the Nagueño. lost him in This is no rhetoric. In Naga, we have a our midst, we dynamic Naga City People’s Council, won his directly participating in the decisionlegacy.” making processes of City Hall.

Allow me first to thank you for inviting me here with you on this momentous occasion, the dedication of your Institute of Governance in honor of the late Secretary Jesse M. Robredo, Naga City’s father and former mayor. It gives me and the people of Naga a great sense of pride that a prestigious institution like De La Salle University is recognizing and holding in high regard the ideals that Secretary Jesse Robredo represents. Likewise, we are grateful that you have taken it upon yourselves to keep Secretary Robredo’s memory alive as a beacon of good governance.

I and the City Officials of Naga are truly honored by the opportunity to have worked with Sec. Jesse as our mayor before I was given the opportunity to succeed him in 2010. We thank him for institutionalizing transparency programs aimed at strengthening people’s participation in decision-making and imbibing in each of us the highest sense of public accountability for all the official things we do by virtue of our position.

Sec. Jesse M. Robredo indeed showed us a rare brand of leadership, a simple and humble lifestyle. He was It has been a month and a half since that fateful day able to shine as an excellent public servant, but the when we lost such an upright public servant, and demands of public service did not push him into

(De La Salle University and Viveth Morcozo/BU)

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the people of Naga lost a cherished and well-loved leader. Naga has never been the same since that mournful day. But the consolation is, as I have repeatedly said in previous speaking engagements, and I think you will all agree with me, that “while we lost him in our midst, we won his legacy.” And I think this is also the reason why De La Salle made that historic decision to name its Institute of Governance after its illustrious son, the great Nagueño, the great Bicolano, the great Filipino, and above all the great La Sallian, Jesse M. Robredo. During his productive years of service as mayor of our city, and even now in his absence, we have always prevailed. Stories abound of Secretary Robredo’s humility as a public official, a virtue that he has taught us well, and one that we have continued to practice as the new leaders of our city. If I may borrow Sec. Jesse’s words; “It’s not enough for an official to be good. There has to be a system that forces him to be good.” Higit sa lahat, hindi lang siya dapat maging “mahusay” dapat siyang maging “mahusay at matino.” With his brand of consultative, inclusive and transformative leadership, we were able to introduce innovations in our city and nourish their results for the benefit of our people. This is the reason why the City of Naga has always been regarded as the center of excellence in good governance in the country. One man should be given credit for all of this, our very own, your very own, Jesse Manalastas Robredo. The occasion today, I believe, is not only about naming this great institute after Jesse M. Robredo. More than that, it is about how that name will continue to inspire public servants and aspiring public servants to be genuine servants of the public, for the public and by the public. Let this institute, therefore, be worthy of its chosen name. My dear La Salle brothers, the challenge is yours. And the challenge begins now. On behalf of the people of Naga, I congratulate De La Salle University for the singular honor given to our beloved Jesse M. Robredo. Thank you very much and good day! NSM

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Jesse Robredo: A true friend, brother Homily at the requiem mass for the late Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo, delivered by Fr. Kulandairaj Ambrose of the Missionaries of the Poor (MOP), on August 28, 2012, at the Basilica Minore de Nuestra Señora de Peñafrancia in Naga City

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OUR EXCELLENCY, President Benigno S. Aquino; Mrs. Leni Robredo, wife of the late Secretary; their children, Aika, Tricia, and Jillian; family and relatives; Cabinet Secretaries, honorable John Bongat, Mayor of Naga City, national and local officials, representatives of foreign governments, members of the clergy and religious, my dear people of Naga, my dear Filipino people. In an uncanny coincidence, the lifeless body of Secretary Jesse was found on the same day of the death anniversary of a great Filipino, Ninoy Aquino. Ninoy said “The Filipino is worth dying for.” And he proved it with his own death. Today, another great Filipino, Secretary Jesse Robredo, has shown by his life and death that every Filipino is worth dying for. To this great man, let us show our appreciation as we stand and put our hands together.

here, on the same road, many of you might have passed there. I want to thank the family, especially his wife, for including the Missionaries of the Poor as one of the favored charities of the late secretary to which donations can be made. We will establish a free clinic for the poor in his honor. Ten days ago when we heard the news about the plane crash followed by the discovery of Secretary Jesse’s body three days later, like you, like each and every one of you here, I was shocked by the suddenness and the seeming cruelty of it all. My mind was racing to find some logic in what seemed a senseless tragedy. Words simply seem to fail us in such situations.

