Divers recover body of top Philippine politician

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Divers recovered the body of one of the Philippines' most influential politicians on Tuesday, three days after a light plane carrying him and three others crashed into the sea, the government said.

Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo's remains were found at a depth of 55 metres (180 feet) near the coast of the central island of Masbate, where the plane went down Saturday, Transportation and Communications Secretary Mar Roxas said.

Roxas said divers battled strong currents to reach the wreck of the twin-engine Piper Seneca, which was lying overturned on the sea bed about 800 metres from the shore, and Robredo's body was then brought up.

"The body arrived on the surface at about 8:15 on Tuesday morning," Roxas said on live television broadcast from Masbate, where he was spearheading the search operations.

Divers were still trying to recover the bodies of the Filipino pilot and his Nepalese co-pilot.

The fourth person on the airplane, Robredo's aide, had survived the crash.

Robredo was flying to his home province from the central Philippines, where he was on an official trip, when the plane developed engine trouble, fell short of the runway and plunged into the sea.

The dramatic search and rescue operations had gripped the Catholic nation, with hundreds joining prayers vigils for the well-liked minister.

Robredo, 54, married and a father of three daughters, was one of President Benigno Aquino's most trusted ministers.

As interior secretary, he was in control of the country's 143,000-strong national police force, which has long been dogged by accusations of corruption and abuse.

Robredo was overseeing efforts to fight corruption in the force, part of a much-publicised anti-graft programme Aquino has overseen across all sectors of society since coming to power in 2010.

A former town mayor, Robredo became a rising star in local politics when in 2000 he won the Ramon Magsaysay Award for good governance. The well-respected awards recognise high-achieving and honourable people annually across Asia.

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