Saturday, March 5, 2016

Jottings on Jejomar Binay

Lest we all be fooled into thinking that the 2016 presidential election is a revolution to end all revolutions, let’s take a peek at the candidates aspiring for the nation’s highest post. Who are they? What kind of leadership will they bring to the presidency? If elected, will they really make a difference?

I’m the eternal cynic, I suppose. But I have argued long and loud that with the present crop of candidates, all that will really change, it seems, is the façade nothing more, nothing less. Sorry to say, none of the contenders fits my description of an avenging hawk in midflight, out to swoop and redress popular grievances. Lo, the game is on and the Golden Fleece is really up for grabs. Come one, come all, if you have the money. Come one, come everybody if you’ve got the popularity. That is the tragedy of Philippine politics—heavy on rhetoric, weak in ideology and vision.

Let us not jump into conclusions though because no matter what happens, a choice has to be made, and a president needs to be elected. After all, I am told, this is what democracy is all about.

Let’s start with Vice President Jejomar Binay. In retrospect, Binay’s career in politics started out with a promise. A street parliamentarian and a human rights lawyer during Martial Law, Binay became mayor of the country’s financial capital when democracy was reclaimed in 1986. At first he was just an OIC mayor of Makati City, but Binay grabbed the opportunity by the forelock and defeated his opponents in the first local elections held under the Cory government. Binay was on the road since.

Among the 2016 presidentiables, Binay appears to be a stand out in terms of dogged determination. He makes no bones about the fact that he covet the presidency more than anything else. The quirks of fate, however, turned against him when graft and corruption cases surfaced last year. As a result, a couple of other plunder cases that are now pending with the Ombudsman were unearthed as well. The charges are formidable. Even for the firm believer, this is rich, riveting headline stuff. But Binay denies the charges, denies having anything to do with P2.2-billion Makati City Hall parking building project, and denies having ill-gotten wealth – all this and more, much more. Win or lose, guilty or not, the accusations would continue to be a sword of Damocles on Binay’s head.

Jojo Binay belongs to a legion of Filipino traditional politicians whose biggest sin is political dynasty. It is of public knowledge that aside from Vice President Binay, he has relatives in government service, and they are no less than his direct family members. His son Junjun is presently the suspended City Mayor of Makati City, his eldest daughter Nancy is also a Senator of the Republic, and Abigail, his lawyer daughter, is a member of the House of Representatives representing one of the legislative districts of Makati City. To complete the list, the matriarch too once held the mayoralty post back in 1998 -2001 when Binay could not run for mayor because of the three-year rule prohibition.

In a defensive mode, Binay, in one of the academic fora he attended said, “Political dynasties do not cause poverty. Poverty is caused by poor leadership,” Oh, the shivers. How can politicians like him behave thusly? How can we allow them to do so?

Political dynasty is a major ailment for politicians in this country. In truth, it is designed to keep the elite in power, an elite which refuses to wipe out poverty. All serious political scientists and scholars of Philippine history, I believe, agree on this point. Oh yes, grinding poverty is the bottomless well from which the Binays and their ilk draw their vigor and sustenance like the toil of Sisyphus. Very obviously, Binay’s “socialist programs” in Makati on health, education, benefits for senior citizens, local government attention to wakes and funeral expenses to name a few, are nothing more but a pittance. Now we are repeatedly told that if Binay wins he would certainly translate his socialist policies into the national level—“Ganito Kami sa Makati, Sana Ganito Rin sa Pilipinas.” And here’s another one for the books: Makati Ngayon, Pilipinas Bukas. Voila, indeed! In essence, Binay’s campaign slogan today is no different from 2010 when he ran for vice president alongside Erap Estrada, another populist dimwit of yore. But as Goebbels said, falsehood repeated many times become the truth. For the life of me, let us not allow Binay’s vaudeville illusion to blur reality.

I find it quite odd for a presidential hopeful to never have wailed at corruption the way a cat caterwauls when pregnant. But nevertheless, I’ll tell you why. Here goes. In his 2010 book “Presidentiables and Emerging Upheavals,” former opposition leader Homobono “Bono” Adaza vividly recounted a conversation between him and Jojo Binay. This happened long time ago, presumably during Binay’s heyday as a lawyer-activist. Asked candidly how he intends to eliminate graft and corruption in the country, the young Binay supposedly answered: “Bono, there is no way you can eliminate graft and corruption under the present system. It is inevitable because of daily demands of people for help in terms of medicines, burial expenses system, tuition fees, travel and what have you.” Need I say more? That was Jojo Binay for you, ever the pragmatist who stuck to his guns whatever the cost.

This brings us to the question: What happened to our human rights defender who fought dictatorship side by side with the likes of Jose W. Diokno and Lorenzo Tanada? I really don’t know. Maybe Cory Aquino’s “Rambotito” quaffed one too many from the jug of power and got inebriated. Oh, power! What d'you do to people Nuff said.