Philippine Daily Inquirer
Robredo and ‘Mommy Jean’
*** IT’S GOOD news that President Noynoy has finally gotten around to announcing his appointment of former Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo as secretary of the interior and local government.
Among those who know Robredo and his many accomplishments as a local executive, there wasmuch excitement when his name was first floated for DILG. As far as mayors go, Robredo was an exemplar of enlightened governance, combining both political savvy and visionary idealism. It is one thing to be an efficient local government executive, delivering basic services promptly and comprehensively, but without an overarching vision, one is reduced to putting out fires, without bringing one’s locality and people forward. It is also fairly easy to conduct business purely on principle and public morals, but unless a mayor is able to deliver and meet the basic needs of constituents, I COULD JUST PICTURE THE RADIO COMMENtator fairly foaming at the mouth as he discussed the most recent appointees of President Noynoy Aquino: an old friend from Tarlac, a classmate in college, old colleagues of hismother.
“I thought he said that he would not consider friendship or connections anymore!” the commentator railed.
From what I remember of the President’s inaugural address, his declaration of “
referred to the pursuit of justice, vowing that no favors would be granted based solely on personal relations. But President Noynoy never promised he would appoint only total strangers to strategic posts in government.
In fact, I would imagine that every new chief executive relies first on his immediate circle of advisers, friends and associates when naming people to his Cabinet and to sub-Cabinet posts. He (or she) would certainly want to rely first on people he knows and trusts, whose mettle he has tested or at least observed in the past. Certainly, the President should then expand his search net beyond this little circle, but there is nothing wrong in bringing in people from his comfort zone, because that is how he can best work. one is nothing more than a figurehead.
What is demanded of an LGU executive then is a combination of character and substance, performance and efficiency. Perhaps Robredo can show other mayors the way, while at the same time ensuring that standards of good governance are set and met in the six years of the Aquino administration.
*** TOO BAD, news about Robredo’s appointment came too late for “Mommy Jean” Llorin, one of his staunchest supporters and partners among Naga’s civil society stalwarts.
“Mommy Jean” passed away earlier this week in Naga, and her funeral takes place today, with a 1 p.m. Mass at the Christ the King Church of Ateneo de Naga University.
Many of those in theNGOcommunity, not just in Naga but around the country, called her “Mommy Jean” because she was so motherly in her dealings with “younger” friends, even those not much younger than her. But she also “mothered” with much concern and enthusiasm many different NGOs and causes.
“To the end,” writes Karen Tañada of the GZO Peace Foundation, “her deep spirituality shone through a life committed to social justice and peace.” On the peace front, “Mommy Jean” was a founding convenor of the Hearts of Peace—Naga, and the Zone of Peace, Freedom and Neutrality—Naga, as well as being one of the leaders of the national Coalition for Peace.
But there wasmore to “Mommy Jean’s” involvements, for she was active as well in the women’s movement, and in the work of building partnerships among the many stakeholders in Naga’s development. Indeed, just the other week, an opinion piece written by “MommyJean” tracing the forging of a working relationship between the city government, headed by Robredo, and citizens’ groups, was published in this paper’s op-ed section.
This fruitful, amicable relationship—such a contrast with government and NGO relations in other localities—was one of “Mommy Jean’s” proudest accomplishments. I remember that whenever I was in Naga, “Mommy Jean,” as my host and guide, would regalemewith stories about their “Beautiful Place” and how assertive its citizens were and how responsive the local government was to their initiatives.
*** A STORY is told of how, when “Mommy Jean” was first diagnosed with lupus (for which she had been taking blood transfusions for many years), she organized her papers into neat piles and categorized them among her many involvements with communities, peace groups, women’s groups, local politics, etc.
She then called her children and said she was turning over not just the folders to them, but also her own involvementwith these groups. This led one daughter to observe wryly that while other parents would leave heirlooms or jewelry to their children, “Mommy Jean” was leaving behind more work and commitment to them.
As I write this, I can just picture “Mommy Jean” proceeding in her brisk, no-nonsense manner to try to right things in Naga and in Philippine society. She spoke in a clipped rapidfire style, but still managed to convey the feeling that if she dared stick her nose into others’ affairs, she did so out of a sense of caring and concern.
I haven’t been to Naga in some time, and so I don’t know how “Mommy Jean” fared in her last days. In fact, while I was aware that “Mommy Jean” was ailing, she never talked about her illness and I never asked her about it, for fear of intruding into her privacy. My only regret now is that I should have told herwhat I thought of her, of how important she was to the life not just of Naga, but of the entire country, and in the lives of everyone who walked the same path with her. My condolences to “Mommy Jean’s” family.