MASBATE, Philippines — On day three of intense search and rescue operations off the coast of Masbate, volunteers and searchers found the body of Interior and Local Government and Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo in the cabin of the ill-fated Piper Seneca plane he and three others were on when it crashed. Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas told reporters the plane’s fuselage was found 800m offshore.
Roxas said Matt Reed, a volunteer British technical diver, saw Robredo’s body underwater. The bodies of Jessup Bahinting, pilot and owner of Aviatour, and Kshitiz Chand, a co-pilot from Nepal, were likewise found. A fourth passenger, Jun Abrasado, Robredo’s aide, survived the crash. He was rescued by local fishermen moments after the crash.
The plane went missing Saturday, August 19, after it plunged into the sea, between Masbate and Ticao islands, enroute to the Moises Espinosa Airport for emergency landing. It was on its way to Naga City from Cebu’s Mactan International Airport when it encountered engine trouble.
President Benigno Aquino III, who supervised the search operations for Robredo and the two pilots since Saunday, had to leave the crash site Monday night to prepare for the commemoration of the 29th death anniversary of his father on Aug. 21. He personally informed Robredo’s wife, lawyer Leni Robredo, after discovery of the DILG chief’s body and his companions.
Thereafter, Aquino issued Presidential Proclamation No. 460 declaring National Days of Mourning from August 21 until the burial of Robredo. As such, the national flag shall be flown at half-mast in government buildings in the Philippines and overseas
“The nation has lost one of its great leaders and public servants,” the proclamation said.
Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr. was named office-in-charge of the Department of Interior and Local Government, who immediately created an interagency committee to handle Robredo’s state funeral and burial.
Robredo, 54, is survived by his wife, Leni and their children, Aika, 24; Patricia, 18; and Julian, 12. Bahinting, 61, is survived by his wife, Margaret and their children: Dan, also a pilot; Sarah, a nurse; and Jemar, manager of Aviatour. Kshitiz Chand’s father and sister arrived Tuesday.
In a statement explaining Aquino’s proclamation, Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the nation should give the Robredo family “time to grieve.” “(Let) us refrain from engaging in any effort to pressure them as to any details concerning the funeral and accompanying ceremonies. These will be announced at the proper time.”
On the same day as his father’s death anniversary, President Benigno Aquino III traveled to Naga City to deliver the body of his friend, Jesse Robredo, to his family.
Meanwhile, Imelda Papin, former vice governor of the Province of Camarnes Sur, offered a prayer to the Robredo family in her Facebook page. She wrote:
Let us all offer a Prayer to a great man, a true friend and a dedicated Public Servant, the late Jess Robredo;
“ETERNAL LIFE GRANT UNTO HIM, OH LORD AND LET PERPETUAL LIGHT SHINE UPON HIM, MAY HE REST IN PEACE, AMEN.”
Para sa Robredo Family, minapaabot ang sakuyang pamilya kang samuyang pagcamoot, pagdamay hale sa samuyang puso.
We, Bicolanos will always be proud of Secretary Robredo’s great deeds that became a monument not only to our Bicol Region constituents but to the whole country.”
Edicio Dela Torre, also posted in Facebook: “Coming home from my day’s meetings, I scroll through the Facebook comments about Jesse Robredo, as a way of joining our communal rites of remembrance and thanksgiving. To contribute a memorial poster, I chose one of the photos posted (sorry I don’t know whom to credit for it). I told Girlie it captures the Jesse I know – thoughtful, unafraid to speak his mind, a gentle force. But what words to add? So much have been said. Let me offer a silent poster, for those whose hearts are too full and feeling empty…”
The poster, which Dela Torre chose, accompanies this story.