My gold standard for public service.
(Courtesy of pcij.org)
This country is poorer with his death.
Many of the public eulogies and adulations being showered on him are centered on him being an effective and efficient mayor of Naga City, turning it around from being poverty stricken to being a model city, for which he was given the Ramon Magsaysay award; for being a homesick father who could not wait to go home, to his family, and to his hometown; for being overly zealous in his last post, so much so that he was working on a Saturday, a practically novel phenomenon for a country that can consider itself lucky if public officials come in every weekday; for being first to arrive and last to leave in any disaster, calamity and other perilous situations, if only so that he could help any of his constituents with as much as he could.
He championed transparency and accountability, even before talk of the Freedom of Information bill made its way to the public consciousness; he didn't tell his wife to run for mayor after his successful stint for almost a decade; he refused that giant monolith, SM, from planting its feet into his hometown, and instead thought of what would happen if it did and could not fathom that future; he went up against organized gambling and entrenched politicians who did not want to change the old ways; he never understood the need for bodyguards and was uncomfortable to have them, preferring to take public transportation when possible; he believed in involving the people in doing public service, so that everyone has a personal stake in achieving mutual goals to benefit the community; and he was always seen at gatherings, events, occassions that put him in touch with "everyman", not barricaded with high ivory walls in a gated community.
I have to admit that for so many times, over and over, this country, being represented by its public officials, has broken my heart and spirit in ways too numerous to mention: the rampant and shameless corruption practiced in the broadest of daylights; the wanton disregard for the space of others, that anyone can just enroach on another's property and claim poverty as their birthright to appropriate any land for themselves illegally, which local officials look the other way from because they need these votes on election day; this privileged insularity that public officials claim for themselves that they refused to be scrutinized by people on their finances, and claim that the law protects them, when we all know they are looking for their own interests; where a politician, once barred from running, fields his wife, children, uncles, aunts, neighbor, godchildren and even their pets if it was possible, to run for the position being vacated, until he can return to that same post.
Secretary Robredo embodied so much of what I believe should be the very standard of all public officials. He was living proof that you can serve and not see yourself as a ruler, because public service means you are there for others, not for yourself. He preferred going back home to his loved ones, and not hobnobbing with the "elite" who have vested interests of their own; and he believed in the Filipino, that we should all be involved if we are to raise this country up, who never saw himself as privileged by virtue of his positions, but as a conduit to effect great change and greater things.
May we all be inspired to emulate his worthy example, not just in words, but by his deeds and his very life. Let us not let his life end in tragedy, but may it give birth to a renewed hope - and action plan, for he was indeed a man of action - that we have to link arms together if we want our country to stand tall among the family of nations.
I now view Secretary Robredo as the gold standard by which all other public officials must be measured against. May we all be up to the task, left by your legacy in public service.
Rest in peace, Sir.