Below is the piece I wrote for South China Morning Post, based on my June 29,2010 one-on-one interview with Vice-President Jejomar Binay. to see the original article, click here.
I am posting it with my editor’s permission. – raissa
Vice-president has credentials as champion of poor
Tuesday, 06 July, 2010, 12:00am
Raissa Robles in Manila
The new Philippine vice-president, Jejomar Binay, has a highly unusual but apt given name.
It is a short form for the biblical Holy Family – Jesus, Mary, Joseph – which in the Filipino language is pronounced ‘Susmaryosep’, an exclamation of surprise and disbelief.
It was exactly this sentiment that greeted the controversial mayor of the financial centre of Makati when he won by only 727,084 votes over front-runner Mar Roxas, running mate of President Benigno Aquino.
Roxas said he would demand an official recount this week, claiming more than two million votes had gone missing. Binay (pictured) denied he had cheated and said he had merely campaigned better, harder and smarter by forging sister-city relations with 200 towns and cities across the country.
The post Binay had coveted – secretary of the interior and local government – was denied him by the president although their families were friends.
Aquino made it clear he would not abandon Roxas, who had earlier given way to his presidential bid.
The perception has been widespread that Binay, 67, would use that portfolio, which oversees the 130,000-strong police force and more than 17,000 local government executives, for a presidential run in 2016. In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Binay was frank enough to say he had long nursed an ambition to serve the country at the highest level: ‘I was aiming to be president when I was still in grade school, about age 10 or 11, because the presidency is associated with public service.’
Short, dark-skinned and born poor, Binay does not fit the profile of the prominent Filipino politician. He has overcompensated, using his 21-year stint as mayor of Makati City and closeness to former president Joseph Estrada to immense advantage. In fact, Estrada’s son Senator Jinggoy Estrada recently anointed Binay as his father’s successor as a champion of the nation’s poor.
‘I came from that sector, remember. I can speak and feel their hard life,’ Binay said. An uncle raised him after both his parents died. The uncle must have seen how smart he was, for he sent the boy to a state school for gifted children.
A crafts teacher there recalled how the youngster once came to class without materials. He quickly said he would find something, and returned lugging a broken desk to fix.
This habit of trying to fix things has often landed him in trouble. During the Marcos dictatorship, Binay, who was by then a human rights lawyer, was jailed 10 times.
As mayor, he was charged with graft for giving the poor used coffins, which the moneyed had used before cremations. The court cleared him.
Now a breath away from the presidency, Binay said he intended to redefine his office.
‘The image of the vice-president as a spare tyre, looking up, waiting for a person to keel over, I think is wrong,’ he said.
The constitution gives no line function or portfolio to the vice-president except that granted by the president. Aquino has offered Binay four other cabinet portfolios, but he refused them all. Instead, Binay said, he would be a working No 2.
‘For example, if I have an idea, I will write to the department concerned,’ he said.
The prospect of Binay becoming president has sent chills up the spine of the wealthy, who have seen how he has taxed the rich in Makati City and showered the poor with free hospitalisation, medicine, school books, coffins and movies.
In a way, he conceded, he had set up a welfare state in the country’s financial district while he was mayor.
But Binay denied he was an urban warlord: ‘I don’t have the features and character of a warlord. I don’t have people killed or who kill for me.’
He said he believed in being a strong leader.
What could get in the way of his ambition, though, are the long-held but unanswered allegations that Binay enriched himself in office.
According to an investigative report by Newsbreak magazine, in 1988 his declared family net worth was only 2.53 million pesos, but by 2008 it had ballooned to 44 million pesos (HK$7.37 million) in declared assets and an estimated 80 million pesos in undeclared land holdings, although his earnings as mayor totalled only about five million pesos.
Binay denied he took ‘commissions’ from building projects.
He said: ‘The problem with us Filipinos is that anything negative on the life of a local government official we believe as gospel truth. You can’t construct your own house, you must live in extreme poverty – that’s the ideal government official.’
One Makati resident said he still wanted Binay to be president someday, as commissions are the norm.
‘But while other mayors keep 70 per cent, Binay takes only 30 per cent,’ he said, ‘and he really has done a lot for us.’
LP Councilor Rey Quijada says
If PNoy endorses a Presidential candidate and Binay also runs, Bongbong with all their billions or trillions and loyalists may steal the Presidency because the anti Marcos/dictatorship where I belong will be split. This is what PNoy and other anti Marcos groups should study very well. Binay as President and Mar or Grace Poe as VP and majority of the senators coming from LP and allies may be worked out to ensure a continuation of reforms. In the lower level, that is, congressmen down to municipal councilors, either a coalition or free zone can be observed.
So you are one of those LP Samar faction who is peddling Binay as President by playing the fear of Bonbong’s presidency.
You are such an idiot when you mentioned Binay and to ensure a continuation of reform in one sentence!
If you are stupid, please be free to be one but in this site we call stupid what stupid does!
We will fight both Binay’s and Bongbong’s presidency and we will boty bury them. We will also bury you if you support Binay!
vander anievas says
ngayung umaga sa dzmm,
report ni junri hidalgo:
ayaw raw makisawsaw ni pnoy sa usapin ng debate.
wala raw siyang alam sa dahilan ng pag-atras ni vp sa debate.
okay lang yun sa akin.
sana rin ay ayaw rin niyang makisawsaw sa pagsasabi sa SP na tigilan na ang senate hearing.
dahil ang mga mamamayan ay nalilito na rin kung saang panig siya:
sa gusto ng mga mamamayan/bayan o sa pinagkakautangan ng loob?
wala namang masama kung lumingon siya sa pinagkautangan niya.
pero hindi narararpat ang pagtatakip sa gawang lisya.
vander anievas says
mas gusto namin ang hearing sa senado.
dahil may transparency.
sa korte, lahat nakatago.
lihim sa mga mata ng publiko.
at alam naman ng lahat na maraming pwedeng mangyari kung lihim ang anumang bagay.
kung transparent si vp, hindi na sana nagtagal ang hearing.
pero sila rin ang dahilan kung bakit nabalam ang usaping ito.
iharap si gregorio, iharap si gerry, si ebeng, si jojo.
bakit ayaw paharapin?
this is funny …
Slowly, Stealthily, Surely
Just this week…
Binay, UNA na sa Barangay???
In the last link was written:
Yes. Promises, promises; and a little bit of “grease” to help the medicine go down.
vander anievas says
saan man pumunta,
walang humpay na pangangampanya,
ano ang pakay ng mga pagbisita?
kunin ba ang pulso ng masa?
ano baga ang okasyon?
at kaninong gastos iyon?