After two days of intense search and rescue operations following a plane crash, Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo has been found dead.
An emotional DOTC Secretary Mar Roxas announced the development Tuesday morning. He noted President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III personally called Robredo's wife to convey the sad news.
Roxas said divers saw Robredo still inside the plane, at sea depths of 180-feet. He added the plane fuselage was discovered 7:35 am Tuesday, and Robredo's body was retrieved 8:15 am.
Roxas said rescue operations for two other pilots, Captain Jessup Bahinting and Nepalese flight student Kshitiz Chand, has been turned into a retrieval operations.
"Airplane was inverted. In that configuration, two pilots are inside cockpit. Jess being a passenger, mas madaling ma-access," said Roxas in a televised press conference.
As of now, Robredo's body is in Masbate and will be flown to his hometown Naga City.
He noted that Robredo's remains are in "sensitive state", given that the body has been underwater for two days now.
"Jess was underwater for more than two days now so changes in pressure and atmosphere [will make preserving the body for transport] complicated," he said.
On Saturday, a single-engine, four-seater Piper Seneca plane carrying Robredo en route to Naga City from Cebu City crashed off Masbate after reports of engine trouble.
Don Abrazado, Robredo's aide, survived the crash. Officials say investigation will resume after the bodies of the pilots have been retrieved.
Palace mourns passing of "family member"
Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. says Cabinet members are mourning Robredo's death. He said Robredo was a "dedicated public servant".
"Secretary Robredo was a dedicated public servant and a champion of good governance whose track record in public service has been an inspiration to all those who believe in government as an instrument for positive change," Ochoa said in a statement.
Ochoa said "prayers go out to the families of Robredo" and the DILG employees "who lost a leader who tirelessly worked and contributed greatly to President Aquino's campaign for good governance as a means to improve the lives of our countrymen."