Outpouring of grief for Jesse Robredo’s passing challenges the Yellow brand for the first time in 30 years

As we now know, Filipinos gave a rousing farewell to a fallen bureaucrat, the late Secretary Jesse Robredo. Robredo was remarkable because he represented the ideal Filipino government official — one who does his work properly. In the Philippine setting, that makes Robredo a “hero”, because he supposedly walked the straight path long before his boss made the phrase a political tagline. Perhaps then that is the kernel around which the song-and-dance over Robredo’s death is being orchestrated by Malacañang — because Robredo was living — now dead — proof that the Philippines did not need Philippine President Benigno Simeon “BS” Aquino III to swoop in and invent “good governance” for us. It was right under our noses all along.


[Photo courtesy Trust.org.]

The tragedy with being a quiet achiever, however, is that quiet achievers aren’t good showbiz. There are no blockbuster Tagalog movies about wise town planners who inisted that new developments be built on highr ground. Instead, Philippine cinema is dominated by cocky maong-jacket-clad, agimat-toting gunslingers out to rescue ordinary folk from their wretchedness.

That is where the brand equity of President BS Aquino and his clan lies — in their being perceived as the “heroes” who will save the Philippines from bad governance. Unfortunately for them, Robredo’s death and the massive public expression of grief from ordinary people have, for the first time, outshone BS Aquino’s cherished Yellow political brand. While the Yellow shine even back in the time of former President Cory Aquino’s death had been backed and preceded by the media mileage provided by ABS-CBN et al, the rallying around Robredo’s memory came out of nowhere — from a deeper place outside of the radars of many political observers.

Indeed, Robredo’s death and the massive broad-based mourning that followed is preceded by only two other genuinely spontaneous shows of mass sentiment — the assassination of BS Aquino’s father Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr and the 1986 EDSA “Revolution”. It is in both of these crucibles that the Yellow brand was forged. And with the infrastructure of mass hypnosis implemented by the oligarchy since then, the Yellow brand has become the de facto default umbrella symbol for any Filipino “fight”.

Robredo’s death challenges that almost three-decade-old idea which began in 1983 — that Filipinos can have any kind of laban for “reform” as long as it comes in the preferred shade of Yellow. You can see today the efforts of the Malacañang spin machine desperately trying to envelop the occasion in its preferred yellow shade. Trouble is, this time the colour simply wouldn’t stick. It just keeps washing off.

Perhaps it is because the grief amongst people that Robredo personally and directly touched (which are not necessarily the ones who hardly knew him yet sing praises to him with the loudest voices) comes from a more meaningful place and not from the politically-coloured or publicity-fueled motivators that characterise Philippine society’s traditional “opinion-shapers”. True Robredo fans don’t care who Robredo worked for or what he “symbolises”. To their colour-blind eyes, he is just a man who governed with grace.

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30 Comments on “Outpouring of grief for Jesse Robredo’s passing challenges the Yellow brand for the first time in 30 years”

  1. I am so sick of reading media reports of speeches of praise of all the yellow reps at the palace. Goodness, media practitioners in the country are truly idiotic in the way they carry out their profession. What is wrong with Philippine society??? Politicians are using the media for their political ambitions instead of the media performing their most meaningful calling of making politicians accountable for their governance.

    1. I’m getting the feeling that they’ll soon go bankrupt from the bias of their ways. Typical Petyr Baelishes and Maester Pycelles, sucking Lannister ass.

  2. Maybe its not them trying to paint it in the shade of yellow? Maybe trying to make sure about something….hands-on search and rescue by BSA immediately after the crash? Something I cant quite put my finger on…..or maybe its just me.

    1. Showing robredo was present on EDSA 1.

      Insisting Nepalese student piloted the plane/was “found” on the pilot seat.

      Robredo child wanting to do a Kris Aquino.

      No, joeld. It’s not just you.

  3. Unfortunately, it is the loud underachiever or non-achiever running the country right now, not the “quiet achiever” which the country direly needs but somehow manages to ignore until it’s too late.

  4. The Philippine media shaping society’s perception and vice versa. It is certainly true that those who hardly knew him, if at all, are the loudest ones in terms of joining the yellow bandwagon of heaping praise on Robredo.

