By Rae Anne Ducut
Poised to be the next vice president of the Philippines, Makati City Mayor Jejomar “Jojo” Cabauatan Binay is positive he can shape the country’s economy the same way he did in the progressive city of Makati.
When he takes his oath on June 30, Binay would be the first Vice President not to come from the legislature (Senate or House of Representatives), the oldest elected at 69 (Sen. Teofisto Guingona, Jr., was appointed Vice President in 2001 at age 73), and perhaps the Vice President elected under the the most extraordinary circumstances.
Binay emerged as the front-runner, leading in the latest congressional canvassing, leading by a mere million over Liberal Party vice presidential bet Sen. Mar Manuel Roxas. Binay started out as an underdog, only trailing behind Roxas and Nacionalista Party vice presidential candidate Sen. Loren Legarda in survey rankings. He propelled his way up, eventually overtaking Legarda, and finally Roxas in the final weeks before the election.
Once touted as “Jejobama” or “Obama of the Philippines” because of his complexion, Binay initially wanted to run for president, having announced his bid on his 68th birthday on November 11, 2009.
However, Binay withdrew his presidential bid in the same year after Sen. Benigno Aquino III declared he would give in to the clamor for him to run for president after his mother, former President Corazon Aquino, died in August. The rest, they say, is history.
Binay said he owes Corazon Aquino a huge debt of gratitude for starting his career in local government administration when she appointed him officer-in-charge of Makati, then a municipality, shortly after Edsa Revolution in 1986. He was dubbed “Rambotito,” or “Little Rambo,” after his spirited defense of the Aquino administration during the coup attempts in the late ’80’s.
After two years, he was elected mayor of Makati in his own rightand served for three consecutive terms (from 1988 to 1998). He became the first Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) chairperson from 1990 to 1992 while mayor of Makati. After exhausting the 3-consecutive-term limit set by the Constitution, his wife Elenita took over his post from 1998 to 2001 while Binay was returned as MMDA chairperson under Pres. Joseph Estrada.
In 2001, he was again elected as mayor of Makati City and served another 3 consecutive terms. He beat back well-known mayoral challengers Vice-Mayor Edu Manzano in 2001, and Sen. Lito Lapid in 2007.
In his 21-year stint as head of Makati, the financial district’s income astoundingly rose from P274 million when he took over, to P8.4 billion in 2007, an increase of over 30 times.
Binay exudes a reputation as champion of the poor, and has given Makati’s poorest with good public schools and free health services. He is also loved by the senior citizens, whom he sends cakes to on their birthdays and golden wedding anniversaries.
Orphaned at an early age, Binay lived with his uncle Atty. Ponciano, who financed his education until college. In 1962, he obtained a bachelor’s degree in political science from the University of the Philippine, where he became a student activist and served as a university student councilor.
Binay finished law at the same university in 1967 and passed the bar in 1968. He taught Taxation, Land Reform, Management, Political Science and Law at different colleges and universities. He co-founded the Lupon ng Manananggol ng Bayan (LUMABAN) whose primary task was to extend legal assistance to students and workers arrested during demonstrations.
Binay’s two-decade reign in Makati has also earned him a string of corruption allegations.
In October 2006, Binay along with Vice-Mayor Ernesto Mercado and all councilors were handed a 60-day preventive suspension order for allegedly paddling the city payroll with over a thousand “ghost employees.” However, a temporary restraining order from the Court of Appeals stopped the implementation of the preventive suspension.
Every year, Commission on Audit has adverse findings on city hall’s use of funds, mostly on overpricing of goods.
In 2001, Miriam Grace Go of Newsbreak looked into Binay’s undeclared investments and properties. The award-winning investigative piece, titled “The Lord of Makati – Can Binay Explain His Wealth?” revealed that Binay and his friends controlled businesses through dummy corporations.
Binay, however, was firm that these allegations were only a “rehash of old election issues.”
Aside from corruption, Binay and his family has also been accused of building a political empire, now that his son Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay has won as Makati City mayor in the recent elections (after having served as councilor for two terms), and daughter Mar-Len Abigail, a lawyer, has served as the city’s 2nd district representative since 2007.
Binay does not believe in political dynasties, seeing his family’s efforts to add on to its political strength as a proof of democracy. He says he supports his children’s political ambitions so that Makati would avoid going the way of other local governments. He even wants to pass on his legacy to his grandchildren.
As vice president, he promises he will “try to avoid what occurred during the Estrada presidency.”
Then-vice president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo took the presidential post from Estrada after he was ousted through the second Edsa People Power Revolution.
“From my heart, I will tell you that I will not snatch your post away from you,” Binay declared.
He is also fielding himself as the next secretary of the Department of Interior and Local Government, citing his experience as the most senior local government official in the country as qualification.
Go, Miriam Grace A. “The Lord of Makati – Can Binay Explain His Wealth?” Newsbreak. March 28, 2001. PDF accessed at scrbd. June 3, 2010.