MANILA—Vice-President Leni Robredo paid tribute to late former President Benigno Aquino III, who considered her and her late husband as friends.
In a post on her personal Facebook page, Robredo recalled how Aquino stayed by her side as she said her final goodbye to her late husband, Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo.
"I only got to know him on a personal level when Jesse’s plane went missing. He flew to Masbate at dawn to personally supervise the search and rescue operations. He flew to Naga to see me and the children to explain to us how the search was progressing and flew back to Masbate in the morning of Aug 21, his Dad’s Death Anniversary, when Jesse’s body was found," she wrote.
"He brought Jesse home to us in Naga and I remember telling him I wanted to see my husband for the last time before the embalming begins. PNoy was telling me, in not so many words, that Jesse was underwater for 3 days and was not in the best shape. But when I insisted, he accompanied me to the embalming room where Jesse was, still inside the body bag. I opened the body bag and spent what seemed like forever, saying my final goodbye. PNoy was just there, standing a few steps behind me, not saying anything and just letting me be."
She also shared how Aquino told her that he stayed close in case she faints, but soon realized he might be the first one to faint.
"Months after, when it became easier to talk about it, he told me he made sure that he was just a few steps behind me so that he was near enough to catch me just in case I fainted. But when he saw me holding Jesse, he thought he would be the first one to faint," Robredo added.
Robredo shared how Aquino would often check in on her and her three daughters even after his term as president ended.
"Since then, he has always looked after me and the children. He would always ask how each of the three is doing. Even after he stepped down, he would send over food that he thinks the girls would enjoy," she wrote.
In her official statement on Aquino's death, she also recalled the kindness the former president showed her and her family.
"Naalala ko rin ang mga sandali na nagpakita siya ng kabutihang loob sa akin. In the days after my late husband's plane crash, alam kong pareho kaming nagluluksa noon. Nawalan ako ng asawa, at siya ng kaibigan. He extended kindness to my daughters, at sinigurong matutugunan ang mga pangangailangan namin even after Jesse's death," Robredo said.
(I also remember the times he showed me kindness. In the days after my late husband's plane crash, I know both of us were mourning at that time. I lost a husband, he lost a friend. He extended kindness to my daughters, and he ensured that our needs are taken cared of even after Jesse's death.)
Robredo said it was a blessing to be Aquino's friend.
"I saw what Jesse meant when he said he was incorruptible, righteous and decent. I also saw how unaffected by power he was. He remained very simple," she wrote.
"It has been my greatest honor to have worked with him, even only for a while. It was a blessing to be his friend," Robredo added.
Aquino backed Robredo's run in the 2016 elections. The vice president now chairs opposition Liberal Party, Aquino's political party.
The former president has several times defended Robredo from the tirades of his successor, President Rodrigo Duterte.