Heeding the request of the widow of Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has secured “sensitive” documents that Robredo had left in a condominium unit owned by the couple.
De Lima told reporters Wednesday that the documents, along with records from Robredo’s office, would be subjected to an inventory.
At least eight members of the Presidential Security Group (PSG) have been assigned to keep an eye on Robredo’s offices and ensure that no unauthorized individuals enter the rooms.
“For sure, there are sensitive records and documents as there had been several ongoing investigations … So we need to preserve them,” De Lima said.
Robredo had been on top of the fight against “jueteng,” an illegal numbers racket, before his death.
De Lima said she had secured the documents—“both personal and official” when she was at the Robredos’ condominium unit for two days since Monday upon the request of his widow, Maria Leonor Robredo.
At that time, Robredo was still missing after his plane crashed off the waters of Masbate City. His remains were recovered on Tuesday from the wrecked plane that was lying belly up on the seabed about 54 meters from the surface and 800 m from the shore.
“As secretary of interior and local government, Secretary Jesse handled many sensitive and important matters that have documents. So these documents will be subject to an inventory,” De Lima said.
She said she was asked to secure the documents because she knew where the Robredos’ condominium unit was and because the staff members of the late interior and local government secretary were in Naga.
Former Isabela Gov. Grace Padaca said Robredo’s biggest frustration in the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) was the deep-seated resistance against his efforts to crack down on jueteng.
“He (Robredo) gave it his all in wiping out jueteng whether it was a hot issue or not. But he was disappointed very early on when he felt alone in his fight. He was resigned to the fact that jueteng was too big a problem to be solved in the first few years of the administration. So, he took it upon himself to try and finish the job until the end of President Aquino’s term,” Padaca said on Tuesday.
Padaca and Robredo are joint founders of Kaya Natin along with former Pampanga Gov. Ed Panlilio.
Harvey Keh, Kaya Natin lead convenor, said: “He told us (Kaya Natin members) about the strong resistance from the police and local government officials. He was frustrated because no matter how passionate he was in wanting to remove jueteng, he realized the problem was systemic. But he remained optimistic he could do it.”
Keh said Robredo instituted a “one-strike policy” against police officers found to be involved in jueteng. The one-strike policy refers to the relief of police officers if jueteng operations are confirmed to exist in their areas.
Meeting with Ochoa
The justice secretary met Wednesday with Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., who has been designated caretaker of the DILG, and they talked about “what to do with the documents.”
Ochoa’s decision was to secure and subject the documents to an inventory upon the return of Robredo’s staff members from Naga, De Lima said.
She said it was necessary to “preserve’’ and list down the records and documents in Robredo’s office and condominium so that they could find out what these were all about.
“We’re here to prevent the loss of important documents inside Robredo’s office,” a PSG member told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.
The PSG personnel were overly strict and prohibited members of the media from getting near Robredo’s room supposedly upon orders of Palace officials.
A piece of bond paper with the words “No Entry. Secured Area” was posted on the door of Robredo’s room on the 10th floor of the DILG office at the Francisco Gold Condominium building on the corner of Edsa and Mapagmahal Street in Quezon City.
Robredo’s satellite office in Camp Crame, the main camp of the Philippine National Police, has also been closed since Sunday.
Ochoa arrived in the DILG office at around 8 a.m. and proceeded to Robredo’s office. He held a closed-door meeting with Interior Undersecretary Rico Puno and other senior officials of the department which lasted for over two hours.
Speaking with reporters, Ochoa vowed to pursue the programs and policies that Robredo initiated in the DILG and its attached agencies—the PNP, the Bureau of Fire Protection and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.
“I’m here just for the transition (period) so holding a turnover ceremony is not appropriate. We will do what should be done at once and act on the pending (projects) here,” Ochoa said.
Disappointment with PNP
Padaca recalled that Robredo had invited her and other Kaya Natin members to a meeting with then newly installed PNP Director General Nicanor Bartolome to discuss Robredo’s crusade against jueteng.
“We all came out of that meeting feeling that he (Bartolome) had little desire or interest in driving out jueteng. We all felt his (Robredo’s) disappointment,” Padaca said.
She said Robredo was personally proud of gaining some headway in fighting jueteng in his home region, Bicol.
But Keh said Robredo also identified the areas where he faced the most resistance: The provinces of Pampanga, Nueva Ecija, Quezon, Batangas and Pangasinan.
He said Robredo was doubly frustrated that jueteng was flourishing using jai alai and small town lottery as a front for these illegal activities.
In Dagupan City, retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz said that if Robredo had his way, many police officials would have lost their jobs due to jueteng in their respective areas.
Cruz said when Robredo assumed his post as head of the DILG in 2010, the secretary met with him and admitted that fighting jueteng in the country would be a difficult job.
“He told me if he would do it, many police officers would lose their jobs because of the one-strike policy. We know that when there is jueteng in a place, all officials are involved—the governor, the mayor, the police. He was honest enough to tell me it was not an easy job,” Cruz said.
Cruz, head of Krusada ng Bayan Laban sa Sugal (People’s Crusade Against Gambling), said he assured Robredo that he understood his situation and told him that jueteng was embedded in the country’s political structure.
“Even [President Aquino] said eradicating jueteng was not his priority. Maybe [the President] also knows how difficult it would be,” he said.
Cruz said the crusade against jueteng lost an ally with the death of Robredo. As Naga City mayor, Robredo was a three-time awardee of Krusada for keeping his city jueteng-free, Cruz said.
The bishop said he had gifted Robredo with a crucifix. “He told me he had no religious articles in his office, so I gave him a crucifix and told him that many would crucify him as secretary,” Cruz said.
The bishop said it was three months ago when he last saw Robredo.
He said Robredo again told him about how difficult it was to eradicate jueteng in the country.
“Again, I assured him that I understood his predicament,” Cruz said. With a report from Yolanda Sotelo, Inquirer Northern Luzon