I started this blog with an elegy for Whitney Houston. These past two months I had a short entry about Dolphy, and an essay about the shootings in Aurora, CO.
Now, here I am, mourning the loss of Jesse Robredo, our well-loved Secretary for the Department of the Interior and Local Government here in the Philippines.
Like many Filipinos of my generation, we hoped against hope that he would be found alive, that the reports were true about the lucky fisherman who may or may not have seen him floating in the ocean. We were on the edge of our seats, secretly chanting the same words: Bring him home.
Then the hours passed: 24, 48…
His body was found on August 21 – ironically, on the death anniversary of Ninoy Aquino, another precedent for transformational leadership in this country.
I’ve never met the man, but I’ve followed his career; he was a Bicolanon, just like my mother, and well-loved throughout the whole region even before he joined the Cabinet. He didn’t always get everything right, but what he did gave us hope that there are people in government who can truly be, to paraphrase Gandhi, the change they wanted to be, without having to sully themselves in the dark pits of corruption.
He died while doing both of his duties simultaneously: to his country, through his official business in Cebu, and to his family, who was so important to him that he made a point of joining them on the other side of the country in Naga.
I’m not too sure that Jesse Robredo would’ve made a great President; I don’t even think he would have survived running for the Senate – if he was to do so in 2013 – without his principles being compromised. But he was, without a doubt, a good man.
This long tweet (taken in verbatim) from Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago sums it up:
Every body else was gobsmacked with what happened, like I’m bushwacked because we never expected it. In my mind, it raises again the question of the problem of evil. We know when a person dies, but we don’t know why a person dies. This is basically the question of the suffering of the innocent, which is also known in theology as the problem of evil. Why does a person have to die? You, and including myself, have our own nominees who should have been there in that piper plane. But of all these dozens of people we could nominate, why did it have to be him? There is no answer to that theologically. To be able to answer that you have to know the mind of God, and since God is inaccessible to the human mind (He is perhaps accessible in a spiritual level that we could never reach while we are here on Earth), it would be very presumptuous for people to say that it was God’s will. But that is the end of his life. He was a good and honest man. When I ran for president in 1992, he took the initiative to invite me for dinner in his humble home. And he was saying that he was hoping he could follow my footsteps in government; his wife was saying that she was hoping to become a lawyer like me. All this has taken place. And I was very proud when he became a Cabinet member, although he was not bombastic — that was his way. This is ineffable. It is beyond words. It’s just a loss.