Jesse Robredo

Jesse Robredo Institute launched to mold ‘matino at mahusay’ leaders

Mara Cepeda

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Vice President Leni Robredo, the late DILG chief's widow, says she is confident the future graduates of the institute will carry on the legacy of her husband

The country now has an institute for leadership and governance that is aiming to develop a new breed of leaders guided by the principles of the late Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) chief Jesse Robredo.

On Tuesday, August 18 – exactly 8 years since the ex-DILG secretary died in a plane crash – the Jesse Robredo Foundation launched the Jesse Robredo Institute for Leadership and Good Governance (JRILGG).

The online learning platform for public and private sector leaders will be offering courses on good governance, effective leadership, and public policy.

No less than Vice President Leni Robredo, Jesse’s widow, was the keynote speaker at the online launch for the institute.

The Vice President said the creation of the JRILGG comes at a crucial time, with the crippling coronavirus pandemic posing great challenges for Filipino leaders who are expected to step up and protect their people from the health crisis. (READ: Robredo’s suggestions to Duterte admin: Ways to improve fight vs coronavirus

“Gaya [ng sinasabi] ni Jesse noong buhay pa siya (Like what Jesse used to say when he was still alive), every difficulty is actually an opportunity to do more good. Those of us who carry his name take these words to heart, because we know that it is our responsibility to live up to his legacy,” the Vice President said.

“And today, sa pag-launch natin ng platapormang ito, dadami na rin ang may bitbit ng pangalan niya at magiging ehemplo ng pagiging matino at mahusay para sa iba. Dadami sana tayong magtutulak ng pilosopiya at mga paniniwala niya, at dadami sana tayong magsusulong ng makabuluhang pagbabago sa ngalan ng tapat at mabuting pamamahala,” she added. 

(And today, as we launch this platform, more people will carry on his name and become examples of being decent and excellent for others. May there be more of us pushing for his philosophies and beliefs, and may there be more of us who will put forward meaningful changes in the name of honest and good governance.)

The Jesse Robredo Institute is initially offering 3 courses:

  • Adaptive Leadership in Times of COVID-19 Crisis
  • Urban Planning and Sustainable Development in a COVID-19 World
  • Building Pandemic-Resilient Communities through Public Health Governance

The JRILGG is specifically looking for applicants among elected local government officials, city and municipal health workers, and leaders from non-governmental organizations, civil society organizations, and communities. 

The application process will be primarily done online. 

Jesse was known for his “tsinelas leadership” when he served as Naga City mayor, and even when he joined the Cabinet of then-president Benigno Aquino III as DILG chief. This refers to his brand of servant leadership – being with people on the ground and involving them in governance.

Jesse died in a plane crash in 2012, thrusting his wife Leni into the political spotlight. Leni ran and won for Camarines Sur congresswoman in 2013. And in 2016, she bested 5 male and incumbent senators in the vice presidential race. 

The legacy of Jesse Robredo

The Vice President said she continues to draw inspiration from Jesse 8 years since his death.

She recalled the innovations her late husband introduced in Naga – from stopping illegal gambling to publishing the city’s budget and procurement process online in a bid to become more transparent to their people. 

She recalled how difficult it was for Jesse then, since he had had stepped on one too many toes in the name of reforming the city.

“Pero hindi siya nagpatinag. Lagi, malakas ang loob niya, dahil alam niyang nasa tama siya,” the Vice President said. 

(But he did not give up. He was always brave, because he knew he was in the right.)

She hopes Jesse’s leadership style would be emulated by the future graduates of the institute named after her beloved husband.

“Jesse always stood by his principles; he fought for accountability and transparency, for justice and truth. This is reflected in his style of leadership: datos at tamang impormasyon ang pundasyon ng decision-making ng anumang proyekto o programa sa Naga, habang boses naman ng taumbayan ang naging gabay niya sa araw-araw na pamamahala (data and the right information as foundation in decision-making in any project or program in Naga, while letting the voice of the people guide him in his everyday governance),” the Vice President said. 

“These are the things that he stood for, and we see this in the courses that JRILGG will offer. Confident din ako na dahil bitbit ng JRILGG ang pangalan ni Jesse, magiging vehicle din ito para ipagpatuloy ang leadership style niya (I am confident the JRILGG will carry on Jesse’s name and will become a vehicle to continue his leadership style).” –

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Mara Cepeda

Mara Cepeda specializes in stories about politics and local governance. She covers the Office of the Vice President, the Senate, and the Philippine opposition. She is a 2021 fellow of the Asia Journalism Fellowship and the Reham al-Farra Memorial Journalism Fellowship of the UN. Got tips? Email her at or tweet @maracepeda.