But my brothers and sisters, we take comfort that the word of God never fails, and so we read in the book of Wisdom, Chapter 3, “The souls of the just are in the hand of God and no torment will ever touch them. In the eyes of the foolish, they seemed Thank you. If you feel the ground underneath shak- to have died and their departure was thought to be ing, please don’t worry. It’s not an earthquake. It’s an affliction and their going from us to be their most probably my knees that are trembling. Why destruction. But they are at peace. They will receive me? That’s what came to my mind when Atty. Leni great good because God tested them and found asked if I would celebrate and preach at this funeral them worthy of Himself. Like gold in the furnace, mass for her late husband. Why me, a simple He tried them. Like a sacrificial burnt offering, He missionary priest working among the most forgot- accepted them. They will govern nations and rule ten ones in society? Why me? Then Atty. Leni said, over peoples and the Lord will reign over them “Father, that’s what Jesse would really want.” Yes, in forever.” death and in life, Secretary Jesse is a man of the ordinary people. I am honored and humbled to do I stand here before you today not as a representathis for a friend, a great man, and a champion of tive of government or politics, not as an official the poor. representative of the church, not as a spokesman for the family, but I speak on behalf of the countI am a priest of the Missionaries of the Poor from less poor and indigent, the tsinelas people to whom Jamaica. Our mission is to shelter and care for Secretary Jesse was a true friend and a big brother. abandoned children, special children, the disabled, and elderly who are homeless. We provide nutriAllow me to share about this man we are honoring tion, health care, spiritual care for the indigent. For today from the personal perspective. I first met the past six years, I have worked here in the Philip- Jesse Robredo, twenty years ago on a rainy day in pines in our mission center which is not far from June 1992. I had accompanied our founder, Father 68


Richard Ho Lung from Jamaica on our first visit to the Philippines. We were looking at the possibility of our ministry among the poor and the needy in this country. Archbishop Leonardo Legaspi welcomed us warmly to Naga and introduced us to then-Mayor Jesse Robredo because the good archbishop knew that like himself, Jesse had a heart for the poor. We met at the urban poor location site at San Rafael. With Jesse was his young, beautiful wife, Atty. Leni and believe me, she has changed very little since then, and their eldest daughter, Aika. Aika, I doubt you will remember this because you were still a tiny tot at the time. Two things impressed me about Mayor Jesse and that first meeting: He was a man of the family and a man of the poor. We met again the next day, this time at the mayor’s office at the city hall. I was surprised, even a bit scandalized by what I saw at the mayor’s office. His office was a simple room with a large table, more like a family dining table. The mayor was seated at one end of the table and there were several people of all sorts sitting or standing around in the room. They were all seeking the mayor’s attention or assistance with some need. He was their father and they were his children. And in the last six years that I have been here in the Philippines, Mayor Jesse and later, Secetary Jesse, and I have met so many times. Either at his office or more often than not, in our mission center in San Rafael. Jesse was there at every occasion we had. Sometimes he would simply drop by just to find out how we were doing or if he could be of help in any way.

medical missions. He was there with his wife and the three girls every December 25 for the Christmas party with our poor, for the gift-giving for the indigent, before proceeding to his parents’ home for their Christmas dinner. Secretary Jesse was there whenever we needed him and he was there even when we didn’t need him. He felt comfortable with us and we felt comfortable with him. Maybe because we wore sandals. You may call it the tsinelas friendship, if you want. When he became cabinet secretary, we thought we would not see him as often as before but I was wrong. Despite his busy schedule and high position, he still found time to visit us every now and then. And it was still the same Jesse Robredo with his casual attitude and boyish smile. Secretary Jesse Robredo was a man with a golden heart, a brilliant mind, and steely will. He was a humble man. He was a man of compassion for the poor, the needy, and for everyone. Leaders must have a vision and a will. A vision without a will remains a fairytale and a will without a vision can be disastrous. Secretary Jesse had both vision and will and he fulfilled his mission. He was a man of the masses, the real Pinoy Big Brother to the countless nameless, faceless persons who make up the bulk of our society. Secretary Jesse also had a great sense of humor. One time, he said to me, “Father, all my life, I have been after girls and women.” I was a bit stunned. Then he continued “You see, when I was a boy, it was my mother and my sisters, now, it’s my wife and three daughters.” Give his family a very big hand. Then I said to him “Okay, but it is also the talk of the town that you also have another woman in your life.” It was his time to be surprised and he said “Who is that?” Who is the other woman in the life of Mayor Jesse? Bicolanos' Ina, Our Lady of Peñafrancia. Viva La Virgen!