    It’s just like every other puerile bandwagon or trend in this country. The country has little sense of authenticity. Ride the bandwagon and raise one’s hands up high as high as one can and position oneself in the trajectory of most visibility as best as one can, for as long as the trend is still hot. Like parishioners at the end of every Sunday mass who position themselves in the trajectory of greatest vulnerability to the sprinkling of holy water, those who sing praises to him hope to get a share of some of that ‘holiness’ or a feeling of some kind of redemption from their own desperation.

    And it is certainly true that those who knew him personally are the real, authentic ones in dispensing praise upon the man, who to them was just a good man who did his job really well, not just some sort of “symbol” to associate themselves with and derive gratification (similar to what characterizes much of Christian religion especially in this country).

    Pity the country that desperately needs heroes.

    1. Pinoys are so starved for heroes that they’d be so quick to latch on to the next dead good guy. I’m sure Bicolanos and Nagauenos are willing to share Robredo’s memory though they probably didn’t expect that those who did not know him and his work while alive would turn his death into a spectacle.

  5. i love the last line, “to their colour-blind eyes, he is just a man who governed with grace.” good thing there are Filipinos who are color blind.

  6. It’s good to note that the yellow branding failed to stick to the state funeral that has been deservingly offered to Sec. Robredo. If only we knew how great a leader he was in the past, the current Malacanang tenant would have eaten dust during the last elections. Sadly, it seems that the Philippines does not deserve such great leaders, but instead have to resort to scraping the barrel for the useless morsels.

  7. Thanks all. I have to thank again that friend of mine who is a direct constituent of Robredo and close to his social circles for giving me her personal take on these recent events that served as the inspiration for this piece. 🙂

  8. The gap that Sec . Jesse and Noynoy has from each other merely proves how different the “daang matuwid” that noynoy’s yellow army is promoting from the real and unselfish advocacies of the late secretary. Although we have been surrounded with darkness caused by the secretary’s demise, rays of light brought by our enlightenment of a genuine service he initiated brightens the atmosphere. There’s no need to die for someone to serve as a good example like him. Hopefully, his death won’t be the end of the heroic fight vs. corruption, instead this would hopefully inspire everyone to undermine corruption in the country.

  9. Why are people in the Palace crying the loudest now? Is it because of guilt feelings? After he won the 2010 elections, President BS Aquino only placed Jesse Robredo at DILG in an acting capacity. It was late last year that Malacanang endorsed Robredo’s confirmation papers to the Commission of Appointments. Despite the many good governance and anti corruption programs and projects initiated by Robredo as DILG Secretary (such as the Full Disclosure Policy, Seal of Good Housekeeping, Performance Challenge Fund, Local Governance Watch, Seal of Disaster Preparedness and many more), not one was mentioned in the President’s SONA last July. Now they are all praises to the dead man and honoring him with a state funeral. Hypocrites!

  10. C’est la vie.
    Perhaps… only in the Philippines. Many are asking themselves. When will our sufferings end? It is true. We desperately need heroes, people with greatness, vision, foresight, leadership, integrity and genuine political will. When will it happen? The moment we look at ourselves in the mirror and realize that change begins with the self.

  11. Outside Bicol, particularly Naga, whose feelings of devastating loss is genuine, the outpouring of emotions on Robredo’s untimely death is a sign of respect and sharing of condolences to his family and province mates. It has nothing to do with his performance as DILG chief. In fact, his stint there was practically ‘non-existent’ until he met his untimely demise.

    So, for some people to put two and two together to put a wedge to an obvious amiable relationship Robredo has with his colleagues and superiors just to create friction and controversy is just a downer.

    What he represent as a public servant, at most, is more important and memorable to his direct constituents than with the people who barely knew him and those who learned of his exploits only after his death. In the DILG, he’s just an armchair executive. In the said position, he deals more directly with the local executives than with ordinary people which he used to do. Which he loves to do

    I can understand the political grief on his loss if Robredo is not from the administration. But he is with the team, practically, an extension of the President.

    The man is gone. Let’s us not prove that our grief and sorrow is just skin-deep. Let us spare his memory from the politics of hate.

