Editorial: Inspiring lives-A A +A
Tuesday, August 21, 2012
ONE of the thousands who filed past the body of the assassinated senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr. in August 1983 was a young man named Jesse Robredo.
Then only 25, Robredo was a rising star in one of the country’s largest conglomerates, but something about the senator’s life and death must have moved him. Because rather than staying in what probably would have been a prosperous and quiet career in the private sector, the young man decided to apply his drive and his skills (as well as an MBA from the University of the Philippines, where he was the top of his class) to the demanding and often-thankless job of public governance.
Three years later, Robredo was back in his home province to serve on a river basin development program, long before environmental causes became fashionable. Days before he turned 30, Robredo won his first of six terms as mayor of Naga City. He was 42 when he received the Ramon Magsaysay Award for the quality of his leadership in local government. He was 54 when he died, only three years older than Ninoy.
Some of the online tributes provoked by the news of his death have said it was an insult to describe the local government secretary as a politician. We disagree. Like the man whose death we memorialized yesterday, Robredo made “politician” an honorable title again.
It would not be a stretch to say that Robredo is this generation’s Ninoy, although of course different times demanded that these men make different sacrifices. The challenge that defined Ninoy’s time was to bring an end to Martial Law. The challenge that Robredo chose to face was to make government, especially local government, effective and credible again.
He did so without seeking the spotlight for himself. In the blog he maintained until August 2009, he expressed a healthy disdain for other politicians who plaster their photographs on the signboards of government projects, as if these were made possible by their personal generosity and resources.
In his final post, one August three years ago, Robredo expressed hope that the death of former President Corazon Aquino would remind all Filipinos to find a renewed love of country in ourselves and to demand that those in power serve honestly and in pursuit of change.
Aquino and Robredo were two young men whose ambitions rose above their own interests, who focused their considerable talents for ideas that were more important than personal myth-making. Let us remember not the tragedies that ended their lives, but the heroism they showed us was possible in the way they lived.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 22, 2012.