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.



Gloria Arroyo and Renato Corona

Gloria Arroyo and Renato Corona (Photo credit: Piercing Pens)

Sometimes it’s the smallest decisions that can change your life forever.

– Keri Russell

Tomorrow, May 29, 2012, will be a big day in Philippine history.  Chief Justice Renato Corona will be handed a verdict by the Senate that can result in his ouster.  Five months of dramatic debates has come to this moment.  The decision will have a lasting effect on President Benigno Aquino’s goal of altering the image of the Judiciary in particular, and Philippine politicians in general.

But the question remains: will removing the Chief Justice from power result in sustainable changes that will lead to economic development?

Let’s see by looking at the important elements of lasting C.H.A.N.G.E.

C – Commitment.  People have a strong desire to do what is right.  But they must focus on the ultimate goal.  While the removal of the Chief Justice from office may be a start, it does not end there.  There is no magic pill that acts instantly – change, like any other medical treatment, takes time.

H –  Hurdle.  It is painstaking to make changes.  Obstacles must be hurdled.  Undesirable effects will arise, but everyone needs to believe in the system.  A country must surpass the limits of its patience.  If the change would result in a stronger democracy, let us accept the minor setbacks along the way.

A – Associate.  One man is not enough to make changes.  While one can exert influence and trigger change, social support is necessary.  A divided nation with people acting on their own interests will not get the job done.  We started the concept of People Power – let us, as Filipinos, keep its spirit alive.

N – Numbers.  Democracy, like it or not, is ruled by the majority.  Its premise is that the voice of the people is the voice of God.  A limited few cannot constitute the majority that builds a snowball effect.  When people flooded the streets in great numbers in EDSA 26 years ago, the seemingly impossible change became possible.  Now, more than ever, we need to demand our leaders to be accountable for their actions.  And with great numbers, no leader worth his salt can afford to ignore the mob.

G – Genuine goodness.  Be an honest citizen.  Abide by the laws.  Never circumvent the process and hide through technicalities.  Not a single drop of dishonesty must pass through your veins.  It’s high time to get out of ourselves, and think of the welfare of all.

E – Environment.  Take care of mother nature.  Be wary of short-term gains at the expense of the long-term effect on the environment.  The world we live in is crucial, because if it is altered beyond repair, we will no longer have the resources to sustain us.

Will the Corona impeachment create sustainable change?  It’s not up to the senators.  Ultimately, it’s all up to us.



Image by Sean MacEntee via Flickr

All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.
–  Sun Tzu

The Corona Trial is underway.  The prosecutors and defendants are locked in the heat of battle.  On the prosecutor side, the strategy is to highlight the Chief Justice‘s lack of moral leadership.  For the defense, having in its fold a former supreme court justice gives them the edge in terms of legal intellect.  It seems as if this is a debate between students and professors, of high energy youngsters against grizzled veterans of the courtroom.  Let’s see which side takes advantage of their strengths and pounces on the weakness of the opponent.

So why do both sides need to strategize?  The reason is obvious.  In any battle, a good strategic plan will carry you towards your desired endpoint.  Whether in sports, business, or in this game called life, beginning with the end in mind (as pointed out by Steven Covey) is already half the battle won.

What are the characteristics of a good strategy?  Let’s make its elements easy to remember.

S – A good strategy must be able to STEER us towards the right course of action.

T – A strategic plan must be TIME-BOUND so we can set a deadline for the accomplishment of essential tasks.

R – We must identify the RESOURCES available to us in carrying out the plan.

A – Realize what your ADVANTAGE is.  Focus on your strengths instead of your weaknesses, and use these strengths to offset threats.

T – Pick out the key people on your side and work in synchrony.  TEAMWORK is vital.

E – EXPLOIT opportunities.  This means your strategy could change depending on the situation you face.

G – Have a clear-cut GOAL.  Avoid distractions that can lead you astray.

Y –  Finally, your strategy must be YOURS.  Never let others dictate upon it.

So who emerges on top?  Prosecution or defense?  Let the senators be the judge, while we watch on the sidelines.  But remember to be involved – this trial is crucial for our country’s democracy.



Jose Rizal, the national hero of the Philippin...

Image via Wikipedia

Today is Rizal day.  How much do you know the Philippine National Hero?

J – Jesuit-trained.  Dr. Jose Rizal was one of the most outstanding students of the Ateneo de Manila University, which was established by Spanish Jesuits in 1859.

O – Ophthalmologist – Upon learning that his mother was going blind, he decided to study medicine specializing in ophthalmology at the University of Santo Tomas.

S – Symbolism.  This is what Rizal did to depict the prevailing situation in the Philippines through the novels Noli Me Tangere and El Filibusterismo.  The novels depicted the religious atrocities and political ills during his time.

