Following in Jesse’s footsteps

TWO STATEMENTS of President Benigno “PNoy” Aquino III, one said on the first death anniversary of Jesse Robredo and the other in the wake of the Mamasapano debacle, struck me as unexpectedly or accidentally related.

In August 2012, PNoy said the following as tribute to Jesse Robredo:

Kay Jesse: maraming salamat sa serbisyo, sa alaala at siyempre, sa inspirasyong iniwan mo sa amin. Alam naming nagawa mong harapin ang Diyos na walang bagahe o pagsisisi dahil natupad mo ang misyon mo dito sa lupa. At anumang iniwan mo, kami na ang bahala rito. Hindi ka bibiguin ng mga Pilipino. (To Jesse, many thanks for the service, for the memories, and of course for the inspiration you bequeathed to us. We know you will face God without baggage or regret, for you have achieved your mission in life. And whatever you left behind, we’ll take care of those. Filipinos will not fail you.)”

This month, to make up for the series of errors he committed in the aftermath of the Mamasapano tragedy, PNoy went on TV and said:

Bilang Pangulo at Commander-in-Chief, pasan ko naman po ang responsibilidad para sa anumang resulta, sa anumang tagumpay, pasakit o trahedya na maaari nating matamasa sa paghahangad ng pangmatagalang seguridad at kapayapaan. (Being President and Commander-in-Chief, I bear the responsibility for whatever outcome, victory, suffering or tragedy we may go through to achieve long-term peace and security.)”

Further, PNoy said:

Ako ang ama ng bayan, at 44 sa aking mga anak ang nasawi. Hindi na sila maibabalik; nangyari na ang trahedya sa ilalim ng aking panunungkulan; dadalhin ko po hanggang sa mga huling araw ko ang pangyayaring ito. Responsibilidad ko po sila, kasama ang buong Special Action Force sa operasyong ito, pati na ang mga nagligtas sa kanila na nalagay din sa panganib ang buhay. (I am the father of the nation, 44 of my children died. They can no longer return to us; the tragedy happened during my administration; I will bear this cross till the end. I am responsible for them, together with the entire Special Action Force involved in the operation as well as those who risked their lives to rescue them.)”

I wish PNoy had made a direct and unequivocal statement: “I am sorry, I am responsible for the debacle.” But perhaps, he thought that a statement of “I am sorry” is no longer powerful. In recent memory, “I am sorry” has become impure or debased. Remember Gloria Arroyo’s “I am sorry” to appease the nation upon knowing her role in the rigging of the 2004 elections.

Yet PNoy cannot hide his sentiment that the tragedy will forever haunt him. Mamasapano has scarred his presidency. It has scarred his life.

And when Jesse Robredo and PNoy meet again, PNoy can tell Jesse: “You face God without any regret or controversy. I face God with a heavy heart. I do not forget, and I regret, my responsibility in the Mamasapano tragedy.”

Another tragedy arising from the Mamasapano incident is the outburst to exact revenge, to resume an all-out war against the Muslim rebels. Sections of the media are irresponsible in the reporting, feeding the sentiments of angry people who are out for blood. For example, some journalists call the tragedy a “massacre” perpetrated by Moro “butchers.”

The consequences are disturbing. The peace with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is threatened. The proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law is at great risk of being scuttled or compromised.

Here we must support PNoy: Advance the peace and the Basic law, despite the setback arising from the Mamasapano tragedy. Again, we can draw inspiration from Jesse Robredo. Jesse was a peace warrior. He fought for a just peace. He tirelessly promoted dialogue between the government and the revolutionaries, specifically the Communist Party of the Philippines and the MILF.

Jesse Robredo was a pioneer and an innovator in establishing peace zones. Naga City was one of the first localities to become a zone of peace, which happened during Jesse’s term as mayor.

Soliman Santos Jr. has a tribute for Jesse Robredo, highlighting his being a peace champion. The article is included in a forthcoming volume titled Tributes from the Heart: Family and Friends, Nagueños and Moros, Rebels and Soldiers, Warriors and Peacemakers.

To be sure, we remember Jesse Robredo not only for his role of being a peace advocate. Jesse Robredo’s tsinelas leadership also symbolizes honesty and transparency, efficient provision of public goods, sustainable local development, and people’s participation in policy making. Naga City has become a showcase of progressive and clean local government.

In fact, Jesse Robredo personified Daang Matuwid (Straight Path).

Daang Matuwid, however, faces challenges. What is sad is that it is being undermined not only by PNoy’s political enemies but also by some of his supposed friends or allies. Cases of corruption and incompetence blot the significant reforms that so far have been achieved by the PNoy administration.

In this light, Jesse Robredo’s shining record of good governance should continue to inspire us.

Providential then is the launch of the Yapak ni Jesse, a good governance caravan, which will disseminate far and wide the lessons and message from Jesse Robredo’s leadership.

Yapak ni Jesse will focus on three areas: the people’s budget (badyet ng taongbayan or BATA), freedom of information and open government, and the report card to foster accountability of public officials. The message of a long-lasting just peace will likewise be echoed, especially at this time when belligerence is asserting itself.

Let the life of Jesse continue to inspire us. To quote Representative Leni Robredo, Jesse’s widow, let us “spread the gospel of good governance.”

(Action for Economic Reforms, Movement for Good Governance, SGV Foundation and Synergeia invite the public to attend the launch of Yapak ni Jesse at 10:30 am on Feb. 10 at the Ateneo Professional School, Rockwell.)

Filomeno S. Sta Ana III coordinates the Action for Economic Reforms.

www.aer.ph

This article was first posted last February 8, 2015 on Business World.
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