NAGA CITY, Philippines – When President Benigno Aquino III flew to Naga to speak to the wife of Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo, he had no answers for her.
But he assured her of one important thing: he will not give up until he finds them.
On Monday, August 20, two days after the plane Robredo was riding crashed off the waters of Masbate, Aquino visited Robredo’s distraught wife, Atty. Maria Leonor ‘Leni’ Gerona-Robredo, and their three children, Aika, Patricia, and Jillian.
Aquino, who has been in Masbate since Sunday morning, decided to come to Naga himself to update the Robredos on the search-and-rescue operations for the Secretary in person.
“[He told them] his top priority is to find and determine what happened,” Department of Social Welfare and Development Secretary Dinky Soliman told the press in Filipino.
Soliman was also at the meeting between Aquino and the Robredo family, and has been with the latter since the accident.
Robredo and two pilots remain missing since the Seneca Piper they were flying from Cebu to Naga crashed, due to engine failure.
Aquino did not entertain the media during his brief visit to Naga that lasted less than an hour. He instead chose to meet with the family in a private room at the Naga Airport before flying back to Manila in time for his father’s death anniversary on Tuesday.
According to Soliman, Aquino and the family had a good conversation.
Aside from getting to the bottom of the tragedy, he made another promise to the family of the missing Secretary.
“The President assured them that the government would provide for whatever it is they need as long as it is feasible,” she said, addressing the media in Filipino.
Soliman, who is a family friend, said another reason she has been with the Robredos the past two days is because Aquino wanted to make sure someone was there from the Cabinet to take care of them.
When Aika, 24, spoke to media Monday morning, she said they were grateful for the presence of Soliman who made sure they all ate and got some rest.
Soliman is leaving Tuesday morning, August 21, to return to Manila and her work.
The conversation between Aquino and Atty. Robredo also marked the first time Robredo’s wife openly faced the public and the media since the crash.
Taking the microphone in front of more than a hundred supporters Monday night, Atty. Robredo, who had earlier decided to keep to herself, put up a strong front and smiled occasionally through her short speech.
In a soft voice, she expressed her gratitude to the visitors who have continued to pray for her husband, and shared more details about her chat with the President.
“PNoy told us that he wanted to leave tomorrow but according to his sisters, their grandfather and father died August 21,” she said in Bicolano. “They’re scared to let him travel on that date.”
She said he was apologetic that he had to leave search-and-rescue operations early, even when it was not yet done because of other duties.
“But we understand,” she added. “We feel he has already given so much. We are thankful to him.”
Atty. Robredo said she would release a statement if any concrete updates came through, since there were no major developments during the day, the second full day of search and rescue.
She echoed her daughter Aika’s sentiments, and said the prayers of the nation and the community have made them stronger.
“We’re all sad but we remain strong,” she said. “Thank you for all the love.” – Rappler.com
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