COMMENTARY: Can anyone be like Jesse Robredo?

The good doth men do is oft interred with their bones” (Shakespeare, in Julius Caesar).

PIKIT,  North Cotabato (MindaNews/02 September) — Secretary Jesse Robredo was finally laid to rest on August 28 in Naga City in the midst of state funeral honors for him. Prior to this, the government offered the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes Cemetery in Metro Manila) in case the Robredo family opt to bury him there. Robredo’s wife, Maria Leonor ‘Leni’, however, politely declined the offer saying “Naga City has always been Jess’ home and he will be happier here.”

Much has been said about the good DILG Secretary and those close to him were so familiar about it. But to the majority of Filipinos, who were likewise not the least affected by the sudden demise of this honorable man, they have yet to fully grasp what they had lost and missed in Secretary Robredo.

Not even the so-called netizens, who had been glued to the television sets and the internet from the time Sec. Robredo’s plane crashed late afternoon of  August 18 are so sure about what was really missed in the man. Of course, we know for sure that now he can be called one of the champions of good governance. And we know, too, that he was so dedicated and selfless as a ‘servant-leader’.

But if there is anything so impressive about him, it is his simplicity and uprightness of character

obecause these are the qualities that made him do what he was supposed to do in a manner that is a s natural as he loves to do it. This is the unique Robredo that we should know. All the things that we’ve been hearing about him are just products or consequences of those fundamental traits of character that he has which is quite uncommon to most political leaders today.

It is easy to imitate him as in anyone who succeeds him at the helm of the DILG can continue the programs he has initiated such as ‘Seal of Good Housekeeping’ (full disclosure), ‘Seal of Disaster Preparedness’, ‘Gawad Pamana ng Lahi’, ‘Banning Names, Initials and Pictures of  Government Officials on All Government Projects and Properties’, ‘Monitoring Absenteeism of Local Government Officials’   etc. and no one will talk about him like saying “now, here is another Robredo” or worse, people might even say “here is a fake Robredo”. All of these programs were designed to strengthen accountability and transparency of the local government units.

When one seeks to become like Jesse Robredo, it is not enough to do or imitate what he has done. One has to have what made him do the things he loves to do. A lot of heroes who had become ‘great’ were just doing what they believe was the most righteous thing to do during their time, but as to why they were able to do that was because it was inherent in their character and imbibed in them as their life’s philosophy. To them, it was a natural calling and something that they love to do, not what they were forced to do under the circumstances or because they were trying to emulate somebody to be like him.

In his eulogy, Sec. Florencio ‘Butch’ Abad mused about something his friend (a fellow cabinet official) had told him. “Pare, ang hirap naman nitong nangyari kay Sec. Jess..baka pag tayo ang namatay at hindi ganito ang reaksyon ng taumbayan.. baka iba ang sasabihin sa atin”. (I fear something because of what had happened to Sec. Jess.. that when we die and people’s reaction is not like this, they might say something differently). This evoked laughter among those present.

Sec. Abad admits, though, that the way Sec. Robredo lived his public life is “one tough act to follow”. Indeed it is. If your character traits were not molded as to make you so inclined to love what you do above self and beyond personal gains, then it is even more difficult to pretend in the longest time possible. Sec. Robredo’s character traits made him what he loves to do without even trying.

 ”To become like him, not just in demanding good governance, but in working towards it, every man and woman should be a Robredo, whatever our station in life”, admonished Ateneo School of Government Dean Tony La Vina.  Of course, this is easier said than done.

However, if we want Sec. Robredo’s death to be meaningful and immortalize his legacy, “everyone must shape up and follow his examples of honesty, simplicity and ethical leadership” (borrowing the words of Ms. Patricia Sarenas).

I repeat, to be like a Robredo is not just to imitate what he did well. It requires a more profound transformation over time in terms of character and attitude and possessing a natural passion of love for the things that you do. This was confirmed in the words of his second daughter Janine Patricia during the necrological service for her father at the Naga City hall: “Have you ever wondered why he was so good? If you ask me, my answer is he was good because he knows how to love. He loved his job and he loved the people.”

The Robredo magic (i.e. his character traits) is deep within him and not simply his good deeds that we saw. Now, if you have that Robredo ‘magic’ in you, you can be like him. Anyone please? [MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Maugan P. Mosaid is  presently Municipal Administrator of Pikit, North Cotabato. Occasionally, he gives sermon and acts as imam (one who leads in Friday congregation prayers). He holds a PhD in rural development]