I have a small story about Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, whose death was officially announced yesterday after his body was brought up from the depths off Masbate island.
I have a big story about his nemesis, Luis Villafuerte Sr., currently serving his third term as representative of the 3rd district of Camarines Sur province.
I met and interviewed Robredo in 1998 when he was mayor of Naga City. I was then commissioned by the Associates for Rural Development (ARD), in turn commissioned by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to do a ‘rapid field appraisal’ (RFA) of several local governments within the Philippines. Specifically, I was tasked to find out if the local government units (LGUs) were able to avail of the Local Government Code’s provisions for innovative fund raising.
Robredo and his city administrator shared that while Naga City was affected by the decision of then President Joseph Estrada to withhold a percentage of internal revenue allocations (IRA) across the board, the city still did well. They then told me of plans to build a new public market-cum-transport terminal for Naga City.
I met Villafuerte, fondly called LRV, earlier in 1976. Through a friend, I got my first job at the Bancom Group, Inc., the holding company of the Bancom corporations. Or so I thought. I noted that something was not in order because I reported to work at the Villafuerte, Zamora, and Associates, at the Solid Mills Building in front of the Makati Medical Center instead of the Bancom Building along Pasay Road.
Our group was soon organized as the Media Systems, Inc., and its first project was to publish the “Investment Banking in the Philippines” book in time for the joint annual conference of the International Monetary Fund and the World to be held for the first time in the country.
LRV was a feisty and demanding boss with very little appetite for niceties. Through the grapevine, we heard that the formation of Media Systems meant the final divorce between LRV and Sixto K. Roxas (SKR). The two were considered to be key to the rise of Bancom Development Corporation (BDC), the first merchant bank of the Philippines. SKR was considered the visionary while LRV was the operations man. LRV will soon ridicule SKR as “strutting around as if he was God’s gift to finance” in his newspaper column. After the publication of the investment banking book, I left Media Systems and rejoined Bancom as a member of its corporate research group. There was not much space in the Bancom building so we had our offices in SKR’s personal library.
Ok, ok, ok. I am writing this blog post also because the epal and papansin (calling attention to oneself) remarks of a member of the Commission on Appointments. While the whole nation was in grief and praising Robredo, this person (who is better not named) quipped: We have been deprived of the honor of confirming his appointment. He then raised the possibility that Robredo’s confirmation be done posthumously.
The response of many: why wait until he dies before Robredo gets confirmed? Why was he not confirmed in the first place? After all, he has been in office for two years.
The short answer to these questions: LRV. A member of the Commission on Appointments has veto power. By himself, he can block the confirmation of a Cabinet member.
LRV is the uncle of Jesse. According to Juan Escandor Jr. of the Philippine Daily Inquirer Southern Luzon Bureau, LRV worked for the appointment of Jesse as chief of the Asian Development Bank-funded Bicol River Basin Development Project (BRBDP) and prepared him for Naga’s mayoral post. In 1988, Jesse was elected the youngest ever Naga City mayor.
Escandor continues: Both parted ways in 1992 elections with Villafuerte fielding his sister Pura Luisa Villafuerte-Magtuto against Robredo. Robredo made such a mark in Naga City politics making him the only political leader here whose handpicked local candidates all won in the elections without let-up since 1992, including the local elections in 2010, for seven consecutive elections. The cause of the quarrel between uncle and nephew? Robredo supported Fidel Ramos in his presidential bid against Ramon Mitra whom Villafuerte supported.
TO THE MEMBERS OF THE COMMISSION ON APPOINTMENTS: SPARE US YOUR ATTENTION-GRABBING ANTICS!
JESSE MANALASTAS ROBREDO DOES NOT NEED YOUR CONFIRMATION.
HE IS IN A BETTER PLACE NOW.
HE IS NOW FULLY CONFIRMED IN OUR HEARTS!
HIS PLACE IN PHILIPPINE HISTORY IS SECURE AND CONFIRMED.