‘Tatak Jesse Robredo’

by Jess Lorenzo

Posted at Mar 24 2013 11:28 AM | Updated as of Mar 24 2013 07:50 PM

On March 20, Kaya Natin endorsed 4 senatorial candidates. They were chosen based on a confidential voting system within the Kaya Natin family. The champions and core group members were asked: “Who do you think are the senatorial candidates who have the Jesse Robredo brand of Leadership?”

After all our votes were put together, we ended up with Bam Aquino, Risa Hontiveros, Jun Magsaysay, and Koko Pmentel. During the press conference at Club Filipino, we called them Senators with Jesse Robredo Leadership. Tatak Robredo, Tatak Kaya Natin!

During the open forum, we were asked what our basis was. In some of the forums I belong to, many are quick to call local candidates “like” Jesse Robredo.

As Senator Kiko Pangilinan said, “You must remember that the officers and people in Kaya Natin worked closely with Sec. Jesse. If there are people who would know him best it would be them.”

The question begs to be asked often, “How do we look at good leadership and Tatak Robredo in Kaya Natin?”

Even when Sec. Jesse was alive, we have been going around campuses thru the Kaya Natin Caravan in an effort to communicate our leadership perspective. The qualities that we look for are determined by 3 aspects: Effective, Ethical, Empowering. This is written on our shirts and constant in the programs and forums we facilitate.


Being an effective leader means addressing the goals set forth by the programs. In Kaya Natin, we believe an effective leader has the necessary skills to execute and implement initiatives that the community need. Right now, most of what we need in the country is an effective way to address poverty. We also realized that education and health play a big part in raising the quality of people’s lives.
When Jesse Robredo was still the mayor of Naga, he was faced with a deteriorated public education system. At that time, majority of the elementary students scored 50’s in the national achievement tests out of a passing of 75.

Mayor Jesse addressed the problem by improving the way the local government responds thru the local school board. Harvey Keh, Lead Convenor of Kaya Natin, and a friend of Jesse Robredo said, “He reinvented the local school board and the way the LGU shares its funds with the local schools. He made the special education fund more transparent and participative. He enabled the parent associations, principals, and teachers. He allowed them to have a say in the education budget how the LGU spends.”

Traditionally, some mayors still spend their SEF based on political support. A number of local executives are still used to funding basketball games, which do not directly contribute to helping the local education system.

Kaya Natin invites local governments in the KN Good Governance Champions for Education in order encourage them to innovate their Public Education programs and agenda. In this forum, which is in partnership with SeaOil, we encourage the local chiefs to set clear parameters to improve the National Achievement Test scores and to reduce school dropouts.

In Kaya Natin, our measure of effectivity is the capacity of the leader to address the priority issues of the community.


Ethical leadership is about the use of power. They are transparent and accountable.

The second measure which we gauge good leadership is the way leaders exercise the power of their authority to include community values. An ethical leader understands the greater need of the community. They operate and uphold values that promote the common good. In the context of the country, ethical leaders must stimulate change in the community to improve human conditions and address social problems like poverty and corruption.

Sec. Jesse in one of his talks said, "I think you have to use your political capital wisely, kung hindi mawawala din... and this means gamitin natin ang kapangyarihan sa maayos na paraan."

In a conversation with Fr. Bert Alejo, SJ, lead convenor of EHEM Anti-Corruption Movement and Pareng Bert as he is affectionately known, said, “It is not enough to supply honesty. We need to demand it. We need to raise the discourse to what is ethical and ask this of our leaders.”

I asked Pareng Bert to define ethical leadership in tagalog and he said,

“Ang ethical leader ay gumagawa ng tama. 1. Nasa batas. Ito ang basic. 2. Ginagamit ang kapangyarihan para sa kabutihan ng tao. Siya ay tumutugon sa mga problema ng kumunidad. 3. Gumagawa ng tama dahil sa malalim na pananalig.”

In a conversation with Fr. Jeff dela Cruz, administrator of St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Peñaranda, Nueva Ecija, he captured and described ethical leadership by saying, “Nakikiisa siya sa kumunidad bago niya tugunan ang mga nakikita niyang problema. Siya ay dumadamay sa tao upang siya ay makatugon sa problema ng tao.” Fr. Jeff has taken his own initiative and started engaging the local government of Peñaranda in order to work with Mayor Ferdie Abesamis in addressing the needs of the community.

Ms. Nene Guevara, a good friend of Jesse Robredo and the executive director of Synergia Foundation, mentions how Mayor Jesse went to each school. She writes:

‘Reforming Education School by School. But how can the Mayors put a major program into action? Mayor Jesse realized that the common pitfall of government officials is putting ideas into action. “Start by doing the reform school by school. Paisa-isa.” He advised. His great gift was translating reform programs into small and doable tasks. He met the communities in all the schools in what he termed as “education summit” and told the participants in simple terms that the education of their children is in bad shape. “Three out of 10 children do not complete grade six. In ARRM, 7 out of 10 children drop out of school before graduation.” He cited the statistics of Prof. Winnie Monsod that 4 out of 5 poor families are headed by individuals who did not complete elementary education. “There is no way by which we can overcome the problem of poverty unless we able to send all our children to school.” And realizing that Mayors are political creatures, “Isama na rin ninyo ang kampanya dito.”’
Ethical leadership, in short, is the use of power to rebuild the country.


Aside from letting the people have a say in the Local School Board Policies, Mayor Jesse also engages the poor families to let them participate and understand.

These families are given 1 kilo of rice for every day their children will go to school. In addition to that, the families get an extra kilo if the mother attends the PTA meetings. At the end of the year, the family also gets a bonus if the students have a perfect school attendance.

By this exercise of leadership, Mayor Jesse Robredo enabled the poor families to keep their kids in school and reduce dropouts.

For us in Kaya Natin, empowerment is not just having a choice but enabling the people to gain and improve themselves. It is about strengthening the families to enable them to rise from poverty.

When you vote for your local leader or endorse a congressman or a national candidate, ask yourself: “Is my choice of candidate effective, ethical, and empowering?”

At Kaya Natin, we have developed this leadership perspective in order to translate PNoy’s “Daang Matuwid” on the ground. We found that we need the Robredo brand of leadership to realize addressing corruption and poverty.

When Sec. Jesse was still alive, he said, “Huhusay ang bansa kung mahusay ang pamahalaang lokal. Ngunit hindi ito pangmabilisan, ito ay kailangang pagtiyagaan.”

His simple reminder to us becomes a leadership challenge, “Ang mahalaga ay maalalang ikaw ang nag umpisa.”

Join us in continuing what Jesse Robredo started.


Comments are welcome at [email protected] or private message through Facebook. Follow me on Facebook and Twitter @jesslorenzo for stories of good governance.

Jess Lorenzo is a Core Member of Kaya Natin! Movement for Good Governance and Ethical Leadership. www.kayanatin.org @kayanatin on Twitter

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.