Robredo at DILG: 'Clean mayor is key to Aquino's anti-corruption drive'
Editor's Note: This story was previously published in Newsbreak Magazine on July 10, 2010. We are republishing it here. By Tuesday morning, Aug 21, 2012, the body of Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo was found near Masbate. He was on his way to Naga City on Saturday, August 18, when his plane crashed.
MANILA, Philippines - Ending weeks of speculations and lobbying from various groups, President Benigno Aquino III on Friday (July 9, 2010) named former Naga City mayor Jesse Robredo as secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), the post that the Vice President had openly said he preferred to hold.
During the campaign, it was widely assumed that Robredo would be given the DILG portfolio if Aquino won, given his active involvement in efforts to rally local executives behind Aquino’s bid.
However, the certainty of Robredo’s appointment diminished after talks persisted that Aquino’s relatives were campaigning for family friend Jejomar Binay for vice president instead of Aquino’s running mate Manuel Roxas, and Binay’s statement at the time that Aquino offered the DILG post to him.
Robredo was working in Aquino’s campaign via the official organization, the Liberal Party.
Aside from Binay’s, 2 more names other than Robredo were considered for the post, Newsbreak learned.The choice became difficult for the President that he had to temporarily hold the DILG post concurrently for almost 2 weeks.
Cory appointee, too
Robredo, a 2000 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for Government Service, was mayor of Naga City from 1988-1998 and from 2001-2010. Under his helm, Naga City was cited by Asiaweek Magazine in 1999 as one of Asia’s Most Improved Cities.
Robredo, a Liberal Party member and former president of the League of Cities of the Philippines, was Senator Aquino’s co-petitioner when they questioned before the Supreme Court questioning the legality of the creation of a new district in Camarines Sur.
The new district didn’t meet the population requirement, but it was created to keep President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s ally, then Budget Secretary Rodolfo Andaya Jr, from challenging her son, Rep. Dato Arroyo in the 2010 polls.
Robredo’s break in government came from Aquino’s mother, then President Corazon Aquino, who appointed him program director of the Bicol River Basin Development Program.
He ran for mayor in 1988 with the backing of his uncle, political kingpin Luis Villafuerte. They later parted ways after Robredo asserted his independence in running the city’s affairs.
‘Bright future for LGUs’
Alex Brillantes, dean of the UP National College of Public Administration, told Newsbreak that Robredo’s appointment is a good sign for local governance.
“He is one of the most outstanding mayors we have. There’s a bright future ahead of us in terms of local governance,” Brillantes told us in a telephone interview.
As DILG secretary, Robredo will supervise not only the local government units but also the Philippine National Police, Bureau of Fire Protection, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, National Police Commission, Local Government Academy, and the Philippine Public Safety College.
“The DILG is a very powerful agency. It’s stronger than the military because you [as secretary of DILG] control civilians at all levels. The secretary is the alter-ego of the president at the local level,” said Ateneo de Manila political science professor Benito Lim. He added that among the cabinet secretaries, it is the DILG chief who has the widest reach.
Political analysts interviewed by Newsbreak said that Robredo’s appointment is a good sign because it is about time for the DILG to have a secretary that can focus on local governance and not just on the interior sector.
The greatest challenge for Robredo, analysts said, will be to encourage the local officials to support the programs of the new administration.
“If he [Aquino] wants to stop corruption and the DILG secretary and the local officials do not cooperate, nothing will happen,” Lim said in a previous interview.
“There should be a national alliance between the local government units and the new president but a lot of re-elected officials are loyal to GMA [Gloria Macapagal Arroyo],” said Prospero de Vera, a political analyst and public administration professor at UP.
Results of the 2010 elections showed that 46 out of the 80 newly-elected governors belong to the ruling Lakas-KAMPI-CMD, the party of the President Arroyo. Out of the 138 cities, 62 have newly-elected mayors that come from Lakas-Kampi.
Why not Binay?
Vice President Binay had said that if given a Cabinet post, he would prefer the DILG portfolio.
Lim said that Robredo, although not as popular as Binay, is seen as honest. Some members of the Aquino camp and of the Liberal Party do not like Binay as DILG chief because he is seen as threat to the president-elect.
“They feel Binay is smarter and he may outshine Noynoy. He may also give Noynoy a problem because he has police power,” Lim said. “He [Binay] is looking forward to the next election and if he does a good job, he will be popular.”
Appointing Binay, he adds, would go against the anti-corruption platform of Aquino since has been previously accused of corruption and amassing wealth during his stint as Makati’s mayor.
In 2001, Newsbreak reported that Binay amassed properties that his salary as local chief executive could not afford. He has also been accused by a former city councilor of plunder for not remitting to the Bureau of Internal Revenue around P1 billion withheld taxes of city government employees for the past five years. (Read: The Lord of Makati)
“How can you convince people to be clean if you are going to appoint people tainted with corruption?” Lim said.
The DILG secretary’s exposure to the network of local governments, analysts said, can give him advantage if he performs well and decides to join the next national elections.
“The secretary has a strong network that is directly in touch with local officials,” De Vera said, adding that it can help Robredo if he wants to seek for higher office.
“If Robredo does a good job, he will be a logical senatorial bet of the Liberal Party for the next elections,” he added.
Having Robredo in DILG, De Vera added, may also help the Liberal Party to strengthen its network and ties with local officials in preparation for 2016 presidential election. - Rappler.com