Source: The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines – Three days after his plane crashed in waters off Masbate City, Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo is finally reunited with his family in Naga City.
“You’re home now, Jesse,” Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas tweeted as the C-130 cargo plane carrying the remains of the late secretary arrived before 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Naga City airport.
President Benigno Aquino III headed the team that transported Robredo to Naga City and handed the remains to his three daughters and wife Lenie.
Roxas said that as soon as the metal casket of Robredo was carried out of the plane, he heard “honors drumming slow cadence, trumpet with mournful wail.”
“So tearfully sad,” Roxas, who was obviously holding back his tears when he was announcing before the nation on Tuesday morning that Robredo’s body has been recovered by technical divers from the wreckage of a Piper Seneca plane that crashed on Saturday afternoon.
Robredo came from Cebu City and was returning to Naga City to watch his youngest daughter in a swimming competition when the six-seater light plane crashed while making an emergency landing in Masbate City.
The bodies of the plane’s two pilots have also been found by the divers.
At past 1:30 p.m., the remains of the secretary arrived at the Funeraria Imperial.
Aquino and the other members of his Cabinet – Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Defense chief Voltaire Gazmin – accompanied the wife and three daughters of the secretary inside the funeral parlor.
From the funeral parlor, the body was expected to brought to the Archbishop’s Palace in front of the Naga City Cathedral.
Roxas announced earlier that Robredo’s body was recovered from a depth of at least 180 feet and a distance of 800 meters from the shore of Masbate City.
“May malungkot tayong balita… At 8:15 a.m. confirmed na ang isa sa mga katawan ay kay Secretary Jess Robredo,” Roxas tearfully announced before the media.
He said that after an “eyeball confirmation” that the recovered body was that of Robredo, President Benigno Aquino III immediately informed the late secretary’s wife of the recovery over the phone.
He added that the big brother of the late secretary, Butch Robredo, has also been told of the sad news. The elder Robredo earlier said that he was one of those who confirmed that the body was that of his younger brother.
Roxas said that technical divers found the fuselage of the missing Piper Seneca plane at around 7:25 a.m. The divers were able to get near the fuselage and spotted three bodies, including that of Robredo and the two missing pilots Jessup Bahinting and Nepali Kshitiz Chand.
He said that the body of Robredo was surfaced by the divers at around 8:40 a.m. and it was immediately placed in a body bag and transported to a waiting ship of the Philippine Coast Guard.
Robredo went missing after the Piper Seneca plane plunged into the waters off Masbate City on Saturday afternoon.
A fourth occupant of the light plane, Senior Inspector Jun Abrazado, was rescued alive hours after the plane crash.
Aquino, accompanied by a number of his cabinet officials, flew to Masbate to direct the search and rescue operations and has remained in the province from Sunday to Monday afternoon.
The President left for Manila to prepare for celebrations for the Ninoy Aquino Day today, August 21. He immediately flew to Masbate City to fetch the body.
The 54-year-old Robredo was mayor of Naga City for six terms since 1988 before he was appointed secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government in 2010.
Robredo is also one of the founders of the Kaya Natin Movement, which is composed of local officials and groups advocating good governance.
Sen. Teofisto Guingona III said “the country lost a bastion of good governance.”
“At Kaya Natin, we have lost a founder, our teammate, our friend. RIP Jesse,” Guingona said.
Sen. Francis Pangilinan said that he was “dumbfounded by the news.”
“We are deeply saddened by this latest news confirming that Sec. Jesse’s body has been retrieved,” Pangilinan said. “He was a longtime friend and a political ally. The nation has lost a dedicated and committed public servant.”
Supporters and friends held Mass at the De La Salle University in Greenhills, San Juan City, for the late secretary at around 11 a.m. Another Mass was scheduled for 4 p.m.