Robert Barbers

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Robert Barbers
Senator of the Philippines
In office
June 30, 1998 – June 30, 2004
Member of the Philippine House of Representatives from Surigao del Norte's Second District
In office
June 30, 1992 – April 15, 1996
Preceded by Constantino C. Navarro
Succeeded by Robert "Ace" Barbers
Secretary of the Interior and Local Government
In office
April 16, 1996 – February 3, 1998
President Fidel V. Ramos
Preceded by Rafael Alunan III
Succeeded by Epimaco Velasco
Personal details
Born Robert Zabala Barbers
(1944-01-19)January 19, 1944
Surigao, Commonwealth of the Philippines
Died December 25, 2005(2005-12-25) (aged 61)
Pasig, Philippines
Spouse(s) Virginia Smith
Children with Smith:
Robert Ace Barbers
Robert Lyndon Barbers
Robert Dean Barbers
Mary Grace Barbers
out of wedlock:
Robert Earl Barbers
Remi Adrian Barbers
Robert Niño Barbers
Rainier Louise Barbers
Residence Surigao City
Alma mater Lyceum of the Philippines University
Silliman University[1]
Occupation Lawyer, police officer, politician
Religion Roman Catholicism

Robert "Bobby" Zabala Barbers (January 19, 1944 – December 25, 2005) was a police officer, Secretary of Interior and Local Government and Senator of the Philippines.

Early life and studies[edit]

Barbers was born in Surigao City to Felix and Regina Barbers. His grandfather, George Barbieri (later Barbers), was an Italian-American immigrant from the Spanish–American War who married an Ilocana.[citation needed] He spoke Cebuano, Tagalog, English, and his native Surigaonon. Barbers studied at the Surigao Elementary School and finished in 1955. He graduated as valedictorian at Surigao High School in 1959. He took up Political Science at Silliman University but completed it in 1981 at the Lyceum of the Philippines University, where he also earned his Bachelor of Laws in 1985.[2]

He later went on to earn a degree of Master of Science in Criminology at the Metro Manila College in 1992. Additionally, he earned the degree of Master of Science in National Security Administration at the National Defense College in 1994.

Police career[edit]

Barbers was encouraged by his uncle, police general and former Vice Mayor of Manila, James Barbers, who was then with the Philippine National Police – Western Police District, to join the police force. He was also influenced by his readings of various mystery novels. He took and topped the examinations for enlistment in the Manila Police Department. In 1975, he became a police sergeant and was assigned in some chartered cities. He was promoted to the rank of Police Officer II in 1981 and to Police officer I in 1983.

Barbers rose from the ranks of the Police Service and came to be known as one of Manila’s finest police officers. As a matter of fact, busting crooks and solving criminal cases has gained him numerous awards and commendations during his 27 years as a law enforcer.

His list of accomplishments as a police officer include: adjudged for three consecutive years as one of the Ten Outstanding Policemen of the Philippines (TOPP) from 1986 to 1988; sixteen efficiency medals for solving major crimes; earned promotions for the arrest of drug lord Don Jose Pepe Oyson and rebel leaders Col. Billy Bibit and Ignacio Capegsan; awarded the medals of merit and gallantry and given commendations and letters from the U.S. State Department and various other embassies; and was the only Filipino Golden Service Awardee for Outstanding Law Enforcer in Asia, which was awarded in New York in 1991.


Barbers entered the political arena in 1992 as a member of the House of Representatives. At the early stage of his political career, the then Representative of the 2nd District of Surigao del Norte was recognized and acclaimed for his outstanding performance as a legislator by various institutions and organizations, including the Consumer Welfare Foundation of the Philippines, University of the Philippines, Gladiator Magazine, Pilipino Newsline, the Consumer’s Union of the Philippines (PICC) and the National Defense College of the Philippines. The Mindanao congressman was re-elected in 1995 unopposed.

