INSIGHTS AND PERSPECTIVES ON POST-ROBREDO POLITICS IN NAGA CITY
The tragic accident last 18 August 2012 in Masbate City which claimed the life of former Secretary of the Interior and Local Government and former Naga City Mayor Jesse M. Robredo shocked an entire nation and even the international community. Everybody seems to be in a trance even as the formalities of a wake, funeral mass, conferment of a lead role in the Philippine Legion of Honor, and state funeral were bestowed on the remains of Sec. Jesse.
Now after more than two weeks, the tragic incident in Masbate, there seems to be a growing clamour for a definitive, concrete statements on political decisions and directions from the Robredo camp.
Unfortunately, the bereaved family is least inclined to talk about politics. The local LP, political party of the late Sec. Jesse, is in the thick of preparations for the 2013 elections while the natonal LP is gearing up for the bigger battle in 2016.
Thus, the impetus for this blog entry.
CURRENT POLITICAL SITUATION
Jesse M. Robredo was three-term mayor of Naga City before he was selected as Secretary of The Interior and Local Government by President Benigno Aquino Jr. He was also a ranking national official of the Liberal Party whose members included the President.
It is not surprising then that Robredo is a major political figure in the local, national, and international arena. Given these positions which are further enhanced by his personal charisma, achievements, and character, Robredo is indeed a major factor in Naga City politics.
But a most important contribution of Jesse Robredo is the gradual and patient nurturing of peoples empowerment in Naga City. What started out as informal, casual weekly "development discussion" series among key leaders of political blocs, peoples organizations, and some members then of Robredo's management team, eventually evolved into a more sustainable structure and mechanism for peoples involvement in local governance - the Naga City Peoples Council or NCPC.
Thus, even as his leadership was at the peak of its political legitimacy, he demonstrated magnanimity in allowing greater role for peoples organizations. Robredo's power then was tempered by peoples involvement.
Being an astute politician, he also carefully and patiently nurtured a cohesive political organization, born from a formula that generated the "ubos kun ubos" phenomenon wherein all his candidates from vice mayor to councillors always prevail over their opponents.
In his tragic and untimely demise, the role of and mechanism for peoples participation as well as the political machinery that Sec. Jesse instituted in Naga City are among the most challenged.
The absence of Sec. Jesse may cause a leadership vacuum in his political machinery. Unless the incumbent Mayor John Bongat or the widow, Atty. Leni Robredo take on a more proactive stance and a more decisive leadership role, the political opponents will be scheming left and right to exploit that vulnerability.
Numerous groups, all of which will be claiming to advance Sec. Jesse legacy, may also be expected to emerge. This phenomenon will highlight the need for more active citizenship. Civil society organizations and even the NCPC itself may have to revisit its history as well as articulate a vision and mission shaped by the present conjuncture.
An immediate challenge will be the approaching 2013 elections. A fitting tribute would be a landslide for Sec. Jess' team. But attaining this would be on the shoulder of the candidates led by Mayor Bongat and City Councilor Atty. Nelson Legacion running as vice mayor. It should also be noted that politics in Naga City also affect the congressional districts, neighboring towns, and even that of the province.
ISSUES,PROSPECTS, AND SCENARIOS
If Sec. Jesse legacy will be described in terms of the "witnessing", as manifested in his life and works, it may be stated: assume responsibility for one's own actions and decisions, do what is right, and fight for what is just.
The family of the deceased, specially the widow Atty. Leni will be pressured to venture into politics. But it should be noted that the struggle in the eyes of Sec. Jesse is perhaps not really about sustaining himself or members of his family in a position of power. It is about propagating the appropriate values among our people and setting up structures and institutions that will deepen and strengthen our democracy.
It will not be surprising then if the people he left behind will actually develop strength in adversity. In Naga City, peoples organizations and political leaders can actually become partners, as in the past. Naguenos then emerge as a more potent political force not only representing but becoming integral part of an intelligent, critical local, national, and global constituency.
The dichotomy then between people power and "Robredo" power may take on a unique fusion. A merger of an empowered constituency and an enlightened political leadership in a democratic and truly "maogmang lugar" Naga City.