Jesse Robredo, Luis Villafuerte, and Jejomar Binay

Prior to serving in the cabinet of President Benigno Aquino III, the late interior secretary Jesse Robredo earned national and international recognition for his leadership of Naga City, the capital of Camarines Sur province. Robredo served as mayor for six non-consecutive terms, or a total of 19 years. His stint in public office, however, has not been free from controversy.

Two weeks before the May 2007 elections, elements identified with the camp of Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte tried to have then-Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo disqualified from seeking reelection because of citizenship issues. Tributes for the late secretary will certainly dominate the headlines in the days to come, but this is one event that should not be forgotten.

Villafuerte served as president of Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino (KAMPI) until it merged with LAKAS-CMD (the other dominant administration party at that time) in May 2009.  Then-Senator Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo formed KAMPI in 1997 as a launching pad for a potential 1998 presidential bid (she ran and won as the running made of LAKAS-NUCD standard-bearer Jose de Venecia instead).

Jesse Robredo Naga City Mayor
Then-Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo (Credits: Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism)

Robredo was so convinced that the Commission on Elections will rule against him that he persuaded his wife to run for mayor as well. The other candidate for the position is Jojo Villafuerte, a nephew of the elder Villafuerte. The move to have Robredo disqualified from the race gained greater national attention after former president Corazon Aquino and erstwhile members of the Arroyo cabinet announced their support for him.

Aquino went on to describe Robredo as “one of the best mayors (the Philippines) has ever had,” adding that all mayors should be like him. Despite the citizenship issue, Robredo handily won reelection that year, winning by more than 40000 votes. Same as in 1998 when he first became term-limited, Robredo did not field a relative to succeed him as mayor.

In 2007, Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism’s Alecks Pabico quoted Robredo to have said: “Not a relative, not my wife, not anyone who has blood relations with us (will take over my post).” At age 42, Robredo received the coveted Ramon Magsaysay Award for government service in August 2000.

Robredo was awarded Asia’s Nobel Prize for “giving credence to the promise of democracy by demonstrating that effective city management is compatible with yielding power to the people.” Robredo, the citation also states, “demonstrated that democratic government can also be good government.” Looking back now, the attempt to engage an outstanding public servant like Robredo in political trickery definitely looks silly. The ones behind it should be ashamed of themselves.

jejomar binay funny picture
Jesse Robredo and Vice President Jejomar Binay had a minor dispute in 2010 over the interior secretary post

Robredo vs. Binay

Robredo got embroiled in another controversy in 2010. Shortly after being proclaimed as the Vice President, Jejomar Binay expressed his interest to be the interior secretary. Several individuals, most notably Solita “Mareng Winnie” Monsod, publicly dissuaded Aquino from appointing Binay.

The outgoing Naga City mayor eventually landed the job, while Binay largely settled for the positions previously handled by Noli de Castro, his predecessor. Robredo is affiliated with the Liberal Party (or the Balay faction) while Binay is supported by the Samar group.

Robredo and Binay have been able to co-exist peacefully the past two years. However, sometime last year, a public word war erupted between the secretary and Binay’s son Junjun (who succeeded his father as Makati Mayor) after the violent demolition of slums in Guadalupe Viejo, Makati.

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Mark Pere Madrona

The Filipino Scribe (TFS) is managed by Mark Pere Madrona, a multi-awarded writer and licensed professional teacher from the Philippines. Mr. Madrona earned his master’s degree in history from the University of the Philippines-Diliman last 2020. He obtained his bachelor’s degree in journalism cum laude from the same university back in 2010. His area of interests includes Philippine journalism, history, and politics as well as social media. Know more about him here:

3 thoughts on “Jesse Robredo, Luis Villafuerte, and Jejomar Binay

  1. Condolence to his family. Being out of the country for more than 10 years ,I never heard of Robredo before or his name is not familiar with me and now I learned so much about him. thanks for the post.

  2. Jess Robredo
    …to die a hero

    By Apolinario B. Villalobos

    At a young age –
    Showed the world
    He’s that strong;
    Used to the fullest
    What God gave him
    As the stairs of knowledge
    He took one rung at a time-
    Carefully, not to miss the steps…

    Strong leader as a student –
    Many tried to emulate his ways
    Some did try but failed
    To be Jess is not that easy
    His friends proudly said
    Simple ways he had
    But hard to be copied
    A really rare breed, that lad…

    His intellectual thirst was such
    That even three educational degrees
    Seemed not enough to accomplish;
    Took a wife, equally strong
    And like him is intelligent;
    The two built a home
    With a foundation of love
    And pillars of determination…

    Alas! Not long afterwards
    The couple thanked the Lord
    For the three beautiful girls He gave;
    Their joy was such that they did their best
    To mold the three into the same ways
    Into which they grew –
    Respect for others, and love, too
    Respect for time, and money, too…

    At the helm of Naga City, at twenty –nine
    Jess showed that when called to serve others
    Age is just a number, and skill matters;
    Unfazed by responsibilities, he did his best
    By just being him –
    As he checked busted city street lights every night
    As he scraped mud from streets after the floods
    As he helped garbage collectors fill their trucks
    A he patted the back of those who sought his counsel
    As he handed coins to the destitute he met
    As he smiled his way through days of problems
    As he wore the same office uniform just like others
    As he took the bus to Manila and tricycle to functions
    And many more Jess ways…
    Hence, the Magsaysay Award at so young an age!

    Though unfortunate to see high brows
    This was when chosen by P-Noy to head DILG
    Many, as usual tried to block his way
    But just as when he was in Naga,
    He was unfazed, and just worked his best;
    No meetings and official ceremonies
    Stopped Jess from skipping at least one meal –
    One meal with his family, his precious family
    Not even that distant meeting in Cebu one day
    That was the fateful 18th of August 2012
    When he took a Cessna flight for home
    But as nearing Masbate, was distressed…

    For three days, people cried and hoped
    That he was just carried by waves to nearby islets
    Or that a fisherman took him home to recuperate;
    Alarmed but praying to the Lord
    People patiently waited ….
    Until, finally on the 21st of August 2012
    Jess has been brought to shore…

    A hero?…more than a hero I say!
    Politicians who gave him a hard time
    In getting the more than deserved confirmation
    Are now cringing in guilt… suddenly silent
    Alibis are said, but no amount of such
    Could make a cover up for their misdeed;
    They refused to see what Jess had been doing
    For us, his countrymen who for long
    The dirty air of politics we were breathing;
    Politicians whose schedules are filled with investigations
    That did not give much result, but limelight grabbing
    They who played “intelligent”, “hero of the people”
    Are so eerily silent……………………………
    Yes… so silent………….!

    To be a hero is to die with a purpose
    It is only at death
    That others accept what he did for others
    It is a sacrifice for the man and his loved ones
    But what can he do?
    It is God’s will and plan –
    The only way to make others acknowledge him
    The only way to open their eyes to see him
    And open their mind to finally make them think
    That, indeed, he is unselfish, hardworking, etc…

    To die a hero should not be seen as late in coming
    God has a way as to when this should happen
    His acts are done at the right time
    And we, His creatures, His instruments
    Can just wait, most often caught unprepared
    But Jess was not –
    For even as a child, his ways
    Led to his being that –
    A hero, and he died for it….
    Though for others, hard to accept.

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