    1. @Jona-s

      A lot though, particularly here on this site, would even tend to go against the grain or bandwagon simply because they dislike bandwagons as such. The difference between Robredo himself and some of his superiors is so pronounced it cannot be ignored—their sympathy, respect, and admiration for Jesse Robredo are simply a result of that. Similar to Bayani Fernando, Jesse Robredo had the same effect on the rest of the country for simply doing what he needs to do—serving his local or “hometown” constituents well and with genuine dedication and sincerity—something which cannot be said of his superiors, some of whom seem to not really mind even when farmers get shot, for example. AbNoy himself admits to differences between Robredo and himself. The media couldn’t even ignore it. People are not simply creating a wedge, they are stating something already factually there or existing.

      1. But what is bandwagon in commiserating with the family and friends of Robredo? Only the politically sensitive would think that way in times grief and sorrow. Only the opportunists with insecurities as big as the Empire State building would formulate a scenario and create malice just to make a controversy out of Robredo’s death.

        The politics of hate knows no boundaries and that is proven by the death of Robredo. The politics of hate doesn’t stop even in times of agony and affliction. To the contrary, it takes advantage of it. But given the noises on both sides of the isle (opposition & administration), that’s no surprise.

        But what good will it do to the country? What benefit, if there is one, will the people get in political intrigues and controversies being linked on Robredo’s death?

        It is very sad, that for want of a clear and legitimate cause, the anti-Noynoy people are grasping for anything, even the death of his dedicated lieutenant, just so they can inflict doubt, distrust and discord to what they consider as the enemy. They will ride anything that tends to collide and put dent if not total destruction to what they consider as a total abomination.

        Bandwagon? Maybe the bandwagon you are seeing is one you created and where you belong.

        1. @Jona-s

          Well, duh!—people who prefer bandwagons would rather wear yellow, flash the “L” sign, and run around blog sites like this trying to spread yellow propaganda precisely as you’re doing right now. AbNoy is all about the bandwagon, especially the masses incapable of thinking independently and going against the grain, like those yellow cult supporters.

          Unless you live under a rock, delay of Robredo’s formal oath taking due to differences between him and AbNoy was already well in circulation way before the former’s untimely demise—and perhaps to this current admin’s embarrassment, one of it’s worst kept secrets.

  12. Robredo is being overestimated by the Aquino’s Public Relation handlers in Malacanang. Robredo did not do anything; to remove the Squatters in Metro Manila. That were the cause of the Metro Manila floods. I don’t see anything, he had done to solve the chronic problems of the country….It is Death used in politics, as usual…Aquino style…I hope the one using this tactic will be the next. So that , he will stop deceiving people…Satan is eagerly waiting for him…nang-gigigil na siya…

  13. @Hyden
    As DILG Secretary, Robredo set up mechanisms to institutionalize a brand of governance that values transparency, accountability, performance and participation. The impact of his good governance programs and anti-corruption policies is on the local governments. Now all provincial, city and municipal governments are required to post or publicly disclose their budget and financial transactions. Social accountability mechanisms have been set to ensure civil society participation in governance processes. He set up reforms in the PNP. He led the transition in the ARMM., which is now undertaking reforms. In only about 2 years as a Cabinet official, i think Robredo has silently accomplished more than any official under BS Aquino’s administration, which were not unappreciated when he’s still alive. He lived out and exemplified the “matuwid na daan” tag better than anyone in this administration.

    1. I don’t see any effects in the programs ,you are writing, about Robredo. Corruption runs rampant. Transparency is a myth…Matuwid na daan, is papunta na sa bangin. He is being used by the Aquinos and the Liberal Party, to gain sympathy for voters. We hope the one using this tactic, will follow Robredo. Naghihintay si Satanas sa kanya, for deceiving people…

  14. @Hayden
    If you don’t see any effect of the policies and programs initiated by Sec. Jesse as DILG Secretary, then I suggest you visit the provinces, cities and municipalities outside Metro Manila to see and feel the impact of these policies and programs. Only 2 years at DILG, Robredo is not superman to totally eradicate systemic corruption. At least he was able to set up mechanisms at the local government levet to prevent it. This can be sustained with support coming from an informed, capacitated and vigilant citizenry.

  15. There is just too much facepalm on how the government and its media cronies are politicizing on this man’s untimely demise. Just plainly out of respect for the deceased, this should’ve been nothing more than an obituary.

    This chauvinistic attitude is just so typical of us. And I was thinking that the law preventing the politicians’ faces or names from printing in those oversized “billboards” has already been passed.

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