Sec. Jesse: Icon of Good Governance

MANILA (Updated 4:46 p.m.) — The life of Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Jesse Robredo ended tragically bu this legacy of effective and clean leadership will remain in the hearts and minds of the Filipino people whom he had served with sincerity.

Robredo, a recipient of the prestigious Ramon Magsaysay Award, brought with him 18 years of solid track record as Naga City mayor before he was tapped in 2010 to head the DILG, a coveted national position.

Up until the night before he died in a plane crash on Saturday, Robredo was focused on soliciting public support for the Full Disclosure Policy (FDP), an instrument that he hoped would advance transparency and accountability in local governance.

Perhaps a fitting substitute to the pending Freedom of Information bill, the FDP requires local government units to disclose in public places 12 key financial documents that show how funds are spent.

As of June 2012, the DILG reported that 1,697 or 99 percent of LGUs have complied with the policy, which was also used as one of the criteria in the conferment of the yearly Seal of Good Housekeeping.

On the same month, 856 LGUs that have qualified for the award have been granted P1.1 billion from the Performance Challenge Fund — money that based on the guidelines are allocated for the poorest of the poor.

This is on top of the DILG’s partnership with the Ugnayan ng mga Barangay at Simbahan (UBAS) to monitor LGU budgets and with Ateneo School of Government and De La Salle University’s monitoring of public services in the local governments.

“I always say that we have already raised the bar of public service. However, it’s not enough that we are good or effective. We need to have both qualities so that we can be rightful custodians of public coffers,” Robredo once said.

Robredo also introduced the Seal of Disaster Preparedness, another incentive mechanism to help LGUs deal with disasters and calamities.

As of June, 8,504 LGUs already have functional disaster management councils while 1,539 have command centers and alarm systems. They now have emergency response, rescue, and medical teams, and evacuation centers, according to the DILG.

On the area of strengthening local economies, Robredo worked on weeding out cumbersome documentary processes in setting up businesses.

As part of the country’s commitment to the US-based Millennium Challenge Corporation, the DILG streamlined the business process licensing system of each LGU.

At present, 748 LGUs have already streamlined their BPLS within a two-year period. This has raised revenue collection by as much as 7 percent in Lapu-Lapu City and 18 percent in Butuan City.

The latest National Competitiveness Survey results showed that 70 percent of businessmen respondents received permits in three days or less. Another 17 percent did so in less than two hours.

He also adopted the Performance Management System (LGPMS), a tool to measure LGU performance, by turning it into an assessment tool validated by third-party assessment.

As a result, the number of LGUs that got high overall performance ratings jumped to 1,261 last year from 1,050 in 2010 and 913 in 2009.

Robredo, the President’s alter ego in handling the Philippine National Police (PNP), moved for better civilian security amid threats of terrorism and reports on high crimes such as carnapping and kidnapping.

On Monday, the PNP posted a record 34.17 percent crime solution rating in the first half of 2012. This means three out of 10 crimes led to the arrest of suspects and filing of cases in court.

Crime volume likewise dropped 17.41 percent to 68,154 from January to June 2012 compared to 80,520 incidents in the same period last year.

Police visibility increased with the field deployment of 90 percent of the police force, as opposed to 85 percent previously while setting aside bigger funds for uniforms, shoes and bullets, among other needs.

Through the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), the DILG initiated investigations and formally filed charges against individuals involved in spurious procurement contracts.

Not a walk in the park

Robredo entered the national consciousness in an unflattering manner. To recall, opposition lawmakers and some administration allies were asking for his resignation and deputy Rico Puno due to the mishandling of the Manila hostage crisis on August 23, 2010.

The bungled hostage rescue left eight tourists from Hong Kong dead and triggered icy relations between the Philippines and the former British colony.

Robredo was the vice chairman of the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) that looked into the shooting spree of dismissed policeman Rolando Mendoza.

But his political will was questioned when he distanced himself on the discussion on the accountability of local officials particularly Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, an ally of the President and member of the ruling Liberal Party.

Robredo is the party’s executive vice president.

The incident, in a way, affected his chances to be confirmed by the powerful Commission on Appointments (CA). He was bypassed a couple of times alongside fellow Bicolano Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

On Tuesday, Parañaque City Representative Roilo Golez said Robredo should have been confirmed last August 15 but this was rescheduled to August 29 because lawmakers attended a Requiem Mass and necrological service for Sorsogon Representative Salvador Escudero III, who passed away due to colon cancer last week.

In fact, Robredo had a prepared statement for the upcoming CA hearing, reiterating his commitment to implement the government’s campaign of “straight path” in governance.

“I promised that we have a lot to gain from the reforms we have initiated in the DILG. We have to intensify efforts in bringing progress in local governance and the interior sector. With the help of DILG officials and staff, I will do everything to the best of my ability to reach our dream of building a nation that follows a straight and righteous path,” the statement read.

Now that he’s dead, observers and even Aquino critic, former Lingayen Archbishop Oscar Cruz, said it was crucial that Robredo’s replacement would ensure the continuity of reforms in the DILG.

Robredo’s body was found on Tuesday by search and rescue teams in Masbate City, ending almost three days of waiting.

He was on his way home to Naga City after two speaking engagements in Cebu City, when the twin-engine Piper Seneca aircraft crashed off Obingay village in Masbate City, around 500 meters away from the airport runway.

