Source: The Daily Tribune
Home is Robredo, home from the sea
The body of Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo arrived at 10:30 a.m. at the Villamor Airbase in Pasay City. With him was his wife Leni, together with honorary pall bearers DoTC Chief Mar Roxas, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Kaya Natin! Movement Harvey Keh, Cavite Rep. Joseph Abaya, Urban Poor Associates Alice Murphy and Joan de la Cruz of the DILG.Bert AmorosoTop government officials, Cabinet members, lawmakers and dignitaries flocked to Malacañang yesterday to pay their last respects to the late Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo who died in the plane crash off the coast of Masbate last Aug. 18.
President Aquino received the remains of Robredo at the Kalayaan Grounds in Malacañang for the state funeral.
More than 70 diplomats representing foreign governments and organizations also yesterday trooped to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) to sign a condolence book and express grief for the passing of the DILG chief.
The World Bank, through its acting country director in the Philippines Chiyo Kanda, also paid a tribute for Robredo’s inspiring effort to introduce transparency, accountability and overall efficiency in local governments in the country.
Robredo’s remains arrived at the Palace ground around 11 a.m. and were given arrival honors by the Presidential Security Group (PSG), including a 19-gun salute. The arrival honors were integral part of the state funeral for the late DILG secretary.
Members of the Philippine Air Force aboard the presidential chopper showered paper confetti as the casket was being transferred from the hearse by eight Presidential Security Group (PSG) casket bearers to the ceremonial grounds.
Malacañang’s media bureau describes the state funeral as a landmark of sorts as Robredo does not only get to be the first Cabinet member to be accorded such honor, but also the first to have been allowed to lie in state at the Kalayaan Hall.
A check by the Tribune showed that only presidents are allowed to lie in state at the Palace.
Robredo’s wake was open for public viewing at the Kalayaan Hall since last night and the whole day today before he is flown back to Naga City.
“Traditionally, only the President and former Presidents have lain in state in Malacañan Palace, specifically in Rizal Hall. There have been cases though, when wakes have been held at Heroes’ Hall,” according to a statement released by the Committee on Funeral Arrangements and Burial of the late DILG secretary.
The President, former Presidents, the Vice President, former Vice Presidents, the Senate President, and the Speaker of the House are entitled to a state funeral.
The National Artists and National Scientists have the right to be given a state funeral by virtue of law.
The President, in his capacity as head of state and commander-in-chief, has the prerogative of ordering a state funeral for any citizen who is deemed of sufficient stature to deserve such an honor.
On Sunday morning, the body of the late secretary will be brought back to the Villamor Airbase en route to Pili Airport in Camarines Sur. Departure honors will be rendered by the PSG in Malacanang.
A funeral mass will be held on Tuesday morning and Aquino is expected to deliver a eulogy for the late DILG secretary.
At a eulogy for Robredo, Kanda said the late secretary’s appointment as head of the DILG “marked an important shift in the focus and commitment of the government to reforms.”
Kanda ended her tribute by quoting from Robredo’s speech at the 20th Anniversary of the Local Government Code last year: “What brings us together is far more powerful than what pulls us apart. What brings us together is the welfare of our people, the greatness of this nation, the best legacy that we can provide to our children’s children is the knowledge that we walked the ‘matuwid na daan’ (straight path) and turned this nation into a great one.”
“Your legacy will continue so long as the people of the Philippines remember you,” Kanda said. “Your dream will live on — so long as we all embrace your spirit in our hearts.”
In Legazpi City, the Albay provincial government has formed a committee to represent the province in paying homage to Robredo, and express the Albayanos’ sympathy and grief with his family.
Following the confirmation of his death and retrieval of his remains, Albay Gov. Joey Salceda immediately issued an executive order to fly the Philippine flag at half mast in all public places in the province, and drape the provincial capitol here in black cloth.
Salceda pointed out that Robredo has put Naga City, where he was mayor for many, many years in the map not only of the Philippines but in the whole world especially in Asia as one of the most progressive cities on account of his enlightened leadership and his expertise in management that propelled the growth of the city.
Meanwhile, the emergency location transmitter (ELT) of the ill-fated Piper Seneca plane failed to activate when it crashed in the waters off Masbate City, killing Robredo and two pilots.
According to the initial inspection of the three-man Aircraft Accident Investigation and Inquiry Board (AAIIB) investigation team of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), the plane’s ELT was in the off position, indicating that it failed to activate upon impact.
CAAP director general William Hotchkiss III said prior to the Saturday plane accident, the plane’s ELT was functioning well when they conducted regular routine check on Nov. 21, 2011. The routine check was valid for one year.
“It is too early to speculate, our investigating team is still examining the plane wreckage to determine the cause of the accident,” Hotchkiss said.
The ELT, a device that automatically activates when a plane encounters emergency landing, was found with the plane wreckage last Wednesday but the right engine of the plane is yet to be recovered. The plane wreckage is now under tight security at the Masbate airport.
The CAAP chief said search and retrieval of the plane engine is ongoing.
“The engine is a key part of our investigation. This will determine if indeed it was due to technical or mechanical problem that caused it to fail,” Hotchkiss said.
Hotchkiss also dismissed speculations that diluted aviation fuel was used by the plane that caused the fatal crash, saying “premature conjectures like this will not help CAAP’s investigation.”
According to him, part of their investigation is to check the fuel used in the engine and trace where the plane last refueled prior to its flight from Cebu to Naga City.
The AAIIB is also reconstructing the flight path of the ill-fated plane including communication between control towers and the pilot.
The CAAP’s investigating team has already taken the statements of key witnesses and will issue subpoena to others including survivor Senior Insp. June Paolo Abrazado, Robredo’s aide-de-camp, to shed light on the incident.
“It will not be an easy investigation but as directed by (Transportation and Communications) Secretary (Mar) Roxas, we will not leave any stone unturned to find out the real cause of the accident,” Hotchkiss said.
He added the CAAP will look into the unsafe practices of aviation firms that enable them in the past to continue operating in spite of getting involved in previous plane accidents.
Hours after the accident last Saturday, Roxas immediately directed CAAP to dispatch a team composed of aviation experts to conduct investigation of the incident. He also ordered the suspension of Aviatour Air, the operator of the Piper Seneca plane, last Sunday. With Fernan J. Angeles, Jason Faustino and PNA