Officials still hanging on hope for DILG chief

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Monday, August 20, 2012

MANILA (Updated) -- While there has been no sighting yet of Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo after a plane crash off Masbate Saturday, government officials are still hoping that he is safe and alive.

Robredo, along with two pilots, remained missing Sunday, more than 24 hours after their six-seater, twin-engine Piper Seneca (RPC-4431) crashed into the sea, 300 meters away from the Masbate City airport.

“We remain hopeful that Secretary Robredo was just carried by the current... and that he will be found,” Transportation Secretary Manuel Roxas II said Sunday, adding that President Benigno Aquino III is “very emotionally attached to Jesse and he is doing everything he can.”


President Aquino flew with his defense chief and the heads of the national police and the military to Masbate early Sunday to oversee the search and rescue efforts. He decided to spend overnight in the province Sunday to monitor the operations.

Search and rescue efforts continued Sunday evening, although diving operations were suspended.

“The current is quite strong at the Ticao channel. We will continue the dive operations tomorrow,” Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas said on micro-blogging site Twitter.

He thanked the divers who provided breathing gas called trimix, which will be used for deep diving as the rescue operations resume.

“We’re doing deep, 250-300 ft tech dives, tmrw,” he tweeted.

As the search and rescue operations continue, the divers were able to recover more debris of the ill-fated plane, including its right wing with number "431" and the flight plan, which carries the name of Robredo, pilots Captain Jessup Bahinting and Nepalese Kshitiz Chand, and the DILG secretary’s aide Police Chief Inspector Jun Abrasado.

Abrasado survived the crash. He is now under observation at the Masbate Provincial Hospital.

(Photos courtesy of PCDSPO, Official Gazette of the Republic of the Philippines on Facebook, Noynoy Aquino (P-Noy) on Facebook)

Roxas said the flight plan was found on the seabed at 150 feet deep and was considered as the “first more definitive sign of the location” of the plane.

A flight plan is a document filed by a pilot prior to departure containing basic information about the flight such as departure and arrival points, estimated time of the flight, and number of passengers.

A sonar equipment from Cebu was deployed Sunday to look for disturbance on the sea floor or any markings of the plane’s body.

As of Sunday evening, authorities reported that the equipment detected what appeared to be skid marks and metal parts on the seafloor.

Divers and military aircraft planned to focus their search in that area on Monday, Roxas told reporters.

He also said that at least 25 sea vessels from the Philippine Coast Guard, the Navy, and Philippine National Police were deployed as part of the intensified rescue operations ordered by President Aquino.

The Philippine Air Force also brought in five helicopters, including its most modern assets, three Sokol and 2UH1H, while the United States government has joined the rescue efforts by fielding a US Fleet Survey team based in Cavite.

Secretary Roxas has requested Filipinos to continue to pray for the safety of Robredo and his two companions.

He also asked the public to stop spreading false information on Robredo's whereabouts.

(Courtesy of PTV4)

In Manila, a vigil for the successful rescue of Robredo was held at the National Shrine of the Divine Child at La Salle Greenhills in Mandaluyong City. It was followed by a mass attended by several members of President Aquino’s official family.

In an interview over Radyo ng Bayan, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said they are not losing hope to find Robredo and his party alive.

“We all remain hopeful at this point. We had that vigil yesterday, last night, and we all remain hopeful. We know that Secretary Jess is a fighter and… this, too, shall pass for all of us,” she said.

She likewise thanked the communities that have so far conveyed that they offered prayers and Sunday masses for Robredo and the two missing pilots.

Valte said it is yet to be determined for how long the President would stay in Masbate, but assured that government work will not be interrupted.

“Work goes on except that, of course, a lot of us are close to Secretary Robredo. We work with him; we interact with him on a regular basis. But work will not stop. Work will still be there. But, again, we all continue to hope and we all continue to pray for his safety,” she said.

In Davao, officials are also hanging on a hope that Robredo is still alive.

“We should not lose hope and continue praying that he made it and it's just matter of time before he can be rescued,” said Davao City first district Representative Karlo Alexei Nograles.

“We hope and pray we find him soon,” Compostela Valley Representative Ma. Carmen Zamora-Apsay said.

Aurora Representative Juan Edgardo Angara, for his part, appealed for the public to hang on to hope, “whatever little hope there is for his survival.”

“Secretary Jesse was one of the foremost practitioners of the ‘daang matuwid,” he said.

“He is my best example of how you do not need to sing and dance to win an election," Davao City Mayor Sara Z. Duterte-Carpio said.

Aside from expressing hope that the secretary is still alive and will be rescued, many local executives regard Robredo with respect as a leader who does what needs to be done instead of just talking about the problems.

"He was a mentor who first introduced education reform in 2006 to Sarangani," Sarangani Governor Miguel Rene Dominguez said.

Robredo was frequent visitor of the Sarangani governor while they were still local executives, Dominguez said.

Davao City Police Office Director Ronald dela Rosa described Robredo as a silent worker.

"He is such a simple government official. Very easy to talk to and listens to subordinates," dela Rosa said.

Compostela Valley Governor Arturo Uy, meanwhile, regards Robredo as the best ever DILG secretary he encountered.

"He was the resource speaker in a workshop about Seal of Good Housekeeping for LGUs. His sincerity and dedication to public service inspired us to be better if not the best public servant. He is the best SILG I've ever known," Uy said.

Robredo's group was en route to Naga from Cebu when they attempted to make an emergency at the Masbate City airport when one of the plane’s engines malfunctioned. They did not make it to the airport, as the plane plunged into the sea, 200 to 300 meters away from the airport runway.

The survivor, Abrasado, told President Aquino on Sunday that he lost consciousness as the plane slammed into the water, but managed to swim out of the cabin when he regained consciousness and was rescued by fishermen.

He said that in the chaotic moment before the plane went down, he embraced Robredo and made sure their seatbelts were on.

"When he regained consciousness, he was still in the plane. The water had risen up to his chest in the cabin and he tried to grope for Sec. Jesse but could not find him. He swam out of the cabin," Roxas told dzBB radio.

"We hope he's just floating somewhere, holding to a piece of debris or wood," Roxas said of Robredo.

Robredo, 54, is popular with the public for the reformist and clean image he has built in a country long exasperated with political patronage and corruption — social ills he has fought since entering politics as Naga City's mayor in 1988. He won a Ramon Magsaysay award — regarded as Asia's version of the Nobel Prize — in 2000 for good governance.

As interior secretary, Robredo was in charge of the national police and provincial governments, a role that turned him into the most visible Cabinet member as he dealt with natural disasters, crime and insurgency-related violence that included kidnappings and attacks by al-Qaeda-linked bandits. (Jill Beltran/Virgil Lopez/AP/With BOT of Sun.Star Davao/Sunnex)

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