Ramon Magsaysay Award. Civil Service Commission Dangal ng Bayan Award. Ten Outstanding Young Men of the Philippines. Ten Outstanding Young Persons of the World. Konrad Adenauer Medal of Excellence as Most Outstanding Mayor of the Philippines.
These are only a handful of the numerous awards Naga City Mayor Jesse Manalastas Robredo racked up in his nearly two-decade public service which has seen his city's rise from a vast stretch of grasses and swamps to a promising urbanized locality with a zoning scheme that evidences a futuristic comprehensive land use plan.
His competence in local governance has also been reflected in the dozens of citations Naga has received, including the following: "Most Cost-Effective City in Asia" (UK Foreign Direct Investment Magazine); "Public Service Awardee for Local e-Governance" (UN Department of Public Administration and Finance); "Women-Friendly City Award" (UN-Habitat & the UN Development Fund for Women); "Model City for Government Procurement (World Bank & Procurement Watch); "CyberCity Awardee for its i-Governance Initiatives (UNDP); "Dubai International Awardee for Improving the Living Environment" (UN Habitat).
But more than all these accomplishments, what I admire most about this Harvard-trained local chief executive (he took up his Masters in Public Administration @ Harvard's Kennedy School of Government) is his humility and simplicity.
Many local politicians today strut around with a cabal of bodyguards -- often a show both of insecurity and of guilt for their known and hidden crimes against the people. A lot behave as if they were gods over their hapless subjects. Most need to stamp their forgettable and detestable names on every infrastructural project paid for by the people.
Jesse Robredo needs no bodyguards. You'd see him stroll in the streets in his ordinary flip-flops and shorts and talk to people as if he were just their usual friendly next-door neighbor. Jesse Robredo is a household name in Naga so he doesn't need to throw his weight around and to mark every road sign with his initials. He is so well-liked in his city that his electoral campaign slogan, Gabos kung Gabos gets heeded by his people by electing him and all his partymates to office.
In a bus to Bicol last week, I was fortunate to have sat beside manong Fred Perdon, president of the Bicol CATV Owners Association and consultant to the Bicol River Basin Project which Robredo himself headed during the early years of the Aquino administration.
It was easy for the two of us to have something of common interest to discuss. For one, his deep involvement in local development advocacy brought me back to my time with the the DILG. We shared some misgivings about governance in the country and I couldn't help admiring his positive outlook and his sustained work in community development despite the usual snags in the work caused by the machinations of traditional politicians. Two, his "high-end" expertise on the telecommunications industry was something that intrigued me for rare are the times when I'd get to meet a tech-savvy senior citizen. Three, we both salute Robredo who he said seemed inclined to run for Senator in next year's national elections.
Senator? But a TV report says he'd run for President, I said to myself while listening to manong Fred. But then the more I thought about it I realized that conquering the Senate first before taking the Presidency would be a wiser option for Robredo. That would not only broaden his national political base but also give him a better view of the dynamics in a Philippine sub-culture called "Congress," something which could be very useful to him when he takes the helm of the nation.
So if Robredo is not going to run for prexy yet, I'd go for Mar Roxas in 2010. :)
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Snapshots taken on 28 and 30 March 2009. SM Naga to open on 01 May 2009.