MANILA, Philippines - At the war room in Makati City where vice presidential candidate Jejomar “Jojo” Binay was monitoring the election results, his picture was taped on a conspicuously positioned board, with a caption that says, “Ang dapat maging pangulo ng Pilipinas (The one who should be president of the Philippines).”
Binay was proclaimed vice president last week, but the idea captured by that caption had been discussed in coffee shops, informal gatherings, and small-group forums of political junkies long before the vote count was over.
The gist of the talks is how Binay is more experienced and smarter than the President he is supposed to just back up.
Here you have a president-elect, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, who was a non-performer in his 12 years as a lawmaker, and ran on a popularity borrowed from his well-loved mother (President Corazon Aquino) who had just died. He campaigned on the basis of attacking the outgoing President without presenting any specific plans and targets for his own administration.
Then here you have a vice president-elect, Binay, who, despite allegations of corruption in his 21-year stint as mayor, kept the poor of Makati happy with health and education services, and with consistently increasing income for the city.
While it is easy to assume that his running in tandem with former President Joseph Estrada and the endorsement by Senator Francis Escudero contributed to his popularity, Binay turned out to have started laying out his own machinery by helping vote-rich “sister” cities nationwide years earlier.
He didn’t have to have an elaborate campaign platform—he’s done it in Makati, he can do it for the entire country.
Binay has said that with him as vice president, Aquino “can sleep soundly.” He was apparently referring to Gloria Arroyo who, when she was vice president, turned out to be plotting to oust President Estrada, and succeeded.
Still, there’s no keeping political observers—and eventually, the voters, if the indications become too obvious and frequent—from contrasting Aquino and Binay.
Binay had refused to talk about the supposed contrast during the canvassing, when it became obvious that he was going to win, saying he didn’t want any controversy between him and Aquino. During the campaign, however, he often said in rallies, “Tandaan ninyo, bumoboto kayo para sa dalawang pangulo (Remember, you’re voting for 2 presidents).”
He is, it is obviously clear to Binay, not just the vice president but the second president.
And he and his camp are not denying either that the desire for him to be president is still alive.
DILG post is key
Binay originally aimed for the presidency, but then Aquino decided to run, and so did deposed Estrada. Binay decided to give way to the 2 in the name of loyalty.
Binay owed his break in Makati politics to Aquino’s mother, who named Binay officer in charge of the city after the 1986 People Power Revolution. He and his family have never left city hall since. Estrada, on the other hand, named him Metropolitan Manila Development Authority chairman in 1998 and until Estrad was ousted.
Binay still has his chance in 2016, but it will depend on what position he will hold under an Aquino administration.
Aquino had offered Binay the post of secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) before the campaign started, but took it back when Binay teamed up with Estrada. After proclamation, Binay made it known that it’s the DILG portfolio for him or nothing.
Prospero de Vera, who teaches public administration at the University of the Philippines, said that “there is no question” that Binay “will be a powerful presidential candidate in 2016” if he gets the DILG post now. As DILG secretary, Binay can further strengthen his ties with local government officials.
It is Binay’s network of LGU supporters that largely delivered the votes to him in the vice presidential race. Binay started building his network of sister cities 3 years ago. Makati City, which has a P12-billion annual budget, offered financial assistance to 37 cities and 82 municipalities nationwide.
The fact that Binay made public his desire to become the next DILG chief signals his plans to vie for the presidency in 2016, said Benito Lim, a political science professor at Ateneo de Manila University.
Aside from this, the DILG has police powers, Lim pointed out. The agency has supervisory powers over the Philippine National Police; as DILG chief, Binay will also be ex-officio chairman of the National Police Commission, the body that disciplines erring police officials. Hence, he can also assert authority over men in uniform.
Being DILG secretary, however, is a “double-edged sword,” De Vera warned.
If Binay can successfully introduce reforms as DILG secretary, he will gain the public’s confidence and trust and “rival Aquino’s popularity."
Or, Lim said, Binay can play supporting role by helping Aquino keep his promise of getting rid of graft and corruption if Binay can go after LGU officials.
But while this can make Binay an effective fiscalizer, it can also create friction between him and other local officials. Lim said Binay may have the support of a number of local officials, but there are those who are still with rival political parties.
“What will he do then, suspend them like what [former DILG secretary Ronaldo] Puno did?” Lim said.
In 2006, Puno slapped with preventive suspension several local officials, almost all of them aligned with the opposition. One of them was Binay.
The Noy-Bi factions
It remains a question, however, if Binay will get the DILG portfolio because Aquino is reportedly considering Mayor Jesse Robredo, who has also done very well in Naga City, without any allegations of corruption in the almost 2 decades that he served.
Two groups in the Aquino camp could influence Aquino into naming Binay to the DILG: his relatives, who reportedly campaigned for an Aquino-Binay ticket instead of Aquino-Roxas, the candidates of the Liberal Party; and Senator Escudero, who lent his media team to Aquino and openly endorsed the Aquino-Binay ticket.
But even if he may not be the next DILG secretary, Binay will play an indispensable role in the Aquino administration. De Vera said that Aquino would need Binay’s experience. “Binay can provide the Aquino presidency with stability. He had Binay experience far beyond what Noynoy Aquino ever had,” he said.
“No doubt about it, [Binay] is smarter. He has a better grasp of national issues,” Lim said.
De Vera also clarified that the people voted Binay not because they were aware that Binay’s qualifications were better than Aquino’s. “I don’t think they elected him with any reference to Noynoy,” said De Vera. They went for him because “he has done miracles in Makati City.”
And when voters are able to appreciate a politician for who he is and what he has accomplished as an individual—not in reference to a running mate or to some borrowed popularity from a famous relative—that politician’s candidacy becomes all the more formidable. (abs-cbNews.com/Newsbreak)
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