The Philippines lost more than a government official on August 18, 2012. We lost an incredible man of exceptional family values, incredible work ethic, and indomitable spirit and integrity.
Jesus “Jesse” Robredo, Secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government rode a Piper Seneca aircraft bound for Naga City. Due to engine trouble, the pilot sent a distress call to the Moises R. Espinosa Airport in Masbate to request for an emergency landing. Sadly, the plane never made it to the airstrip. As if straight out of a movie, the plane crashed into the sea and Robredo’s body was recovered three days later, 800 meters off the shore of Masbate and almost 200 feet below sea level.
Robredo was supposed to watch his daughter’s swim meet in Naga City, which is why he decided to ride the chartered aircraft so he can make it in time to watch his daughter win.
His loving wife Leni and beautiful children Aika, Tricia, and Jilll, will forever remember him as an “exceptional husband and father.”
“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 [Roxas] 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 for her to solve while attending important meetings. He was never too busy for all of us.” Leni recalled.
On August 28, 2012, Leni Robredo delivered what could be described as the most touching eulogy a wife has ever given about her husband. Full of Secretary Jesse’s love, Leni continues to remain strong for their daughters.
“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.” Leni tearfully delivered her eulogy.
“When the body bag carrying his remains was opened before my eyes, I was not at all surprised to see that he was wearing his DILG uniform… That was Jess to the very core. He was always working so hard,” Leni recounted that fateful day when Jesse’s remains were brought for verification.
Secretary Mar Roxas, who succeeded Robredo’s post as DILG Secretary, was the one who confirmed the news at 8:15 AM on August 21, 2012.
Jesse Robredo is Naga’s beloved son. He served the city as the Mayor for six terms. He received the Dangal ng Bayan Award by the Civil Service Commission in 1990. In 2000, he was awarded the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Public Service — Asia’s Nobel Peace Prize. But more than accolades he received as a public servant, Robredo is beloved by his colleagues and constituents for being a man of genuine public service.
His philosophy as a dedicated public servant is simple. “Our experience, and that of many others, have shown that if we cannot do it at the national level, we can begin at the local level. Collectively, successful local governments, driven by constituencies who are well-informed, constructively engaged, and willing to share the burden of community building, can build our country.”
Robredo was appointed by President Benigno Aquino III as the head of the Department of Interior and Local Government for his unparalleled performance as a local government official. Robredo was well received as the new DILG head, as much as he is loved as the Mayor of Naga. This is proof of his ability to connect with people, to stay true to his nature as a friendly and approachable public servant.
On his tribute page on www.gov.ph, hundreds of colleagues and thousands of supporters poured out their condolences and gratitude for having Secretary Jesse as a boss, a mayor, a co-worker, and as a friend. Perhaps the cliche is true, words will never be enough to describe the pain of losing such a great man who has touched and changed so many lives.
Many people admire Secretary Jesse for his integrity — a virtue so scarce in today’s Philippine politics. His family, friends, and staff would attest to his determination to keep every promise he made and his mindfulness to not make any promises he couldn’t fulfill, although there were few.
Integrity is defined as being incorruptible and having soundness. It is the honesty and truthfulness of one’s actions. Indeed, Secretary Jesse lived a life of integrity — an irreplaceable example that the Philippines might never experience again.
Even beyond his earthly life, Secretary Jesse was awarded with honors for his exceptional public service. A few moments before he was laid to rest, President Noynoy Aquino awarded him with the Philippine Legion of Honor Chief Commander for his meritorious and valuable service. Robredo was also awarded the Presidential Lingkod Bayan Award by the Civil Service Commission, and the coveted Quezon Service Cross, the highest award given to an outstanding Filipino civilian.
Jesus “Jesse” Manalastas Robredo
May 27, 1958 – August 18, 2012