MASBATE CITY, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – The body of Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo has been located and retrieved Tuesday, August 21, ending nearly 3 days of intense search off the Masbate City coast after their plane crashed in the area Saturday, August 18.
He was 54.
Earlier, Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas said the bodies of pilot Jessup Bahinting and co-pilot Kshitiz Chand were also found. The official Twitter account of President Benigno Aquino III also posted as of 11 am that the two bodies of the pilots had been retrieved.
But Roxas later clarified to reporters in Masbate that what he is certain of, based on reports from divers, was that they found “at least one (other) body.” (Editor’s note: We earlier carried a story on the two pilots’ bodies being found, citing Roxas’ information.)
“May malungkot tayong balita. At 7:25 this morning, ‘yung volunteer divers natin nakita ang fuselage. May mga katawan sa loob pero ‘di nila talaga ma-identify. Nu’ng nakalapit sila at about 7:45 am, may mga indications na isa doon sa mga katawan sa loob ng fuselage ay kay Sec Robredo. At that was at about 7:45 (am),” Transport Secretary Mar Roxas said in a press briefing shortly after 9 a.m. Tuesday in Masbate City.
Matt Reed, a volunteer British technical diver, was the one who saw Robredo’s body underwater, said Roxas.
Robredo’s body was found in the cabin of the plane; he was the first to be recovered and brought to land. At least one other body was seen in the cockpit area, Roxas added.
But the official Twitter account of Aquino said the bodies of the two pilots were retrieved in the cockpit area, and were still being brought to land as of around 11 am.
[Adm-03] Divers have now recovered the bodies of Capt. Jessup Bahinting and his Nepalese co-pilot.— Noynoy Aquino (@noynoyaquino) August 21, 2012
Robredo’s body was immediately brought to a coast guard vessel. As of posting at 10 am, the body is now at Las Internas funeral parlor in Masbate.
Aquino, who is back in Manila, personally relayed the news to Robredo’s widow Atty Leni Gerona-Robredo via a phone call at around 8:20 am, Roxas said.
Sarah Bahinting, daughter of pilot Jesse Bahinting, is also in Masbate. Roxas told her: “I’m sorry for your loss.”
They are seeking the help of the Army and Police forensics in handling the late secretary’s remains, he added.
The plane’s fuselage was found 800 m offshore, at a depth of 180 ft, Roxas told reporters.
Robredo, Bahinting, and Chand went missing after their Piper Seneca plane plunged into the waters off Masbate City, just a few hundred meters short of the Moises Espinosa Airport in the city.
A fourth passenger, Jun Abrasado, Robredo’s aide-de-camp, survived the crash. He was rescued by local fishermen moments after the crash.
The plane, coming from Cebu’s Mactan International Airport, was on its way to Naga City when it encountered engine trouble.
The plane was attempting an emergency landing when it crashed into the waters of Masbate Pass, between Masbate and Ticao islands.
The DILG chief was on his way home to Naga for the long weekend.
Jesse Manalastas Robredo was known as a visionary for his non-traditional approach in government. He is credited with transforming Naga City and reenergizing the government there.
In 1988, he won the election for mayor of Naga and became the youngest Philippine city mayor at the age of 29. Robredo went on to serve a total of 18 years as local chief executive.
Under his watch the city was recognized for the transparency of its government.
Robredo, a member of the Liberal Party, was the awarded the 2000 Ramon Magsaysay Award which honors those who are a shining example of integrity and idealism in government.
He is survived by his wife Leni and their daughters Aika, 24; Patricia, 18; and Jillian, 12. – Rappler.com
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