|Rescue divers hoist the body bag containing the remains of DILG Sec. Jesse Robredo after it was retrieved Tuesday about 180 feet under the sea. The body of the two pilots were also retrieved after an exhaustive search that began shortly after their plane crashed on Saturday. Photo by Val Cuenca, ABS-CBN News
MANILA, Philippines (5th UPDATE) – The body of Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo was found Tuesday morning, Transportation and Communications Secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas II said.
"At 8:15 a.m. kumpirmadong ang isa sa mga katawan ay kay Sec, Robredo," Roxas said.
Divers found the plane's fuselage around 7:30 a.m. Robredo's body was found inside the fuselage at 7:45 a.m. His body was brought to shore at 8:40 a.m.
Roxas said the remains of the interior secretary were found 800 meters off Masbate at 180 feet deep.
Robredo's wife, Atty. Maria Leonor Gerona-Robredo, has been informed personally by President Aquino, according to Roxas.
"The President was very quiet, he sought absolute confirmation. Nung kumpirmadong-kumpirmado na, he wanted to make sure na may malapit kay Ma'am Leni na katabi niya. Ma'am Leni was in her house at malayo pa ang mga kilala naming malapit sa kanya, pinagpasyahan na sabihin kay Ma'am Leni na direkta," he said.
The bodies of the 2 pilots, Capt. Jessup Bahinting and Nepalese Kshitiz Chand, have not yet been retrieved, as of posting.
Roxas said retrieval operations will continue for the two pilots. "Iyung dalawang pilot nakasubsob sa cockpit, so si Sec. Robredo ang unang nakuha at dahan-dahang inakyat."
Diver sends information from sea
Roxas said a technical diver, Matt Reed, was able to identify Robredo after being briefed about the Cabinet official's last attire.
"The diver could not come up directly, so he sent up his slate with information that the fuselage was found and 'yun ang sinabi na may indications na si [Sec. Robredo ang natagpuan]. Binigyan siya [ng information] sa bihis ni Sec. Jess, ang sunod na balita na pinaabot niya ay si Sec. Jess nga," he said.
Robredo's older brother, Butch, asked for more time before the family releases a statement.
President Aquino personally brought Robredo's remains to his family in Naga on board a C130 plane. The late secretary's remains arrived at the Naga airport a little past 12:40 p.m. on Tuesday. Robredo was given arrival honors.
Bahinting's wife Margaret, meanwhile, said: "I have just been thankful to God because this morning I was praying na ma-retrieve na ang mga katawan nila na sana hindi na matagal. Whether they are dead or alive, as long as makita ko ang katawan."
The Palace and several local government units and agencies have hoisted their flags at half mast to mourn the death of the interior secretary.
Crash, search ops
The small Piper Seneca plane carrying Robredo, his aide, and two pilots crashed 150 meters away from Masbate airport around 4:30 p.m. Saturday as it attempted to make an emergency landing due to engine trouble.
Robredo’s aide, Jun Abrazado, survived the crash and was rescued from the site on Saturday.
Robredo’s plane came from Mactan, Cebu and was headed to Naga City when it encountered trouble. He was rushing home so he could attend an afternoon awarding ceremony for his daughter, Jillian, who won a competition in the Palarong Panlungsod.
President Aquino went to Masbate early Sunday morning to oversee the search and rescue efforts. He left on Monday to prepare for the activities for the commemoration of the death anniversary of his father, Benigno "Ninoy" Aquino Jr.
DILG, Naga stints
The 54-year-old Robredo was appointed by President Aquino as secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government on July 9, 2010.
He was supposed to attend a meeting for his confirmation as DILG chief with the Commission on Appointments on August 29.
Robredo finished his undergraduate at the De La Salle University with a degree on Industrial Management Engineering and Mechanical Engineering.
He finished his Masters in Business Administration at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman before taking up Public Administration at John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Robredo was elected mayor of Naga City in 1988 at the age of 29. When he took office, Naga was a poor third-class city with low revenues and a stagnant economy.
Robredo partnered with private businesses to revitalize the city’s economy and re-organized Naga’s transportation systems. By 1990, Naga had become a first-class city and Robredo was re-elected.
Robredo was a recipient of the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Government Service in 2000, Asia's equivalent of the Nobel Prize. Robredo was cited by the board of trustees as “giving credence to the promise of democracy by demonstrating that effective city management is compatible with yielding power to the people.”
Robredo is survived by his wife, Atty. Maria Leonor Gerona-Robredo, and his three children, Aika, Patricia and Jillian Therese. - with reports from ANC, dzMM