Jesse Robredo

Jesse Robredo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

“I always say that we have already raised the bar of public service. However, it’s not enough that we are good or effective. We need to have both qualities so that we can be rightful custodians of public coffers.”

–  Jesse Robredo

Once again, death seals a legacy of greatness.

Mostly ignored and taken for granted during his lifetime, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Jesse Robredo is now hailed as the epitome of a servant leader.  The low-key cabinet official has inspired people from all over the country – with stories of his touring his hometown of Naga City in a bicycle, engaging with his constituents clad in shorts and slippers, and being extremely approachable and humble.  Until his untimely demise last August 18, 2012, he was still to be confirmed by the Commission on Appointments – a sad fact that reflects on the political maneuverings taking place in the inner circles of government.

What made Jesse Robredo an effective leader?  It can all be summarized in his good name:  JESSE ROBREDO.

J – Justice-driven

According to an article by Rina Jimenez-David published in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the DILG headed by Robredo coordinated with the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) to file charges against individuals involved in questionable procurement contracts.  As the handler of the Philippine National Police (PNP), he supported initiatives for better civilian security to counteract terrorism, carnapping, and kidnapping.  Thus, crime volume dropped 17.41 percent from January to June 2012 compared to the same period in 2011.

Police visibility also increased with the deployment of 90 percent of the police force, as opposed to 85 percent previously.  Robredo also provided bigger logistical funds for the police.  Thus, more crimes now lead to the arrest of suspects and filing of cases in court.

E – Effective

Jesse broke down barriers that separated people and ideas.  He was a consensus builder; he truly helped people, and in effect, he touched lives.  He was effective because he cared, not because he exhibited what he knew as an educated individual.

As Mayor of Naga City, Jesse encouraged people participation in governance.  His system involves various sectors being involved in planning, implementing, and monitoring projects.  He accomplished things efficiently, not forcibly.  And best of all, he never used coercion or an iron fist to attain his objective.

S – Servant Leader

Energy Secretary Rene Almendras coined the term “tsinelas leadership” for Secretary Robredo.  The “tsinelas”, or “rubber slippers”, is the usual footwear worn by the common man. “Tsinelas leadership” is about the readiness to wade in floodwaters – the determination to go where no man dares to go to serve people.  He was said to be one of the most well-traveled Cabinet members, because he went to many places where most national officials would back out, just to reach out to those in need.  That’s servant leadership.

S – Simple

According to Atty. Leni Robredo, Jesse’s wife, his multi-awarded husband was also just a regular husband and a regular father who also had to do household chores.  He was the one the family turned to when their house needed repairs, and he would do it on weekends when he gets home.  He was very simple with ordinary interests.  During the weekend, when he is in Naga City, he would just wear his t-shirt, shorts, and slippers, biking around town sans security.  Most of all, he refused to live in plush neighborhoods, choosing to stay in a simple apartment in Naga.

E – Efficient and Productive

Under Robredo’s leadership, the City of Naga conceptualized a program to bring out the city’s potential as an economic hub.  This involved the provision of services to meet the requirements of the people.  Robredo focused on getting optimum results with minimal spending, without sacrificing quality.  Services were also made accessible and acceptable on the principle of “the greatest good for the greatest number.”

R – Responsive

Congressman Dato Arroyo, son of Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, said that when he was still in college,  then-Naga City Mayor Jesse would tell him not to hesitate to call or ask for help. Even as DILG Secretary, Jesse would still extend a helping hand to Dato- even if they belong to opposing political parties.  Such was Robredo’s responsiveness – going beyond political barriers.

O – Objective

Secretary Robredo adopted a Performance Management System tool to objectively measure the performance of local governments.  This assessment tool is validated by a third party to ensure impartiality.  As a result, the number of local governments which got high overall performance ratings jumped to 1,261 last year from 1,050 in 2010 and 913 in 2009.

B – Burden Easer

According to Department of Transportation and Communication Secretary Manuel “Mar” Roxas, Jesse always eases the burden of his superiors whenever there is a crisis.  He tells everyone that he will be the one to do it himself.  No problem was too small to merit the attention of Jesse.  He resolved the big or small problems that were presented to him.  He is there after a every natural or man-made calamity, and he would be very frugal and responsible in public spending.

R – Religious

Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) President and Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma took privilege and honor in officiating a mass for Robredo.  Palma noted that he was touched upon learning of Robredo’s habit of going to confession regularly.  He also mentioned that the fact that his wake was held at the Naga City Cathedral shows his closeness to the church.

E – Egalitarian

It is said that Jesse Robredo prioritized the needs of the poor.  He improved public services in Naga City, and established day care centers in barangays.  He raised productivity through a merit system that rewards performance in order to avoid favoritism and nepotism.  His empowerment ordinance was embraced by the people.  And when it was time for him to step down, he refused to establish a political dynasty, giving other people a chance at leadership.  If there is anything that will establish the legend of Jesse Robredo, it would be his ability to treat everyone equally.

D – Dutiful

During his commencement address to the graduates of Ateneo de Manila University Class of 2003, while he was still the mayor of Naga City, Robredo emphasized that desire and commitment to duty far outweigh knowledge and skill. He uttered that success is measured in terms of how pleased you are with the results of your labors- not as to how other people define it.  For Jesse, neither successes nor conquests give satisfaction. It is paying back to the community that nurtured you that matters.

O – Obedient

According to Valenzuela Mayor Sherwin Gatchalian, who volunteered to help Jesse with the Commission on Appointments, Jesse was so humble to follow his recommendations for confirmation.  On his last day here on earth, it is said that he was in Cebu because he was ordered to be there by the President himself.  He obeyed, even if it meant that he might not be able to make it to an awarding ceremony for his daughter in Naga City.  In his attempt to make it on time for his daughter, he chartered an ill-fated plane, leading to his demise.

Goodbye, Secretary Robredo.  You will surely be missed.


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