I can’t believe August is almost over. So much has happened this month – the storms, the floods and the tragic death of Secretary Jesse Robredo. I have said so much in Twitter and Facebook, but words are never enough to express this great loss for our country. Secretary Robredo was able to achieve so much of what good governance is all about — something seemingly so impossible in 99% of this country. But he did it. He could have done more. I am grieving.
I met Sec Robredo through UNICEF this year. And even before I met him, his reputation preceded him within the international development circles. UNICEF always spoke highly of him and I finally had the honour of meeting him at the launch of the Children in an Urban World event which I hosted. Before he spoke about child-friendly municipalities he told us the important role of parents, specially mentioning his wife Leni, in providing a safe and healthy environment for children. He said his wife could have done a lot in development but focused on raising their three daughters at home. I thought that was so remarkable and it needed to be said.
Even the organization I used to work with in Canada before joining Philippine media in the late 90’s also mourns his death. Here is the statement of the Canadian Urban Institute. He was a supportive partner and ally. Urban planning and international development was my field before switching to Philippine media. In the years I worked as project manager of the CUI, I had never really seen a true success story in good governance. I’m not singling out the Philippines situation here. I worked in Mexico and managed programs in the Baltic states and Vietnam as well. I felt like everything I learned in urban planning just had to remain theoretical outside of Canada. It was frustrating. I quit. But Jesse didn’t.
Now that we’re learning about what Jesse Robredo achieved as Mayor of Naga which led to his winning the Asian Nobel Peace Prize, the Ramon Magsaysay Award, we’ve seen that it can all be done — transparency, no corruption, lower crime rate, a city run like an efficient business, citizens participating as stakeholders, no informal settlers and more. I don’t know when we can see another Robredo doing this in local government again.
But perhaps the deepest reason I am so affected by his death goes beyond the feeling of being orphaned and losing hope in what could have been a great leadership for our country. I am simply so so sad that Aika, Patricia and Jillian lost their most loving, dedicated and good dad. My heart goes out to the Robredo family. My deepest and most sincere condolences to Atty Leni and her daughters.