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hough his popularity rating has taken some hits lately, Vice President Jejomar Binay is still far and away the strongest contender for the Philippine presidency in 2016. But is he the right choice for the country? His legions of supporters will give you an enthusiastic "yes;" his detractors however, will tell you "no!" So who's right? To answer our question, lets look instead at Binay's deeds rather than the words of his supporters or detractors.
Soon after he was installed as Mayor of Makati by President Cory Aquino, rumors started spreading that Binay would be "given" a unit or two in every high-rise condominium building constructed in Makati. This was to make sure things went smoothly for the builders or developers. Though these rumors are widespread, we are unaware of any occasion where the former mayor has come out to categorically deny those allegations. It may be that Binay simply refuses to dignify, what to him are silly and preposterous rumors, with a response. The problem with that tact however is the rumors don't go away and his detractors point to his non-response as proof that the rumors are likely true.
Binay's 2013 Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN) declares a net worth of a little over Php60 million. Compared to other mayors and governors, Binay's net worth appears small. However, a 2013 article from an online news website suggests Binay uses a tactic extensively employed by Ferdinand Marcos during the martial law years: that of having subalterns stand in as listed owners of properties and businesses he really owns. And if an asset is not in his name, then it does not have to be declared in his SALN. If this allegation is true it would be difficult to pin Binay down on it barring actual admissions by accomplices.
So let us look at Binay's other public acts to answer the question we pose at the top. Binay was appointed by President Corazon Aquino shortly after the 1986 EDSA revolution. He then got himself elected mayor of Makati in 1988, won reelection in 1992, and again in 1995. His term ended in 1998 and he could not run for reelection due to term limits. So he fielded his wife Elenita who won as mayor for one term. In 2001, with term limits now behind him, Binay ran for mayor once more and held that post till 2010 when he was term-limited out once again. This time Jejomar Binay, Jr. took over Makati's mayoral reins from his father. While many Filipinos see nothing wrong with what Binay did—most other Filipino officials from governors and mayors down to Baranggay chairmen have been doing this to get around the term-limit rule imposed on them.
A true statesman however will look at the spirit of the term limit law and understand that it is there so that an individual or family cannot monopolize an elected office. Term limits gives others a chance to govern as well. Binay, a lawyer with post graduate studies from institutions like Wharton and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard cannot be cut any slack when it comes to knowing what is ethical behavior and what isn't. As we've seen with previous Philippine presidents who are not morally and ethically grounded, they end up causing great harm to the country and its people.
Also at issue with Binay is the dynastic ambitions he has for members of his family: his wife was a former mayor of Makati; his son is its current mayor; his daughter Nancy was just elected senator; and his other daughter Abigail is a congresswoman representing Makati. The question one might ask is: are the Binays so exceptionally gifted that the country needs to have four of them in public office? Or has Binay used his political clout to push is family into positions they could never have attained on their own. There still is no Anti-Dynasty Law in this country so Binay isn't doing anything wrong. It just doesn't pass the "smell test" for those of us who expect uncompromising ethical and moral standards from our highest public officials.
Now let us briefly look at Binay's decision-making process. He just announced that he has Rep. Manny Pacquiao listed in his party's senatorial slate. Really? Manny Pacquiao a Philippine senator? Many Filipinos believe he doesn't even deserve to be a congressman, which he is. Together with former President and now Rep. Gloria Arroyo who is under hospital arrest for plunder, Pacquiao has the most absences amongst his congressional colleagues. For most of the year, Pacquiao is away either training or preparing for a fight. And when he's not doing that, he's coaching his basketball team or planning to play professional basketball himself. The fact that he is extremely popular and will most likely win if he runs for does not mean that he should run. Binay's choice of Pacquiao is a crass political decision that in many ways give us an insight into what kind of president Binay will be. There is zero benefit for the Filipino people if Pacquiao become a senator because there is nothing senatorial about him—he has nothing to contribute. But having Pacquiao on his party's lineup will be a big plus for Binay, and that in itself might be good enough for him.
Just this week plunder raps were filed against Binay and 21 others in connection with alleged overpricing of a parking building built in Makati in 2007. According to the complaint, the government ended up paying Php1.56 billion for a building that cost only Php245 million to build. Binay immediately headed off the controversy by stating that one of the accusers lost to Binay's son in last year's mayoral elections. He also told the public to expect more accusations to surface now that he will be running for president in 2016. The question people will have to ask themselves however is whether this flood of accusations headed Binay's way is because of his candidacy or because there have indeed been numerous anomalies Binay was involved in over the years.
We're not going to answer the question we posed at the top, but we'd like you to give us your answer. Tell us what you think. Published 07/25/2014