MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III skipped the annual mass for his father's death anniversary today to bring home to Naga his Cabinet member.
Aquino was supposed to attend the mass at the tomb of his parents, former President Cory Aquino and former Senator Ninoy Aquino this morning.
It was only his sisters and other relatives present at the tomb today.
Aquino immediately flew to Masbate upon learning of news that authorities have already recovered the body of Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo.
Ninoy Aquino died in 1983, the victim of an assassin's bullet, at the height of the Marcos regime.
Flags at half mast
Meanwhile, it was around noontime when the Palace engineering staff started to fly the Philippine flag at half staff inside the Palace Complex.
Top Palace officials, led by the President himself, were out of their offices for the day.
In a statement, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa called for prayers for Robredo and the two pilots, who figured in a plane crash on Saturday.
"Secretary Robredo was a dedicated public servant and a champion of good governance whose track record in public service has been an inspiration to all those who believe in government as an instrument for positive change,” he said.
Ochoa also expressed his condolences to the Robredos, as well as residents of Naga City, where Robredo was mayor prior to his appointment as Interior Secretary. He said they "lost a leader who tirelessly worked and contributed greatly to President Aquino's campaign for good governance as a means to improve the lives of our countrymen."
Budget Secretary Florencio Abadfor his part said, "Even as we grieve, we look forward to a Philippines that continues to be inspired by Sec. Jesse's passion for and commitment to public service. He was a rare man whose exemplary deeds spoke well and true for him. He will always be remembered as such"
Vice President Jejomar Binay also called for prayers for Robredo and the two pilots. "I urge everyone to pray for them, that they trust God's plan for all of us. They need our wholehearted prayers and support. I pray that the Almighty will embrace them and give them the strength they need in this time of grief."