01 September 2010

Post-mortem to the Manila hostage crisis

TODAY'S headline story at the ABS-CBN News website confirms what I have believed all along: my former boss and now DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo could not have been on top of that bungled Manila hostage crisis.

Immediately after the incident, Vice Mayor Gabby Bordado told me his cellphone was flooded by text messages: Where on earth was Secretary Robredo while Rolando Mendoza's caper was happening? The bottomline: this was not the Jesse Robredo we knew. Knowing the guy up close, what just happened was very un-Jesse.

Our former mayor became equally famous, not only for his being a legendary spendthrift (the close-fisted "boksingero" in local parlance, as opposed to the open-palmed "karatista"), but also because of his ingrained habit of being one of the first, if not the first, to rush to the scene of incidents requiring government presence. It's perfectly in synch with his fundamental governance philosophy -- you cannot ask of others what you yourself are not willing to do.

In all the crises that our city faced over the last two decades -- from the fires that hit the Naga City Public Market and private dwellings, to the supertyphoons that lashed our homes -- his reassuring presence strongly signals what have become a certainty: come what may, Naga will surely overcome.

I'm not sure what typhoon it was that buried the city center in foot-deep mud, but one unforgettable sight that Conrado de Quiros immortalized on one of his columns was of Robredo shoveling the dirt by his lonesome the morning after.

Legend has it that one of his kagawads had the temerity to ask why the mayor was doing the shoveling, when he can command his people at City Hall to do it for him. He was said to have replied: "Do you really think I'm enjoying this? But someone must start doing something."

Yes, hindsight is 20/20 vision. But my gut feel tells me that if only President Noynoy Aquino trusted the political instincts of his DILG secretary more, things would have turned out differently.