In the Know: Jesse Robredo's widow also rises (Philippines Daily Inquirer)

Camarines Sur Rep. Leni G. Robredo captured the country’s admiration for her calm and composure in the aftermath of the tragic death of her husband, Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, three years ago.

After Jesse died in a plane crash in Masbate province in August 2012, his wife became the figurehead of his allies and supporters in Naga City even as she vowed then that she would not enter politics for the sake of her children.

Robredo, however, yielded to the pressure and ran in the 2013 congressional elections, representing the third district of Camarines Sur, which includes Naga City.

She said she decided to run to fight the political dynasty in the province and to maintain unity among the political supporters of her late husband who was Naga City mayor for 19 years.

She won against Nelly Villafuerte, wife of former Rep. Luis Villafuerte, and toppled the Villafuerte clan’s almost 40 years of dominance in the district.

For her first bill in Congress, Robredo filed a full disclosure measure that would require all government agencies to disclose their budgets and financial transactions even without a request from the public.

The bill stemmed from a memorandum circular issued by her late husband which had ordered local government units and regional offices of the Department of the Interior and Local Government to report on their finances, bidding activities and public offerings.

She also proposed a mechanism seeking to eliminate congressional discretion in the disbursement of the controversial Priority Development Assistance Fund amid the P10-billion pork barrel scandal.

Performance incentive fund

The scheme sought to convert part of the congressional allocation into a District Performance Incentive Fund. This means a performing barangay (village), town or city would have greater access to funds.

Under Robredo’s proposal, a member of the House of Representatives would choose only from a list of proposed programs and projects submitted by the local government unit through bottom-up budgeting and endorsed by the District Development Council, patterned after the People’s Council in Naga City.

She also authored the proposed tax incentives management and transparency act, which seeks to provide for the creation of a tax expenditure account, from which tax incentives granted by investment promotion agencies would come.

Before joining the House of Representatives, Robredo, a lawyer, worked quietly with civil society serving women and children in distress and farmers struggling to own their farms.

She also applied for the position of Regional Trial Court judge in Bicol in 2011 and was included by the Judicial and Bar Council on the short list of candidates for the post.

Robredo is a graduate of the Universidad de Santa Isabel in Naga City from elementary to high school. She graduated at the University of the Philippines Diliman in 1986 with a degree in Economics and took up law at the University of Nueva Caceres in Naga City, passing the bar in 1997.

Helping farmers

She is the eldest of three children of retired Naga City Regional Trial Court Judge Antonio Gerona and Salvacion Sto. Tomas. She is currently connected with the Naga chapter of Saligan, a national alternative lawyers’ group helping farmers.

Robredo is involved in several civic organizations, including the Lakas ng Kababaihan ng Naga, which she founded and the Naga City Council for Women, where she served as president. She is also a member of Federacion International de Abogados.