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.



This Impeachment Stuff Is Fun, Dad!

Image by diver227 via Flickr

I – Indictment.  An accusation of wrongdoing that remains to be proven.

M – Motion.  A parliamentary procedure initiated to effect change.

P – Political Process.  Being a numbers game, it is not a legal process.

E – Estrada.  He will forever be remembered as the first Philippine President to undergo the impeachment process.

A – Aquino.  Whether he admits it or not, he cannot deny the fact that he has a hand in the impeachment of the Chief Justice.

C – Corona.  The embattled Chief Justice faces a big challenge to defend himself.  He is the first Philippine Chief Justice to be impeached.

H – House of Representatives.  The chamber that starts the ball rolling for the impeachment procedure.

M – Macapagal-Arroyo.  She is the reason why the Chief Justice is in hot water.

E – England.  This was where the first recorded impeachment process was made in the 1300s.

N – Nineteen Eighty-Seven.  The year when the current Philippine constitution was ratified, where the grounds for impeachment include  culpable violation of the Constitution, bribery, graft and corruption, and betrayal of public trust.  Incidentally, the constitution was ratified during the time of President Corazon Aquino, the current President’s mother.

T – Truth.  We all want to trust this impeachment process.  Let the truth come out.


The Lexus and the Olive Tree

Image via Wikipedia

A great democracy must be progressive or it will soon cease to be a great democracy

Theodore Roosevelt

Another day of legal hearings on the true condition of ex-president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo are on the table today.  The bickerings between personalities go on, citing constitutional rights, human rights, rights to confidentiality of medical records, and whatever rights come to the mind of the orators.  While this is ongoing, other issues remain.  The Maguindanao massacre continues to progress at snail’s pace.  A new province in the Bicol region is being created, apparently with the goal of resolving some political territorial issues.  The problem of insurgency in isolated sections of Mindanao (which I think is a beautiful place and is relatively peaceful in most areas) persists, and there is no end in sight.  All these are placing a dent on our democratic institutions.  Is something wrong with our people?  Or is the constitution on which our democracy is based flawed in the first place?

In The Lexus and the Olive Tree, Thomas Friedman coined the statement called “MIDS”, or Microchip Immune Deficiency.  This microchip, in political terms, may represent a country’s system of government as defined by its constitution. He says that this is a disease that can afflict any bloated, overweight, sclerotic political system in the post cold war era.  Friedman states that government needs to put in place processes for the democratization of technology, finance, information, decision making and power. They need to improve productivity, wages, quality of life, knowledge use, and competitiveness in order to survive the onset of globalization. If a country fails in doing this, they will not be able to compete, and its roots could be traced to a populace that is dictated upon due to lack of education.

I believe in progress.  But for progress to happen, there must be an educated public.  Sadly, our teaching institutions are deteriorating.  No Philippine University was able to make it in the list of the top 300 universities in the world.  We are losing our MDs and PhDs to other countries.  Our research output leaves much to be desired.  Students tend to cease educating themselves after getting diplomas and focus on economic upgrades instead, which is more “showy” and “cool” than intellectual upgrades.  I have a feeling that too much materialism and capitalism is creeping in, without the necessary moral and educational foundation to support and sustain economic progress.

Let us put an end to systems based on personalities political clout.  Instead, let us educate ourselves on the technologies and ideologies needed to sustain a government that is both accountable and effective.  The Philippine populace is too hardworking and talented, and I believe that it would only be a matter of time before we realize our dream of being at par with the world’s best in terms of economy, education, sports, and natural resources.  But this could only happen if we put emphasis on improving our educational systems and putting the right teaching infrastructure in place.

After all, if democracy is a numbers game, we must make sure that everyone is equipped with the neurons to make a wise choice.


”]Cover of "Bruce Almighty [Blu-ray]"

“No one absolutely has to do anything.  The choice is always yours.”

–  Michael V. Pantalon, PhD, author of INSTANT INFLUENCE

Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is under fire.  After being disallowed to leave the country by the Justice Department, she was served an arrest warrant for electoral sabotage.  Everyone is now telling other people what to do – from ex-president GMA’s lawyers telling the Supreme Court to reverse the Department of Justice’s decision to the Philippine Medical Association telling Elena Bautista Horn to reconsider her statement regarding the competency of medical specialists in our country.  People are asking for apologies, reconsiderations, and statement retractions.  Will they get what they want?

Michael V. Pantalon gave us a very good insight on the power of respecting the autonomy of people in order to influence them and change their minds.  He claims that asking resistant people to defend their decision and challenge their thinking is a futile effort.  We can threaten others, but this threat will only result in anger or resentment, not a change of heart.  In order to motivate someone to change, we must assure them that we accept and support their autonomy.  You cannot simply ask a lawyer to reconsider a decision.  Nor can you tell a person who disrespects your medical opinion to retract their public declaration of your incompetence.  Doing that would be an exercise in futility.

