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Quo Vadis, Mayor Jojo Binay?

May 2, 2010

This writer considers Atty. Jejomar ‘Jojo’ Binay a family friend.
During his days in the MABINI group of human rights lawyers, he and Atty. Raul Gonzales (until recently Secretary of Justice) were my father’s pro-bono lawyers in a graft case he filed state university professor.

Those were difficult days.

With little money to go my, I remember my father telling me how they scrimped on food in between ‘vistas’ (court hearings), partaking of banana-cue (sugar-coated friend banana) to tide them over.

I so admired them.

That was some 30 years ago.

So my readers will understand that it is with some disappointment that I took the news of Mayor Jojo admitting his marital transgression.

But one understands, and knows, that macho premise that all men are polygamous.

As I argued here ( http://atmidfield.com/2010/05/01/jojo-binay-under-fire-the-1996-affair/ ), however, we can be expected to hold Binay and all our leaders to higher moral and ethical standards, not unless our society has descended to being amoral.

The latest column of Professor Winnie Monsod is troubling:

The latest Pulse Asia Survey shows such a very large difference between Noynoy Aquino and his two runners-up, Erap Estrada and Manny Villar, that any attempt to manipulate the results can only end up in failure. That 19-percent difference, plus or minus 2 percent, means that, assuming a voter turnout of 80 percent (translating to about 40 million voters) and there’s no change in the voters’ minds, the cheaters will have to manipulate between 7.6 million and 8.4 million votes just to achieve a tie.
If they spread the cheating evenly over the roughly 76,000 precincts, that will further mean (using the lower 7.6 million votes) a “dagdag-bawas” of about 100 votes per clustered precinct. That is going to take some doing—because that will mean a cheating rate averaging 20 percent (the average number of voters will be roughly 500 per precinct), and at the very least 10 percent (for clustered precincts with 1,000 voters). That will be relatively easy to detect—although, alas, later rather than sooner because of the reported decision of the Comelec not to allow the results of the random manual audit (assuming it is properly carried out) to affect the proclamation process.
The latest Pulse Asia survey, however, also brings surprising, and potentially worrisome news: vice presidential candidate Mar Roxas, whose two main opponents (Loren Legarda and Jojo Binay) were in a statistical tie around 20 points behind him, is now faced with the proverbial dark horse (no pun intended) in Binay. In under a month, Binay’s ratings shot up by 9 points to 28 percent, while Roxas’ dropped by 6 points to 37 percent. And while the difference between them is still large, a continuation of that trend might mean a close contest. It is not to be overlooked that 9 percent of the sampled registered voters still do not have any preference for vice president.
Why is that potentially worrisome? Aside from the fact that when surveys show the possibility of a tight race cheating syndicates come into their own—Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales has already raised the warning flags notwithstanding Comelec assurances to the contrary—what is worrisome is that Binay has not received the close public scrutiny a main contender to the vice presidency should have received. For the simple reason, of course, that he was not considered a serious contender (thus the dark horse analogy). So that when Chiz Escudero (to whom, arguably, is given the doubtful honor of having been responsible for Binay’s meteoric ratings rise) endorsed him, his encomiums fell on fertile ground.
What is worrisome is that the very characteristics that apparently have turned voters away from Villar seem to be applicable to Binay as well. Both are perceived to have used their government positions—Villar as congressman, House Speaker, senator and Senate president; Binay as Makati mayor since 1986 (barring a three-year period during which his wife was the mayor)—for private gain. Else, among others, what could be the possible sources of their humongous campaign expenditures?
Let us try to quantify as far as Binay expenditures are concerned: Per the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, Binay spent, for the three months covering Nov. 1, 2009 to Jan 31, 2010, P75 million on radio, TV and print ads, compared to Mar Roxas’ P97 milllion, Loren Legarda’s P40 million and Bayani Fernando’s P17 million. So what’s wrong with that? Binay’s expenditures, after all, are only 80 percent of Roxas’. Yes, except that Escudero’s endorsement is to the effect that Binay is “hindi pinanganak na mayaman, ’di rin ilustrado.” Well and good. So if Binay, who was a human rights lawyer (and we all know how little that pays) before he became Makati mayor, and was not born rich or landed, where did he get all that money to spend? Remember, he was already spending on ads starting in November 2008, when he declared his desire to run for president. An interesting sidelight here is that Binay, according to the same PCIJ report, is the only vice presidential candidate whose pre-campaign ad values exceeded that of his running mate (1.6 times higher than Estrada’s).

http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/columns/view/20100430-267409/Noynoys-lead-and-Binays-surge

As to court cases, among those filed with the Ombudsman against Binay and his wife:

• In 2005 – violation of the Cockfighting Law of 1974 for allowing the multimillion-peso Makati Coliseum, an athletic and cultural events venue, to be used as a cockfighting arena for 25 years (also charged were then Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado and 18 city councilors)

• In 2006 – plunder for a “highly irregular” bidding and award of a P237-million office partitioning and furniture purchase project for the Makati City Hall (also charged were three other city officials and the officers of the Office Gallery international Inc. and Asia Concept International, the two firms that participated in the allegedly rigged bidding).

The second charge based on the recommendation of the Commission on Audit, way back in 2001, that the transaction was “highly irregular” and that there was “overpricing.”

The accusations come mostly from Binay’s political rivals, notable long-time nemesis Roberto Brillante, as the mayor reflexively keeps pointing out at every turn.

Political rivals naturally have an ax to grind with each other. But politicians have also been known to wield well-sharpened axes. In other words, their accusations may carry some truth.

So the question for us is not whether the accusations are politically motivated.
It’s simply this: Are they true?

It’s for the courts to decide on the guilt of Binay. Of course, under our system, Binay is presumed innocent until proven guilty. It’s, however, a process that would take years of litigation.

Fortunately, Elections are not a process of litigation. So as voters, we need not prove beyond reasonable doubt whether Binay is honest or not.

We only have to doubt: What IF the charges are true?

  • Are we ready to risk electing a vice president who has been hounded by accusations of unexplained wealth and charges of using his office for irregular transactions?
  • Will we be stuck then with a vice president who spends most of his time warding off old accusations and charges while amassing new ones?
  • Will the next president, whoever that may be, have to be saddled with a vice president hounded by scandal?
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