One of the images of Secretary Jesse that I would carry with me to my grave happened at the height of typhoon Reming in 2006 when the winds were howling and the roofs were flying and the trees were falling. I was shocked when the mayor’s car drove into our center. Mayor Jesse came to find out if everyone was safe. I couldn’t believe he would risk his own life to make sure the poor were safe and well. I later found out that this was something Mayor Jesse did every time there was a typhoon.

We both had a good laugh. I’m told that since the age of 16, Jesse has been a devotee of Ina. Year after year, without fail. I’m sure next month he will be there with us for the Peñafrancia fiesta. Look for him. Secretary Jesse was a devout catholic, a godfearing man.

Then he was at my place every August 7 to wish me happy birthday. He was there during our free

It has now been revealed that he frequented the confessional, two, three times a month. He was a

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regular Sunday mass-goer and communicant. I was told by a common friend that it is not unusual to see Jesse slip into the adoration chapel in the Basilica early in the morning. Again, no fanfare, no blowing of his own trumpet. Another quality that endeared Jesse to everyone, the elite and the lowly, the powerful and the weak, the VIPs and the VOPs—you know who the VOPs are? The very ordinary people—is his inclusivist attitude in a time when people think with an exclusivist mentality. When human life is treated as a matter of human choice and people are considered as wanted or unwanted based on personal convenience or the availability of resources, Jesse made everyone feel wanted. He simply treated everyone with respect. He never complained that he did not have enough time or resources for so many who came to him but always found time for everyone. He might not have satisfied everyone’s needs but he made everyone feel that he cared. For Jesse, every human life was sacred and a gift from God. Perhaps that’s why he loved our work so much. The deformed children, the disabled, rejected ones, whom society considers unwanted and a burden to development. My dear brothers and sisters, yes, every Filipino is worth dying for. Secretary Jesse had time for everybody, you, me, everyone, except himself. He will drop by a barangay fiesta then go over to a meeting with some business people then stop at someone’s birthday party or wedding or a wake or whatever. He could take breakfast in Manila, have lunch in Cebu, and be back home in Naga for dinner with his family except that last trip. He was there for you. He was there for me. He was there for everyone. We all felt appreciated and accepted by Jesse. In his presence, we felt no worry. He gave hope to many in hopeless situations. He was not afraid to walk the talk. He painted schools, scrubbed floors, cleaned drains, all while he was chief executive of this city and one of the highest officials in the land.

felt his cup was overflowing. He did not even dream the things that have come to him. He was satisfied with whatever he had. He sympathized with those who mourned. He hungered for justice and righteousness. He was humble and meek even when raised to the highest positions in the country. Secretary Jesse was not a perfect human being, but he was a true human being who treated every other human as true as himself. Let me here, speak to the immediate family of the late secretary: Atty. Leni, Aika, Tricia, Jillian, siblings of the late secretary, thank you for sharing Jesse with us. You had to make sacrifices to let your husband, your father, your brother serve other people. For this, we all thank you. In you we see Secretary Jesse’s true spirit of humility and courage. Let me assure you also of the sincere condolences of the entire Missionaries of the Poor family around the world. When I heard the shocking news on Saturday, August 18, I immediately rang up our founder in Jamaica, and broke the news. He was stunned. He knew Jesse as a personal friend during his various trips to the Philippines. We assure you of our continued prayers and support for you always. Seldom do people pass away doing what they loved doing. Secretary Jesse passed away doing what he loved the most: going home. Secretary Jesse, you liked to surprise people, but not in my wildest dreams did I imagine that my last mass in Naga City before I leave for my next assignment in Jamaica this week will be your funeral mass. Thanks for that surprise. Jesse Manalastas Robredo, devoted son, responsible brother, loving husband, caring father, humble servant of the people, champion of the poor, farewell. Indeed, you have fared well in this life, now fare well in the next. Maraming salamat po Secretary Jesse for being a true friend of the common people. Ingat po. Dios Mabalos.

NSM

Secretary Jesse shared the name not only of our Lord Jesus but in his own humble way, he strived to live like Him. He was a man truly poor in spirit because he desired nothing for himself. As his wife said during the interview last week, he 70


Robredo is 2012 Filipino of the Year

Rare ‘tsinelas’ leadership puts gov’t in step with people power The Philippine Daily Inquirer annually honors a living Filipino who has made the most positive impact on the life of the nation. But for only the second time since the beginning of the Filipino of the Year series in 1991, the Inquirer voted for a nonliving Filipino.

from lucrative government posts, he was a champion of transparency. As chief of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), he instituted a fulldisclosure policy that requires local government units (LGUs) to disclose documents showing how funds are spent. As of June 2012, according to the DILG, 99 percent of LGUs had complied.