Fishermen rescued his aide Police Senior Inspector Jun Abrazado after he lost consciousness trying to protect the secretary, but Robredo and the two pilots failed to survive. He was 54. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

Sanchez: The great floods

I’M SAFE and dry here in Bacolod. I can’t say the same thing with my relatives and friends in Metro Manila, though. Dear Lord, may you keep them safe and warm.

I would mostly likely be suffering with them right now had I not traded the big city life for the laidback promdi Bacolod experience. After all, I studied and had been working there for a time until I decided to return to Bacolod.

However, after seeing photos and footages of flooded Metro Manila over a low pressure area (LPA) with continuous rains, or of Ondoy three years ago, I know I can count my blessings. (Read the rest of this entry)

Heavy rains paralyze Manila, kill 9

Torrential rains in the Philippine capital triggered a landslide that killed nine people and sent government emergency crews scrambling Tuesday to rescue and evacuate tens of thousands of residents, some of whom were stranded on the roofs of their inundated homes.

Incessant downpours set off by the seasonal monsoon overflowed major dams and rivers in Manila and surrounding provinces and put authorities and troops on alert. (Read the rest of this entry)

Flooding eases after killing 16 in Luzon

Widespread flooding that killed at least 16 people, battered a million others and paralyzed the Philippine capital briefly eased Wednesday, allowing rescuers on rubber boats to reach a large number of distressed residents still marooned in submerged villages.

In its 3 p.m. Wednesday bulletin, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said 16 persons were reported dead — nine of whom were victims of a landslide incident in Lower Bayanihan, Barangay Commonwealth, Quezon City and one from Valenzuela City due to drowning, three were from Pampanga, one from Zambales and two from Batangas province.

The NDDRMC added that four people were injured, 80,189 families were affected and 394,844 persons were evacuated. (Read the rest of this entry)

Crop losses at P152.13 million due to ‘Gener,’ southwest monsoon

Crop losses due to the inclement weather for the past week were estimated at P152.13 million with the biggest loss from the rice sector at P131.49 million, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said Wednesday.

In a memorandum sent to Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Undersecretary for Operations Joel Rudinas said damages to agriculture caused by Typhoon Gener and the southwest monsoon were reported in 20 provinces in Luzon and Visayas.

Affected provinces are Cordillera Administrative Region, Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley, Central Luzon, and Western Visayas. (Read the rest of this entry)

Death toll from Luzon flood climbs to 11

The state disaster-response agency reported that the death toll from heavy rains due to the southwest monsoon rose to 11 as of Wednesday morning.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) identified the latest fatalities as Darel Flores, 9, of Barangay Apalit in Floridablanca, Pampanga, who was electrocuted; and Ariem Menes, 19, of Barangay Poblacion in Sta. Cruz, Zambales, due to drowning.

Of the 11 fatalities, the NDRRMC said nine were buried in a landslide that hit their house in Lower Bayanihan, Barangay Commonwealth in Quezon City. They were identified as Jethro Baylon, Jessica Baylon, Jayvee Baylon, Cecilia Baylon, Jayson Baylon, Joshua Castulo, Jezelle Joy Baylon, Jonica Castulo and Jonathan Castulo. (Read the rest of this entry)

No possible national blackout: Meralco

The Manila Electric Company (Meralco) denied rumors circulating online that a power blackout might hit the entire country on Tuesday afternoon or evening due to the torrential rains and flooding caused by the typhoon-enhanced southwest monsoon.

“There is NO truth to a tweet that states of a possible national blackout. Meralco is ONLY de-energizing areas that are SEVERELY FLOODED,” Meralco said in its official Twitter account, @meralco. (Read the rest of this entry)

DOH declares ‘Code Blue Alert’ in Metro Manila

The Department of Health (DOH) declared Tuesday a “Code Blue Alert” in all government hospitals and health facilities in Metro Manila following the continuing inclement weather brought about by southwest monsoon.

“We have raised the alert due to the series of flooding in various areas of the region and the rising number of affected residents due to the continuous downfall of heavy rains,” DOH-National Capital Region (NCR) Director Eduardo Janairo. (Read the rest of this entry)

Red Cross: Need help? Put white cloth outside

The Philippine Red Cross (PRC) called Tuesday on residents looking to be evacuated from their flooded homes to place white cloths outside the place they are staying to make rescuers aware of their desires.

In an advisory, PRC chairman Richard Gordon said it would be best to help rescuers find them by following this instruction and immediately calling their hotline 143 and 527-0000.

“You can put a white blanket outside your house so that rescuers can easily locate where you are,” said Gordon. (Read the rest of this entry)

Cabaero: Simplifying typhoon terms

THE call issued last week for the weather bureau to use easy to understand terms in giving typhoon information was not the first.

Over the past years, such recommendations were made after updates during inclement weather conditions were not heeded because the information was beyond the understanding of most citizens.

President Benigno Aquino III echoed that call last Thursday at the height of flooding in parts of Luzon and Metro Manila due to rains brought by Typhoon “Gener.” Aquino cited terms used in the forecast such as “7 to 10 millimeters of rain,” low pressure area “surge,” “relative humidity” and “luminosity of the moon.” (Read the rest of this entry)