Written by Jesus F. Llanto
Monday, 30 November 2009
Can his experience as city mayor and the masa vote catapult him to the vice presidency?
The Puwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) standard- bearers—former President Joseph Estrada and Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay—have a number of things in common. Both served as mayors for a long time. Both have been accused of plunder. And both are counting on the votes of the masses to win the two highest positions of the land next year.
Like his running mate Estrada, Binay, the United Opposition’s vice presidential bet, is capitalizing on a pro-poor image.
Binay’s infomercials that recently aired on television showed a re-enactment of his childhood days—a young boy described as “maagang naulila [orphaned at a young age]” while “lumaki sa hirap [grew up poor]” shows a boy cleaning the pig pens while his friends pass by.
In his acceptance speech at the declaration rally in Tondo on October, the Makati mayor almost sounded like his running mate when he promised to bring back the power to the masses.
“Asahan ninyo na ako ay kasangga, kadamay, at tunay na kasama ni Pangulong Erap... Asahan n’yo na lagi akong maninindigan para sa sambayanan, para sa ikakabuti ng mga Pilipino, para sa kalayaan at pagbabalik ng kapangyarihan sa masa,” Binay said.
Former Senator Ernesto Maceda, campaign manager of the PMP, told Newsbreak that the Erap-Binay tandem’s advantage is that its candidates are easily identified with the masses, and their experience as former mayors made them familiar with the needs of the poor.
“When you are mayor, you are hands on and well-acquainted with the small problems of the poor,” Maceda said.
‘Ganito kami sa Makati’
But Binay’s camp wants to emphasize another thing in his infomercials: that he is a local chief executive who has experience in delivering services to his constituents.
His television ads tell it all: free medical services, free education for the students, and benefits for senior citizens of Makati City.
Joey Salgado, media officer of Binay, said that the mayor’s accomplishments as shown in his ads prove his track record as local official and as government official in an executive position. The vice presidency, he added, is also an executive position like the mayor.
Veteran political strategist Malou Tiquia said that Binay’s message in his ads shows him as an “idol of local government officials,” and depicts Makati as a model. “It resonates with local government units.”
In various fora, Binay has said that his experience as the top official of one the country’s premier cities makes him qualified for a higher executive post. He previously announced that he is aiming for the presidency, but he later slid down to become Estrada’s running mate.
“The next vice president should have the ability to serve the country and implement effective social programs... Sa bigat ng mga hamong ito, ipagkakatiwala ba natin ang ating bansa sa mga taong hindi pa ganap na handa at sa mga walang ganap na karanasang mamuno? ” said Binay in the Tondo rally.
Binay has dominated Makati since the start of the post-Marcos era. Binay, one of the local chief executives appointed by former President Corazon Aquino, served as mayor of the country’s premier city from 1987-1998 and from 2001-2010.
In 1998, he fielded his wife Elenita for the mayoralty race since he was barred from seeking a fourth term. During his absence from the city hall, he served as the chair of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) under Estrada’s administration. Critics of the Binays, however, said Elenita was merely a dummy mayor, and it was actually her husband who made important decisions for the city.
In 2007, Binay defeated Senator Lito Lapid for the mayoralty race by a huge margin. His family has also tightened its grip on the city’s political scene with the victory of her daughter Marlyn Abigail in the congressional race for the 2nd district. His son, meanwhile, is a city councillor.
Binay’s reign in Makati was not free from controversy. In 2001, Newsbreak reported that Binay amassed properties that his salary as local chief executive could not afford. He was also charged by a former city councilor of plunder for not remitting to the Bureau of Internal Revenue around P1 billion withheld taxes of city government employees for the past five years.
Despite his well-entrenched power in Makati, Binay’s main challenge, political analysts said, is the fact that he is not well-known in the provinces and outside Metro Manila.
“He is the kingpin of Makati but outside Manila he is unknown,” said Ateneo de Manila political science professor Benito Lim. “Makati is not the Philippines.”
In the post-Marcos era, no local official without previous experience in national government has been elected as either vice president or president.
Even in the senatorial race—where voters can pick up to 12 candidates—very few local officials have emerged as winners. Those local officials who were able to win senatorial seats—Alfredo Lim (former Manila mayor and 1998 presidential contender), Richard Gordon (former mayor of Olongapo City and tourism secretary), Vicente Sotto III (former Quezon City vice mayor), Francis Pangilinan (former Quezon City councilor), Ramon Revilla Jr. (former governor of Cavite), Lito Lapid (former governor of Pampanga) and Jinggoy Estrada (former San Juan mayor.)—succeeded either because of their showbiz background, exposure as cabinet secretary or previous candidacy for the president.
Salgado, meanwhile, said Binay has a network of cities and municipalities all over the country. The network, he said, is composed of the sister-LGUs of Makati.
A check on the website of Makati shows that the city has 37 sister cities and 182 sister municipalities. Sister-LGUs of Makati, Salgado said, receive calamity assistance and book donations from Makati City.
He added some mayors of these cities and municipalities have already pledged their support for Binay. “They may belong to Lakas, Liberal Party and Nacionalista Party but they are already committed in supporting Binay and may cross party lines.”
Behind Loren, Mar
Binay has been trailing behind two senators in the surveys. In the October 2009 Pulse Asia survey, he only got a rating of 13%, compared to Liberal Party’s bet Mar Roxas’s 37% and Senator Loren Legarda’s 23%.
The October rating of Binay, however, was higher by one percentage point compared to the results of the August 2009 survey.
Maceda, however, is not worried and is confident that the poor would prefer Binay over the two senators. “Roxas is elite while Legarda has a lot of explaining to do since she voted to remove Villar as Senate president.”
Ramon Casiple of the Institute for Political and Electoral Reforms, however, does not agree. “The masa of Binay is the masa of Makati only. He only has Makati as his bailiwick”
Tiquia, meanwhile, believes that Filipinos should not discount Binay. “It is still too early to tell.”
But aside from his low performance in the survey, analysts said the real threat to Binay is the fact that his running mate Estrada might get disqualified.
“He is riding on the popularity of Estrada,” Lim said.
A provision in the 1987 Constitution says that a president is not eligible to run for re-election. Estrada’s candidacy is expected to be questioned once he files his certificate of candidacy. If Estrada is disqualified, political analysts say it will have serious implication on Binay’s candidacy since he may end up running without a presidential standard bearer.
“He cannot run a nationwide campaign without the presidential candidate,” said political analyst and UP professor Prospero de Vera III.
“By becoming Erap’s vice presidential bet, he is playing with Erap’s power and not with his own strength,” he added. (Newsbreak)