Sec. Jesse: Icon of Good Governance

MANILA (Updated 4:46 p.m.) — The life of Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Jesse Robredo ended tragically bu this legacy of effective and clean leadership will remain in the hearts and minds of the Filipino people whom he had served with sincerity.

Robredo, a recipient of the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award, brought with him 18 years of solid track record as Naga City mayor before he was tapped in 2010 to head the DILG, a coveted national position.

Up until the night before he died in a plane crash on Saturday, Robredo was focused on soliciting public support for the Full Disclosure Policy (FDP), an instrument that he hoped would advance transparency and accountability in local governance.

Perhaps a fitting substitute to the pending Freedom of Information bill, the FDP requires local government units to disclose in public places 12 key financial documents that show how funds are spent.

As of June 2012, the DILG reported that 1,697 or 99 percent of LGUs have complied with the policy, which was also used as one of the criteria in the conferment of the yearly Seal of Good Housekeeping.

On the same month, 856 LGUs that have qualified for the award have been granted P1.1 billion from the Performance Challenge Fund — money that based on the guidelines are allocated for the poorest of the poor.

This is on top of the DILG’s partnership with the Ugnayan ng mga Barangay at Simbahan (UBAS) to monitor LGU budgets and with Ateneo School of Government and De La Salle University’s monitoring of public services in the local governments.

“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,” Robredo once said.

Robredo also introduced the Seal of Disaster Preparedness, another incentive mechanism to help LGUs deal with disasters and calamities.

As of June, 8,504 LGUs already have functional disaster management councils while 1,539 have command centers and alarm systems. They now have emergency response, rescue, and medical teams, and evacuation centers, according to the DILG.

On the area of strengthening local economies, Robredo worked on weeding out cumbersome documentary processes in setting up businesses.

As part of the country’s commitment to the US-based Millennium Challenge Corporation, the DILG streamlined the business process licensing system of each LGU.

At present, 748 LGUs have already streamlined their BPLS within a two-year period. This has raised revenue collection by as much as 7 percent in Lapu-Lapu City and 18 percent in Butuan City.

The latest National Competitiveness Survey results showed that 70 percent of businessmen respondents received permits in three days or less. Another 17 percent did so in less than two hours.

He also adopted the Performance Management System (LGPMS), a tool to measure LGU performance, by turning it into an assessment tool validated by third-party assessment.

As a result, the number of LGUs that got high overall performance ratings jumped to 1,261 last year from 1,050 in 2010 and 913 in 2009.

Robredo, the President’s alter ego in handling the Philippine National Police (PNP), moved for better civilian security amid threats of terrorism and reports on high crimes such as carnapping and kidnapping.

On Monday, the PNP posted a record 34.17 percent crime solution rating in the first half of 2012. This means three out of 10 crimes led to the arrest of suspects and filing of cases in court.

Crime volume likewise dropped 17.41 percent to 68,154 from January to June 2012 compared to 80,520 incidents in the same period last year.

Police visibility increased with the field deployment of 90 percent of the police force, as opposed to 85 percent previously while setting aside bigger funds for uniforms, shoes and bullets, among other needs.

Through the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), the DILG initiated investigations and formally filed charges against individuals involved in spurious procurement contracts.

Not a walk in the park

Robredo entered the national consciousness in an unflattering manner. To recall, opposition lawmakers and some administration allies were asking for his resignation and deputy Rico Puno due to the mishandling of the Manila hostage crisis on August 23, 2010.

The bungled hostage rescue left eight tourists from Hong Kong dead and triggered icy relations between the Philippines and the former British colony.

Robredo was the vice chairman of the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) that looked into the shooting spree of dismissed policeman Rolando Mendoza.

But his political will was questioned when he distanced himself on the discussion on the accountability of local officials particularly Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, an ally of the President and member of the ruling Liberal Party.

Robredo is the party’s executive vice president.

The incident, in a way, affected his chances to be confirmed by the powerful Commission on Appointments (CA). He was bypassed a couple of times alongside fellow Bicolano Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

On Tuesday, Parañaque City Representative Roilo Golez said Robredo should have been confirmed last August 15 but this was rescheduled to August 29 because lawmakers attended a Requiem Mass and necrological service for Sorsogon Representative Salvador Escudero III, who passed away due to colon cancer last week.

In fact, Robredo had a prepared statement for the upcoming CA hearing, reiterating his commitment to implement the government’s campaign of “straight path” in governance.

“I promised that we have a lot to gain from the reforms we have initiated in the DILG. We have to intensify efforts in bringing progress in local governance and the interior sector. With the help of DILG officials and staff, I will do everything to the best of my ability to reach our dream of building a nation that follows a straight and righteous path,” the statement read.

Now that he’s dead, observers and even Aquino critic, former Lingayen Archbishop Oscar Cruz, said it was crucial that Robredo’s replacement would ensure the continuity of reforms in the DILG.

Robredo’s body was found on Tuesday by search and rescue teams in Masbate City, ending almost three days of waiting.

He was on his way home to Naga City after two speaking engagements in Cebu City, when the twin-engine Piper Seneca aircraft crashed off Obingay village in Masbate City, around 500 meters away from the airport runway.

Fishermen rescued his aide Police Senior Inspector Jun Abrazado after he lost consciousness trying to protect the secretary, but Robredo and the two pilots failed to survive. He was 54. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)