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Nation joins Naga mourn loss of Jesse Robredo

Farewell Jesse. (Photo from

MANILA, Philippines (Aug 22, 2012) - The remains of Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo is now on closed casket public viewing at the Archbishop's residence in Naga City as tributes pour in from the entire country and even from other parts of the world.

Supporters line up to pay their respect to Naga City's idol. But they will not see any body parts because the Robredos decided to keep the coffin closed because Jesse's body, submerged in sea water for three days, is reportedly badly damaged and almost beyond recognition.

The search for Sec. Robredo ended yesterday in waters 180 feet deep and some 800 meters from the coast of Masbate.

Transportation Secretary Manuel Roxas II confirmed that three technical divers – two Britons and a Filipina – found yesterday morning the fuselage of the ill-fated twin-engine Piper Seneca with Robredo’s remains still strapped to his seat.

A teary-eyed Roxas made the sign of the cross before announcing the development to reporters in Masbate, where the light plane had tried to make an emergency landing before crashing last Saturday.

“At 7:45 a.m., roughly about 800 meters from shore, at a depth of roughly 180 feet, the fuselage has been found. At 8:15 a.m., it has been confirmed that the recovered body was that of Secretary Robredo. We have informed the President, who later spoke with Mrs. Robredo,” Roxas told reporters.

He said Robredo’s remains were brought to the surface at around 8:30 to 8:40 a.m., placed in a body bag and loaded onto a Philippine Coast Guard vessel. Robredo was 54.

“Divers were very careful in bringing Secretary Robredo’s body to the surface, considering the fact that he has been underwater for two days. It’s not that easy. With the changing pressure and changing atmosphere, it’s very complicated,” said Roxas.

Robredo’s remains were brought to Barangay Kinamaligan in Masbate for embalming.

Roxas also said they were seeking the help of forensic experts from the Navy, the Philippine National Police, and the Department of Health to ensure Robredo’s body does not decompose quickly.

Roxas said they shifted to search and retrieval operations at 9:30 a.m. for pilot Jessup Bahinting and Nepalese co-pilot Kshitiz Chand.

Robredo’s aide Senior Inspector June Paulo Abrazado Jr. survived the crash.

“Ongoing pa operation to get Bahinting and Nepalese, all the needed resources of the government will be made available to retrieve the two pilots,” he added.

Based on divers’ accounts, Roxas said the fuselage of the Piper Seneca was upside down and sitting precariously near a slope, making it harder for divers to extricate the pilots’ bodies.

He said the divers were worried a slight disturbance might cause the fuselage to slide into a deeper portion of the seabed.

“The airplane was in inverted position with its head touching the seabed, and in that configuration the two pilots are at the dashboard of the cockpit, in deepest part of the cockpit,” he said.

About 600 people, 17 vessels of various sizes, and nine aircraft took part in the search and rescue operations, which started late Saturday.

The DOTC chief said the President was very quiet when he relayed to him the discovery of the missing aircraft and the remains of Robredo and the two pilots.

“The President was very quiet, he sought absolute confirmation, and when (the information about Robredo’s body was) confirmed, I had to call him back,” said Roxas. The President called Mrs. Robredo at about 8:15 a.m. to tell her the news.

“He (President Aquino) wanted to make sure somebody is beside Ma’m Leni when he informs her. Unfortunately, she was in her house and those we knew who are close to her were quite far way. So we decided to inform Ma’m Leni directly, rather than have her hear speculations,” he added.


Roxas said that as early as 7:45 a.m. there were already signs of a breakthrough in the search.

“The diver could not come up directly to the surface so he had to stay underwater for his deco (decompression). So he sent up his slate with written information that fuselage found,” Roxas explained.

The next information from British diver Matt Reed was a confirmation that Robredo’s remains had been found. Reed had been briefed about Robredo’s physical features as well as the clothes he was wearing at the time of the crash. Robredo’s remains, according to Reed, were found at the back portion of the fuselage near a door.

The families of the two missing pilots were in Masbate yesterday awaiting the outcome of the ongoing retrieval operations.

Margarita Bahinting, the widow of pilot Jessup Bahinting, said she has already accepted the fate of her husband.

“He was a loving and a model husband,” said Margarita, adding that their son called her up to say that “God has taken him away because we are already grown up.” Bahinting was a preacher.

“He has already helped a lot of people while he was alive and I have to accept that dad is gone, although it’s very painful to lose a father who loves us so much,” Margarita quoted their son as saying. “Maybe God knows better to make us undergo this kind of trial so we have to accept it.”

Bahinting is considered a local hero in Cebu for helping a number of people during emergencies. He was remembered for flying an anti-venom antidote through bad weather to save a zookeeper bitten by a cobra.

Robredo reportedly handpicked Bahinting to fly him from Cebu to Naga City.

Irene Angela, executive assistant of the DILG chief, said the wake for the late DILG secretary would be held at the Archbishop’s Palace.

Robredo family spokesman city councilor Jun Labadia said barangay officials of Naga City had already come up with the plan of who would be in-charge of the vigil being readied for the former city mayor.

Yellow ribbons now festoon the late DILG chief’s residence.

Naga City residents recalled Robredo’s effort as mayor to empower his constituents and set himself as an example of hard work, simplicity, and discipline.

They said Robredo would often make inspection trips around the city in casual clothes or in slippers. He would also routinely interact with barangay officials and spearhead relief efforts during emergencies.

It was he who initiated the naming of Naga City’s major thoroughfare Ninoy and Cory Aquino Avenue.

President Aquino flew back to Masbate from Manila along with some Cabinet members to accompany the remains of Robredo to Naga City Airport, where arrival honors were held.

“You’re home now, Jesse,” Roxas said in his tweet as the C-130 cargo plane arrived at the Naga City airport.

Robredo’s wife, lawyer Maria Leonor or Leni, and daughters Jessica Marie, 24, Janine Patricia, 18 and Jillian Therese, 12, led hundreds of city residents in meeting the remains of the late DILG chief.

Placards and streamers with the message “We love you, Pogi!” were all over the place. Pogi (handsome) is Robredo’s popular moniker in Naga.

Robredo’s casket was draped with a Philippine flag.

After military honors, Robredo’s remains were brought to the Archbishop’s Palace across the Naga . (From