‘Robredo accident eye-opener for Masbate’
MASBATE CITY, Philippines - Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo remains missing in the vicinity of Masbate, a province he had associated with violence, political vendetta, and poverty.
Former Masbate vice governor and long-time friend of Robredo, Rainier Butalid, said, “It's like a movie to me. I don't want to believe these things are happening. I'm still in a denial stage. It's surreal. This accident happened right here in Masbate. It's like I'm in a movie. I don't want to believe the accident happened."
That accident happened late Saturday afternoon when the Piper Seneca that Robredo rode from Cebu to Naga crashed off the waters of Masbate. One of the propellers stopped functioning, forcing the pilot Jessup Bahinting to opt for an emergency landing at the Masbate airport. They however undershot the runway.
Butalid, present commissioner in the Governance Commission for Government-Owned or Controlled Corporations, said, "Sometimes, I come to think this accident happened to wake us up again in the province of Masbate, to shed light again on the goals and objectives for peace and harmony and development. Many wake-up calls have been happening here in the province, many. I hope this time we will be able to overcome the challenges and difficulties of politics and the cycle of violence and make a go for the progress of our province."
In 2009, Masbate recorded a poverty incidence rate of 42.5%, making it the 8th poorest in the country. In July 2012, according to a report by the Police Regional Office 5, an estimated 4,400 short and long loose firearms were reported to be circulating in the province that has long been difficult to tame.
Just last year, Robredo told graduates of the Dr Emilio B. Espinosa Sr Memorial State College of Agriculture and Technology, “Prosperity has eluded Masbate over the years. In lieu of it has been the vicious cycle of violence and bloodshed that has placed the province on the Commission on Elections’ list of electoral hotspots for decades. Mayors, congressmen, councilors, barangay chairs, traders, teachers, and police officers have been murdered in cold blood in broad daylight.”
For as long as anyone can remember, he said, “patronage and murder have become accepted facts of political life.”
Dreams for Masbate
Butalid recalled Robredo telling him in 2010, “Whatever it will take I'll go there if only to make sure things are right and proper in Masbate and elections are orderly.”
Robredo’s friend for two decades now, Butalid was with the local government secretary in the 2010 Noy-Mar presidential campaign. “Napakaganda ng probinsya niyo Rainier, ano bang ginawa niyo dito? Anong nangyari?” Butalid remembered Robredo asking him. (You have such a beautiful province, Rainier, what did you do here? What happened?)
“He was marveling at the beauty of the province but at the same time he was also very much concerned about the plight of the province. That remark got instilled in his mind when he became SILG (Secretary of the Interior and Local Government),” Butalid said.
In 2009, Masbate beat Maguindanao to the bottom list of poor provinces by a mere 2.1%, according to official poverty statistics of the National Statistical Coordination Board. The province’s rich natural resources have gone to waste, with politics taking the front seat all these years.
“He is a beloved Bicolano. We love him here in Masbate and I know Bicol loves him, the nation loves him. He was concerned about Masbate, he was very hands-on. He would receive texts from barangay captains and he would respond, the barangay captains tell me. For things like these, people do not forget. People will never forget those things,” Butalid said.
As if to prove that he felt an affinity and concern for Masbate, Robredo exhorted Masbate graduates last year, “Sometimes, we don’t need to do very big things to effect positive changes. In fact, there are times when what we initially see as small is actually what we really need. Let loose your potentials and be the kind of leaders that your province calls for.”
Robredo’s assistant, Benjie Navea Jr, misses his boss terribly. "Nagugunaw ang mundo ko. He’s a good boss, good family man. Saan ka makakahanap ng boss na Magsaysay Awardee pa?” (My world is crumbling…Where can you find a boss who’s also a Magsaysay Awardee?)
“Family man talaga siya, pag nasa kotse kami, lagi siyang tatawag kay Ma'am Leni, 'O, nandito kami, galing kaming Malacañang, papunta kami dito.' Just to assure her and also ask how their children are doing. May curfew iyan, 9 pm so he can go home to his daughters in Manila, Aika and Tricia. Dapat uuwi siyang Naga kasi he will celebrate, ibo-blowout niya si Jillian for winning a Math contest,” Navea said.
(He’s really a family man. When we’re in the car, he always calls Ma’am Leni, ‘We’re here, we just came from Malacañang, we’re headed here.’…Just to assure her and also ask how their children are doing. He has a curfew, 9 pm…He was supposed to go home to Naga because he will celebrate and treat Jillian for winning a Math contest.)
Budget Secretary Florencio "Butch" Abad confirmed Robredo's attachment to his family. He said Robredo "makes it a point to fly home or take the long bus ride if he cannot fly every Saturday to be with Leni and his daughters. With all the load he carries, he always finds time to spend with his family."
Navea recalled, “Dapat magkasama kami bukas papuntang Zamboanga tapos Basilan. Nakatanggap na lang ako ng text nung Saturday from a common friend na kailangan daw niya ng chopper kasi manggagaling na daw siya from Masbate pero nung tinatawagan ko na, wala na. I am bracing myself kasi two days na rin. Umaasa ako pero tinatatagan ko na rin ang loob ko.”
(We were supposed to go together to Zamboanga tomorrow then to Basilan. I just got a text message from a common friend that he needed a chopper since he was coming from Masbate, but when I called him, he was gone. I am bracing myself because it’s been two days already. I’m still hoping but I’m also preparing myself.)
“If only this will be my last service to him, I will stay here until he is found. I told my family that. They understand.” – Rappler.com
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