E – El Filibusterismo.  Contrary to popular belief that he did not support armed conflict, Rizal was actually preparing Filipinos for inevitable war with the Spaniards through this novel.

R – Reading.  As early as 2 years old, it is said that Rizal already learned how to read and write.

I – Intellectual.  Jose Rizal’s IQ is estimated to be in the 150-160 point range of the Guassian bell curve. He was a genius and a polymath.

Z – Zoologist.  Rizal studied animal physiology, and as much as possible, he did not wish fowls to be killed even for food.

A – Actor.  Rizal acted as a character in one of Juan Luna’s paintings and acted in school dramas.

L – Lover.  Rizal loved animals, music, traveling, and yes, women!


A map of Mindanao color-coded by regions. ARMM...

Image via Wikipedia

God does not force us to believe in him, though he could. Instead, he has provided sufficient proof of his existence for us to willingly respond to him. 

– Marilyn Adamson

Another disaster has struck our country.   As of last count, a total of 976 people have been confirmed killed and 46 remained missing from the onslaught of tropical storm Sendong in seven regions in Mindanao and Visayas.  A national calamity has been declared, and various groups have started organized efforts for relief and rehabilitation.

It is easy to blame other people when we experience difficulties.  Our government officials are now doing this.  Every time something like this happens, it’s sad that no one likes to assume responsibility.  I have yet to see a leader in this country who assumes the burden of accepting blame, even if he or she is not directly responsible for the events leading to a crisis.  Hopefully, the leader who knows what true leadership is about is within our midst, waiting for a chance to be identified and elected.

Victims also tend to question the existence of God when disaster strikes.  I hope this does not happen.  For those in doubt, I have read a very good article to prove the existence of a supreme being.  Never lose hope in the face of adversity – I know that there is a God who will carry us through no matter who we are and no matter what situation we are in.  And while God cannot be with us physically, let us remember that He can use each one of us as an instrument of His unlimited kindness and generosity.

National leaders, religious leaders, and psychiatrists hog the limelight during media interviews, offering help, suggestions, and future plans for prevention.  The bottom line in all this lies in finding ways to truly be of service to those in need of assistance.

So what can we do now?  The least we can do is to help.  Donate to charities, or simply provide manpower and assistance to your community’s efforts to extend a helping hand.  Let us all make the world know again how much the Filipino people‘s spirit of BAYANIHAN can overcome any obstacles.  We owe it to our God, to our country, and to our fellowmen.

Does God Exist? –

Sendong aftermath photos:


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.


”]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.


Over the weekend, I visited Dr. Jesus “Jet” Comia, a good friend of mine who practices in a not-so-remote town in Unisan, Quezon Province.  His dedication is noteworthy.  Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, he is available to render medical services to everyone from newborn infants to geriatric age groups.  He may not be your typical highly-paid medical specialist from the big city, but his experience is evident in  the trust and confidence given to him by his patients.

It is a great challenge to practice community medicine in this country.  There is a perception that the best doctors are practicing in the metropolis, with its high cost of health care.  While the modernization of medical management necessitates the use of complex machines and diagnostics, there is one thing that will never change – human interaction.  After all, medicine was, is, and will always be a relationship business.

Upgrading the Philippine health care system is not just a matter of bringing in the technology.  Above all, there be must be a paradigm shift – a substantial change in the perception, attitudes, and practices of the doctors and the population they serve.  For younger physicians, they must stop thinking that the only route to become a respected doctor is to specialize.  There are a lot of opportunities to start a practice in a rural setting.  This is what my friend did.  It may not sound glamorous for some, but beyond the flashy cars and the expensive outfits, the essence of being a physician is to be of service to those who need you most.  Besides, Jet is not doing bad.  In fact, he now has his own car and a beautiful and spacious 2-storey mansion with his wife and 4 kids.

For the non-physician, it is also important to find a good physician whom you can trust for the rest of your life.  Never underestimate the value of continuity of care.  Doctor shopping or having multiple specialists taking care of your body is, in my opinion, counterproductive.  While multispecialty care is essential in acute cases, for long-term care it pays to have just one trusted doctor overseeing your progress.  Not only is it less costly, it also furthers the relationship between patient and the physician which unfortunately is starting to disappear these days.  It’s no wonder why the number of medico-legal cases is on the rise.

Our public health system has a lot of wrinkles that must be ironed out in order to upgrade our morbidity and mortality rates and improve patient satisfaction.  But no matter how complicated things are right now, the starting point is always found in the smallest, remotest of areas.  We may have a lot to learn about medical care from those humble and faceless health care practitioners whose dedication and commitment are a blessing to the least of our brethren.