Just my opinion
by Raïssa Robles
While President Benigno Aquino III has successfully vanquished enemies, ironically, it is his personal friends who could bring him down. He has a difficult time letting go of pals who become political liabilities.
The opposite is true of Vice President Jejomar Binay. He appears to have no problem dropping friends to further his political interests, and those ex-buddies are the ones who can bring him down.
Every politician rises to the top with a lot of help from his friends. In the case of Aquino, his coterie has been labelled by critics as his kabarilan, kaklase at kaibigan. In the case of former Joseph Estrada, besides his kaklase, kaibigan, katrabaho sa sine, he also had his kainuman at kabit. As for former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, she had kaklase, kapulitika at kabiyak. Former President Fidel Ramos had his kasama sa giyera and kala-oops, I shouldn’t say it. My bad. While the late President Corazon Aquino had her kasama sa pagdarasal at ka-mahjong. I mention the last without any intention of disrespect. I only wish to point out that when you physically get to be several feet away from a President, there is always a chance of getting a President’s listening ear.
It is inevitable and human for any president to bring to his office the people he has known throughout his career. The problem is, where does he draw the line? How does he treat their advice, their suggestions and offers of help. More complications arise when friends are given a line function in government. But because they can contact the President directly, they wield more power than what their official post gives them.
This was what happened to former Interior and Local Governments Undersecretary Ricardo Puno. He had a better communication line to PNoy than his boss, the late Local Governments Secretary Jesse Robredo ever did. This is what could have happened with newly-resigned Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima and the Mamasapano, Maguindanao operation that ended in a fiasco. PNoy himself hinted in his press conference last January 28, 2014 after the tragedy:
“General Purisima was helping me understand the jargon. But he was involved up to the point in time, directly, that he was ordered suspended by the Ombudsman.”
It is highly likely that Purisima was talking and texting PNoy about the operation even after being suspended by the Ombudsman. Not as the PNP Director General but as a friend.
It took PNoy over a week to assess the fallout from the fiasco and realize that Purisima had to go. But when PNoy announced Purisima’s resignation as PNP-DG, he praised Purisima – not for what the latter did in PNP but for helping secure him from physical harm:
“Noon pong coup d’etat, o iyong attempted coup d’etat ng 1987, panatag ang loob ko bago kami na-ambush na may sapat na kakayahan ang aming security personnel. Dahil nga po halos naubos ang mga kasamahan ko, nayanig ang aking kompiyansa. Si Alan Purisima po ang nag-design, nagpatupad, nagtrain sa amin ng isang modified VIP protection course; malaki ang naitulong nito sa panunumbalik ng aking kompiyansa. Mula noon, hanggang ngayon, marami kaming pinagdaanan; kasama ko siya sa pakikipagtunggali sa mga makapangyarihang interes na maaari kaming ipahamak. Noong mga panahong bahagi ako ng oposisyon, bagama’t peligroso sa kanyang karera ang pagiging malapit sa akin, hindi po ako iniwan ni Alan.”
[The public is likewise aware that Alan and I have known each other for a very long time. During the coup d’etat, or the attempted coup d’ etat in 1987, before we were ambushed, I was confident that our security personnel had sufficient skills to protect us. But because almost all my escorts fell during that ambush, my confidence was shaken. It was Alan Purisima who designed, executed, and trained us in a modified VIP protection course; this played a great role in restoring my confidence. From then, until today, Alan and I have gone through so much; he was with me in opposing powerful vested interests who were capable of threatening our lives. In the days when I was part of the opposition, even though it was detrimental to his career to be close to me, Alan did not leave my side.]
It is perhaps for this reason that PNoy gave Purisima a gentle exit.
I have asked around about how PNoy deals with his friends in his official family.
I learned from highly reliable sources that it was PNoy who had ordered Purisima to face the music at the Senate inquiry of Senator Grace Poe over his alleged mansions. He told Purisima, despite their long-standing friendship, that he had to go and defend himself publicly from such allegations.