The decisive factor

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hock was the order of the day when Jesse Robredo’s plane was reported to have crashed into the sea off Masbate late in the afternoon of Aug. 18, 2012. As the days wore on and the window of hope inexorably closed, shock turned into profound regret. By the time the discovery of his body in the downed plane was announced in the morning of Aug. 21, 2012, the aching sense of loss had evolved into grief. Who was this man and why were people mourning his passing en masse? Laid-back and low-key, he became larger than life in death, and the nation engaged in a collective appreciation of him starting from the report of the plane crash and the confirmation of his death, throughout his wake, all the way to his interment and days after. The mood was sorrowful; the sense of loss was on a personal level even among those who were strangers to him and had no occasion to even shake his hand, as though an old friend had passed into the light too soon. (In the hours after news broke of his plane crash, an unconfirmed bit of information was aired that he had been found alive by a fisherman. A wave of hope instantly surged among the citizenry and took a while to subside.) Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo had notched a sterling record as a public official early on in his political career. He was legendary as mayor of Naga City from 1988 to 1998, during which time he turned around the languishing backwater in thrall to crime syndicates to the first-class city that it once was. He was young (29) when he began to resuscitate the faltering “Heart of Bicol.” 71

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Sweeping the streets He was twice reelected by his constituents, who spoke fondly of their mayor as truly one of them, who told stories of his unaffected ways and how he walked around his city without the customary trappings of power, in slippers often, and who recalled that just as often he rose with the sun and, finding the opportunity, would think nothing of taking hold of a broom and sweeping parts of a street clean. Then Energy Secretary Rene Almendras, in his tribute to Robredo, called it “tsinelas brand of leadership.” The fact is that Robredo raised the bar for not only public officials but husbands and fathers as well, and in those dog days in August when the restless sea off Masbate would not yet yield the terrible truth, it became exceedingly clear what the nation and those who loved him had lost: a leader who demanded of his constituents full collaboration in governance, who, borrowing from John Updike, “needed people, the aggravating rub of them, for stimulation,” and who was at once bold, purposeful and innovative in the public realm and attentive, gentle and loving at home. A robust public official and a tender family man—an excellent mix from any perspective. That he is a rarity in Philippine politics added to the deep regret that accompanied Robredo to his grave. Without fanfare and self-promotion, he breathed life into the qualities of integrity and professionalism both on the local and national scale. Against the grain of those who feather their nests

The man was untiring in pushing people empowerment as the decisive factor in good governance; his long service as hizzoner was a showcase of it. “Unless and until the citizens claim good governance from those who vow to serve them, we will not [succeed in] the work of participatory governance,” Jean Llorin, Robredo’s friend, ally and associate, once quoted him as saying. That formulation appeared to have served as a mantra during his term of office in Naga and resulted in the passage of Ordinance No. 95-092, which was famously known as the “Empowerment Ordinance” and which became a model for other cities and towns.

employees whose performance, productivity and morale he raised.

The ordinance made possible the direct participation of sectoral representatives in Naga’s development planning process. The Naga City People’s Council became an active partner of the local government; in the course of its existence when Robredo was no longer mayor, as though hewing to the idea of continuing revolution, the council was revitalized to beef up its capacity for engagement.

People-empowered

Concrete proof But these are mere words! The concrete proof of Robredo’s work in Naga, as noted by the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation which recognized him for government service in 2000, can be seen in the high schools, daycare centers, public hospital, farm-to-market roads in the rural communities, and lots for the homeless, as well as in the people whom he drew into civic action and the city

According to the foundation, Robredo demonstrated that “effective city management is compatible with yielding power to the people.” Robredo employed the same vision on the national scale, improving LGUs’ disaster risk reduction capabilities, among other things, and, only days before his death, preparing to embark on a campaign to empower ordinary citizens to demand good governance and transparency from their leaders.

How tragic that he would be cut down in his prime, the DILG portfolio only two years in his capable hands, and perennial problems like illegal logging only lately given the benefit of his attention. Those in the know say that an immensely more challenging task had lain ahead of him, that he was actually being groomed for a presidential run in 2016—that he was “the best president the Philippines never had.” Imagine what he could have achieved and made possible. Still Robredo’s example inspires, lending a wealth of insight into the virtues of peopleempowered governance and of unqualified devotion to spouse and children, parents and siblings. Whence comes another? NSM January 27, 2013

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NSM Commemorative Issue