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Who is Jesse Manalastas Robredo?

- Bebot Sison Jr., Cecille Suerte Felipe - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - He may have had a working style that was different from President Aquino, but Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo was one of the Cabinet members who walked the talk on “kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap (without corruption there will be no poor).”

Unfortunately, Robredo is no longer around to sustain the battle cry of the Aquino administration. Robredo, pilot Jessup Bahinting and Nepali co-pilot Kshitiz Chand were killed in a plane crash last Saturday. Only Robredo’s police aide, Senior Inspector June Paulo Abrazado, survived.

The STAR was one of the first to interview Robredo a few days after his appointment as Secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

Robredo truly believed if and when Aquino could clean his administration of corruption, there would be no more poor Filipinos.

Aquino’s slogan “kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap” endeared him to the millions of Filipinos who elected him in the May 10, 2010 election.

“Yes. ‘Walang corrupt’ will allow us to maximize use of government resources and authority to deliver better service outcomes, especially for the mahirap” Robredo said.

“Walang corrupt will restore the trust of the people in their leaders and motivate them to make some sacrifice for the good of the public,” he added.

Robredo said walang corrupt will level the playing field, not only in the economic dimension of development but also in terms of the mahirap securing justice when aggrieved. 

Reformist

A former official at an ice cream company, Robredo was elected mayor of Naga City in 1988 at the age of 29, making him the youngest mayor in the country at the time.

His success in turning the once-sleepy city into a trading, housing and education center won him many honors, including a 2000 Ramon Magsaysay award, considered Asia’s version of the Nobel Prize.

Robredo was cited in 1999 by Asiaweek Magazine for transforming Naga City from a lethargic Philippine municipality into one of the “Most Improved Cities in Asia.”

After serving nine years as city mayor, Robredo joined Aquino’s successful campaign for the presidency in 2010, endorsing his “walang corrupt, walang mahirap‚” reformist platform. Robredo was subsequently appointed to the cabinet as DILG chief.

Being DILG secretary, Robredo also believed he could help other local government units in the country transform into progressive towns and cities just like Naga.

The Harvard-educated Robredo served as president of the League of Cities of the Philippines in 1995.

Robredo made sure there was a road map for improving the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), where previous leaders enriched themselves at the expense of the region and its people.

Robredo also initiated reforms at the DILG’s three main attached agencies, Philippine National Police (PNP), Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) and Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP).

He said the modernization could mean government must be able “to do more with less.”

While the resource constraints are certainly limiting, making procurement more transparent in a level playing field can offhand reduce cost by around 25 percent, he said.

According to Robredo, doing more with less is “getting the best value for our money in terms of the type and make of the equipment procured will allow us to buy more with less. The same holds true for construction works.”

Robredo personally reviewed procurements of fire trucks, firearms, mobile patrols and other equipment for police, fire and jail.

“But at the end of the day, the public needs to feel this transformation and the moment of truth is how the police officer in the street treats the man on the street, how the fire officer responds to people in need of emergency rescue assistance or a conflagration or how a BJMP officer treats the inmates under his watch,” he added.

As Interior secretary, Robredo was in control of the country’s 143,000-strong PNP which has long been dogged by accusations of corruption and abuse.

Robredo recently ordered investigations into alleged financial irregularities over the construction of police stations and purchase of helicopters and rescue boats.

He ordered the filing of charges against police officials who were implicated in the alleged anomalous transaction to procure police equipment.

Robredo also played a key role in the dismantling of private armies allegedly deployed by some powerful provincial governors and city mayors ahead of congressional and local elections in 2013. 

A good name

Born in Naga City on May 27, 1958, Jesse Manalastas Robredo married Maria Leonor ‘Leni‚’ Gerona, also a native of Naga. They have three daughters: Jessica Marie, 24, Janine Patricia, 18 and Jillian Therese, 12.

Robredo was the third of five children of Jose Chan Robredo Sr. and Marcelina Manalastas.

Robredo’s wife has been very supportive of his public service, and has been his highly principled adviser, but she has only one request of him: that if their children cannot inherit anything material, at least let them inherit a good name.

Robredo’s paternal grandfather was a Chinese immigrant named Lim Pay Co who arrived in the Philippines at the turn of the 20th century.

Lim Pay Co would later convert to Christianity and adopt the name, Juan Lim Robredo, because it was a custom that Chinese immigrants who convert to Christianity adopt the name of their godparents at baptism.

Lim Pay Co chose the name of the priest who baptized him.

Jose Chan Robredo Sr., Robredo’s father, acquired the middle name Chan from his mother.

Robredo has impressive academic credentials, being an Edward Mason Fellow and with a Masters in Public Administration from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1999.

Robredo completed his Masters in Business Administration at the University of the Philippines, where he ranked No. 1 as a university and college scholar.

He is an alumnus of the De La Salle University, having obtained undergraduate degrees in Industrial Management Engineering and Mechanical Engineering.

Robredo joined San Miguel Corp., Magnolia division after his graduation from De La Salle University in 1980.

Returning home to Naga City in 1986, Robredo served as Program Director of the Bicol River Basin Development Program, an agency tasked to undertake integrated area development planning of the region’s three provinces.

During the EDSA people power revolution, Robredo recalled how he and thousands of activists camped out in front of the EDSA gate of Camp Crame in Quezon City to press for the ouster of then dictator Ferdinand Marcos. – With Mike Frialde

AQUINO

AS INTERIOR

CITY

DE LA SALLE UNIVERSITY

LIM PAY CO

NAGA CITY

ROBREDO

WALANG

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