By VERA Files
The late Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo had always made known that his personal advocacies included looking after the welfare of people with disabilities (PWDs).
"This is personal to me," he said in his keynote address at the launching last April 18 of the Fully Abled Nation, a multisectoral initiative to encourage PWDs to register and vote in the 2013 midterm elections. "I am no stranger to PWDs."
A rare eye ailment had turned his father blind when Robredo was only 4. The hereditary ailment also left two of Robredo's siblings blind.
He thus told the audience, many of whom were PWDs: "I know how you feel." (VERA Files and Unlimited Productions are posting the video of Robredo's speech.)
The 54-year-old Robredo died in a plane crash on Saturday. His body was found Tuesday morning inside the fuselage of the twin-engine Piper Seneca aircraft that crashlanded off Masbate City.
In his years in government, Robredo kept his word to promote and protect the rights of PWDs—first as the multi-awarded mayor of Naga City and later when he became interior and local government secretary.
As mayor, he saw to it that PWDs were represented in Naga City's People's Council. When he left City Hall, he had set up a resource center for blind that included books in Braille and computers programmed to enable the blind to use the Internet.
In September 2010, just a few months as interior secretary, Robredo issued a memorandum to all local government units reiterating a provision of the revised Magna Carta for PWDs to create a Persons with Disabilities Affairs Office (PDAO)—or for poorer towns, appoint at least a PWD focal person.
His memo also reminded local governments to include an allocation for the PDAOs in their annual plan and budget and to implement other provisions of the Magna Carta for PWDs, Accessibility Law and other PWD legislation.
In his address at the FAN launching, Robredo acknowledged how difficult it is for PWDs to vote during elections. His father and siblings had voted in all the elections he had run.
"Unless someone accompanies the (PWD) voters, very likely they will not exercise their right to vote," he said.
But at the same time, he reminded the PWDs the reason they must exercise their right of suffrage: "Ang pinakikinggan 'yung sumusulat sa balota (Only those who vote have a voice)."
Following the recovery of Robredo's body, President Benigno Aquino III proclaimed Tuesday until Robredo's interment "Days of National Mourning."
The flag will be flown at half-mast from sunrise to sunset in all government buildings and installations in the country and abroad for six days.
Robredo's remains were scheduled to be moved to the Archbishop's Palace in Naga City late Tuesday night and will be transferred to Malacanang on Friday morning.—Yvonne T. Chua
(VERA Files is put out by veteran journalists taking a deeper look at current issues. VERA is Latin for "true.")