What a loss, what an inspiration: local leaders pay tribute to Robredo-A A +A
Wednesday, August 22, 2012
ALLIES of Jesse Robredo gathered in Cebu City yesterday afternoon to hear mass and offer tributes to the late interior and local government secretary.
Some common threads that ran through their stories—about Robredo’s humility, warmth, simplicity and work ethic. Those who knew him well said he always went home every weekend to be with his family.
“Let us continue the good things he has done for our country and let us pray for him,” said Criminal Investigation and Detection Group 7 Director Jose Pante.
Like Robredo and Pante, Cebu City Police Office Director Melvin Ramon Buenafe hails from Naga City. Last Saturday, on what turned out to be the secretary’s final day, his lone bodyguard contacted Buenafe to let him know they were in Cebu.
“Every time he visited Cebu, we always tried our best to see each other,” said Buenafe. He recalled trying to call the secretary at 4:30 p.m. last Saturday to check if he was still in Cebu.
“I never got any reply, so I tried to call him but he could not be contacted. I did not know then that their plane already crashed,” said Buenafe.
At the St. Francis Xavier Chapel in the Archdiocesan Shrine of the Sacred Heart of Jesus yesterday afternoon, Robredo’s allies from the Liberal Party (LP) traded stories. It wasn’t always easy.
“I am at a loss for words,” Rep. Tomas Osmeña (Cebu City, south) said at one point.
He recalled working with Robredo as a fellow city mayor; they had both won their first term in 1989. Robredo, the congressman said, would have been the most qualified person to lead the country a few years from now.
“What a loss,” said Cebu Vice Gov. Agnes Magpale. “He had so many things to share on local governance.”
Although they met only last June, Magpale said, Robredo treated her like an old friend. Each time they saw each other, he would say, “I will tell Secretary Rene that
we met,” referring to Magpale’s brother, Energy Secretary Rene Almendras.
LP Cebu Provincial chairman Hilario Davide III said Robredo’s death was a great loss not only for the Aquino administration, but for the country. Robredo was planning to meet with Davide, the LP’s candidate for governor in 2013, today in Cebu.
“We in the Liberal Party lost a good friend and a valuable ally. We looked to him for guidance and advice,” Davide said.
“On behalf of his partymates here in Cebu, I wish to extend our deepest sympathy to Mrs. Robredo, their children and the Robredo family,” Davide said.
Rep. Pablo John Garcia (Cebu, 3rd district), Davide’s rival in the May 2013 elections, remembered the secretary’s decency.
“In the brief time that I knew him and worked with him, he was always fair, sincere, humble, and decent,” Garcia said in a text message.
His sister, Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, said in a text: “I pray for the eternal repose of his soul and extend my deepest sympathies and condolences to his grieving family.”
Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama recalled he had differences with the secretary when he and Osmeña severed their political ties. But that didn’t change his appreciation for Robredo record as a public official.
“Having been chosen as Magsaysay awardee, he was the cream of the crop,” Rama said.
Cebu City Councilor Alvin Dizon said he will remember the local government secretary for ordering, at the height of the Mahiga Creek settlers’ demolition, that the law on the handling of informal settlers should be followed.
When the City Council and the urban poor groups requested the Department of Interior and Local Government to intervene on the distribution of socialized housing lots, Robredo flew in and met with them to hear their views.
Aside from local officials, members of non-government organizations also mourned Robredo’s death.
Tessie Fernandez, who heads Lihok Filipina in Cebu City, said that while she never personally met Robredo, the late DILG secretary was instrumental in introducing programs in his city that specifically helps families.
Aside from Osmeña, Davide and Magpale, other local officials who attended the mass for Robredo included Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes, Rep. Gabriel Luis Quisumbing (Cebu, 6th district), former congressman Raul del Mar, Pinamungahan Mayor Geraldine Yapha, and Tuburan Mayor Democrito Diamante.
Also there were former congressman Antonio Yapha, businessman Efrain Pelaez Jr., businesswoman Gigi Sanchez-Zaballero, and Cebu City Councilors Margot Osmeña, Dizon, Augustus Pe and Nida Cabrera.
Fr. George Ansoreno, who offered the mass yesterday, said he had the opportunity to meet Robredo a few years back. While saddened by Robredo’s death, Ansoreno, in his homily, said he hopes that the late public servant’s ideas about government and public service will live on.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 22, 2012.