I can’t recall any other post-Marcos president who did the same thing to a friend. If you recall, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo even issued Executive Order 464 banning all executive officials from appearing at the Senate without her prior consent. So if my former Business Day newspaper colleague Bobi Tiglao is going to rail at the way PNoy gave Purisima a gentle heave-ho, whisper into his ear “EO 464.”
Vice-President Jejomar Binay is a different case altogether when it comes to treating his friends.
Binay’s inauguration as Vice-President of the Philippines on July 1, 2010 was probably one of the happiest days of his life. The orphaned father of five was a heartbeat away from attaining the presidency – a dream he had nursed as a young boy while earning bed and board by doing househoold chores, feeding slop to the pigs and grain to the fighting cocks his uncle raised.
By 2013, Binay had built his very own formidable political dynasty: his only son Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr. was re-elected mayor of the country’s premiere business district Makati City. His eldest daughter Nancy became a senator despite being unprepared for the job; while younger daughter Mar-Len was re-elected congresswoman.
But this triple 2013 victory is now turning out to have serious political costs, one that could undermine Binay’s ultimate goal. It may be do or die for Binay in the 2016 presidential race because by then he will turn 74. His next chance will be at age 80.
Apparently, to secure his family’s victories in 2013, Binay stabbed his staunchest political allies who were also his personal friends: former Senator Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and his son Koko and former Makati Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado.
Binay had done the same thing to another ally, Joseph Estrada, in order to win the vice-presidency in 2010. However, both Binay and Estrada have yet to concede that Binay had betrayed Estrada. Although Estrada was found not to have voted for any vice-president when he cast his ballot on election day in 2010. And Binay was found to have sneakily grafted himself to PNoy, Estrada’s political rival, by secretly launching a vote for “NoyBi” campaign.
What happened between Binay and Koko, the son of Nene Pimentel, is an all too familiar tale in Philippine politics.
Nene Pimentel was for a long time the “kuya” (elder brother) whom the orphaned Jojo Binay never had. Despite the nine-year gap between them, they were the twin leaders of PDP-Laban for over a quarter of a century. Then suddenly for the 2013 Senate race, Binay placed Miguel Zubiri in the same Senate slate as Koko. Koko complained because Migz had cheated him off his Senate seat in 2007. Migz of course had a different take on what had happened. He insisted they were “both victims” of the cheating taking place, as he resigned from the Senate in 2011 after occupying Koko’s seat for four years.
Koko demanded that Migz be removed from the Senate slate or else. Binay did not step in and have Migz removed. It was a big let-down for Koko and Nene since it was Nene Pimentel who had given Jojo Binay first crack at the mayor’s post in Makati in 1986 by appointing him officer-in-charge of Makati. I know this because I was covering both men in 1986.
Nene accused the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) – the opposition coalition to which PDP-Laban belonged and which was fielding Migz for senator – of choosing money over principles because he said Migz Zubiri was simply “oozing with a lot of money.” While the Pimentels only had their supporters.
Binay’s move must have shocked Nene and Koko. They had been through so many political wars together, so many baptisms and weddings and even a wake when Junjun Binay’s wife died in childbirth in 2009. It spelled the death of PDP-Laban.
Unfortunately for Binay, Migz lost but Koko won in the 2013 elections. Barely a year later in 2014, Koko went for the jugular. He accused Binay, his wife Elenita and their son Junjun of irregularities over the construction of the Makati city hall parking building. And he hauled Junjun before the Senate body, made him testify and recently had him arrested briefly for refusing to testify again.
As for Binay’s former Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado, they were once very, very close. But the friendship broke after Binay failed to keep his promise to field Mercado as his replacement as Makati City mayor.
Binay hopes to become President next year. Will his broken friendships derail his dream?
As for PNoy, when he steps down, can his friendship with Puno and Purisima go back to the way they were? Or are these broken for good?