Secretary of Interior and Local Government[edit]

Barbers's second term was cut short when he was appointed by President Fidel Ramos as Secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

As a member of the Cabinet, Barbers remained active in his campaign against criminality with his founding of the Public Assistance and Reaction Against Crime (PARAC). It was also during his stint as Interior Chief that he intensified his campaign against illegal drugs. He established the Bring-A-Friend Project, which worked for the voluntary submission of drug dependents for rehabilitation. It was also during his tenure as Interior and Local Government Secretary when he founded the Barangay at Pulisya Laban sa Krimen (BPLK) Program whose main purpose was to enlist the cooperation and active participation of the civilian population in the fight against criminality.

Moreover, Barbers added another feature to his cap when he was named by the Social Weather Station (SWS) survey as the most effective, most efficient, and most popular Cabinet member of the Ramos administration for five consecutive times.


Barbers was encouraged by Ramos to run in the 1998 elections as a Senator under the Lakas NUCD Party. During the campaign, Barbers was deemed as one of the "sure win" candidates for the Senate. True enough, the Mindanao congressman ranked fifth among the elected Senators in terms of votes received, and became the first and, thus far, the only police officer who became a member of the Senate.

As chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Order and Illegal Drugs, Barbers continued to be a staunch crusader against criminality, injustice, and illegal drugs, which he considered as the number one enemy of the people. He authored more than a hundred bills and resolutions, majority of which are aimed at improving the peace and order situation and uplifting the living conditions of the Filipinos.

In November 2000, Barbers was diagnosed with a throat problem and was later flown to the United States. He was the lone senator absent during the impeachment trial of President Joseph Estrada. When he returned to the Philippines in February 2001, the impeachent trial was over and Estrada was ousted by the second EDSA People Power Revolution.

After the 2001 elections, Barbers authored the law creating the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency. He was instrumental in the crafting of other laws that increased penalties for "jueteng" protectors and operators and strengthened the anti-drugs campaign, such as including possession of 10 grams of methamphetamine hydrochloride as a nonbailable offense.

Barbers was a strong advocate of the death penalty for capital offenders.

2004 elections[edit]

In the 2004 elections, Barbers ran for reelection as senator under the Lakas CMD banner, but lost.

He filed an election protest against Senator Rodolfo Biazon to contest the 12th slot, accusing the Commission on Elections of haste in proclaiming the latter's victory and demanding that the poll body await the election results in his strongholds in Mindanao. His petition was eventually denied.

Barbers' name was also mentioned in the controversial "Hello Garci" tapes. Transcripts of the tapes showed Barbers purportedly calling then Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano to ensure his victory in the 2004 elections.

Personal life[edit]

Bobby, as Barbers was known to many, is married to Virginia Smith. They have four children, three of whom are sons also named Robert. Robert "Ace" Barbers is the representative of the 2nd district of Surigao del Norte who previously served as governor the same province. His eldest son, Robert King was said to be Barbers's favorite grandson. Robert Dean Barbers is the Director of the Philippine Tourism Authority and was once a city councilor of Makati. Robert Lyndon Barbers was also a Provincial Governor of Surigao del Norte. Mary Grace Barbers manages the family business in various locations in Mindanao.

Barbers made it a point to personally meet and hear the problems of each visitor. He was also a pious devotee of the Santo Niño, as evidenced by the various icons of the child Christ which adorned his office. He credited the Santo Niño for every success, including the criminal cases he had solved and all his electoral victories. Because of his devotion to the child Christ, and for being a law enforcer, Barbers came up with a Santo Niño image dressed in police uniform, which came to be known as the Sto. Niño de Policia.

Barbers was twice considered for the position of vice president in the ticket of then presidential candidate de Venecia in 1998, and again in 2001 after Arroyo considered him following her ascension to the presidency after the ouster of Joseph Estrada.


Barbers died at 10:29 a.m., on Christmas Day, 2005, of a heart attack due to esophageal cancer at The Medical City hospital in Pasig City. He was 61. He was buried at the Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque.


  1. ^ "Congress Watch: Barbers, Robert Z.". Makati Business Club. Retrieved 2010-05-18.
  2. ^ "Robert Barbers". Makati Business Club. Retrieved 2009-12-21.

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