How do you convince others to accept your point of view?  Do you yell at them?  Do you impose your position your subordinates or your expertise on your patients?  Do you threaten with punishment or withdrawal of support?  If you’ve done any of the above, were you successful?  Were you able to effect positive change, or did the effort worsen you and your relationships?

Free will is a God-given gift.  In the movie “Bruce Almighty“, God (played by Morgan Freeman) grants Bruce (Jim Carrey) all of His powers. The limitation was that Bruce cannot interfere with free will.  So no matter what godly powers Bruce had, he could not force others to do what he wanted, including changing the mind of the woman he loved.  Even the Bible explicitly states that it is not God’s will that any person would perish (1 Tim. 2:4; 2 Pet 3:9). But many nevertheless do perish. Hence, it is clear that God’s will is not always accomplished.  If God, can’t force us to do good all the time, what more can we mere mortals do to influence others through force?

So how do we influence others to consider our point of view?  Dr. Pantalon says we should start by assuring others that they always have freedom to choose, and that we must support one’s autonomy.  Everybody is motivated to do good, and reinforcing autonomy makes it easier for a person to find reasons to do what is right.  It requires a leap of faith, but the fact is people won’t act due to your reasons but for their own reasons.  Even a child’s free will must be respected, and disciplinary actions based on instilling fear or punishment would make children bitter and nurture resentment.

So the next time you find yourself itching to force your employee, colleague, spouse, or child to take action, think of ways to reinforce their autonomy and free will first.  After all, in most arguments and misunderstandings, it is better to be kind than to be right.


Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, President of the Phil...

Image via Wikipedia

“I am not convinced of any exceptional reason, circumstance or justification for us to grant request. There is no immediate and compelling necessity for the former president to seek treatment abroad as attested to by Health Secretary Enrique Ona…”

–  Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on her decision to disallow former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to travel abroad


So it’s final (or so it seems).  The Aquino government, through Justice Secretary de Lima, has decided to bar Congresswoman Gloria Arroyo from leaving the country.  The condition for which the former president is seeking treatment is called HYPOPARATHYROIDISM.

What is this disease all about?  To understand it, I have created a mnemonic to explain some of its intricacies.

H – Hormonal Problem.  It is due to decreased secretion of parathyroid hormone  or PTH.  PTH is required to maintain adequate calcium levels in the blood.

Y – Why does it happen?  The most common causes are accidental trauma to the parathyroid gland due to neck surgeries and autoimmune destruction of the parathyroid gland.   Uncommon causes include immobilization and lithium use.

P – Potentially serious.  If left untreated, it can lead to death.

O – Osteoporosis or softening of the bone tissues occur in hypoparathyroidism.

P – Pseudohypoparathyroidism, where PTH levels are normal but body tissues are insensitive to PTH, are associated with mental retardation and bone deformities.

A – Abdominal Pain.  Hypoparathyroidism can lead to cramping of the abdominal muscles.

R – Rare disease.  The incidence of hyperparathyroidism increases with age. In persons over the age of 65 years, hyperparathyroidism occurs in one out of every 1,000 men and in 2-3 out of every 1,000 women.

A – Autoimmune invasion or destruction of the parathyroid gland is the most common non-surgical cause of hypoparathyroidism.

T – Thyroid surgery can cause hypoparathyroidism.  This happens due to accidental removal or trauma to the parathyroid gland during thyroidectomy or other neck surgeries.

H – Hypocalcemia.  Decreased parathyroid hormone levels lead to a decrease in blood calcium levels.

Y – Why is calcium important?  Calcium is important for the formation of bones and teeth, blood clotting to diminish bleeding, and the contraction of muscles (including the heart muscle).

R – Renal or kidney reabsorption of calcium is promoted by PTH, which will result in an increase in blood calcium levels.

O – Ophthalmologically speaking, it can also lead to cataracts.

I – Idiopathic, or unknown causes of hypoparathyroidism, have also been documented.

D – Vitamin D synthesis in the body is aided by PTH.

I – Intravenous injection of calcium gluconate can be administered in severe hypocalcemia.

S – Seizures.  When left untreated, hypoparathyroidism can lead to tetanic convulsions due to decreased blood calcium levels.

M – Muscle Cramps and spasms are common.  If it occurs in the muscles of the larynx, it can result in breathing difficulties.


Was the Justice Secretary right in refusing treatment?  Send me your feedback.  Now that you know what hypothyroidism is, you be the judge.