Was it an impossible inconvenience for the mayor of Makati to order his driver, aides, guards and other members of his four-vehicle convoy to go the extra 150 meters to reach the street through which they could make their exit from Dasmariñas Village according to its rules? What an excellent example the young man would have made, not least to his driver, aides, guards and other members of his convoy, if he did. What a lesson in leadership he would have imparted to them, and even to the village guards who would not let him through.
But Mayor Junjun Binay, in insisting on exiting through the gate on Banyan and McKinley Roads way past the allowable time on the night of Nov. 30, clearly illustrated the malaise that continues to afflict many, whether pooh-bah or petty bureaucrat, in these parts: a sense of entitlement. This malaise drives one to expect—indeed demand—privileging at every turn, whether in traffic or a queue, or, yes, at a street corner specified by a set of rules as impassable at a certain time of the night. It moves one to patronize, ridicule, threaten, or intimidate those on the low end of the pecking order. At the extreme, this malaise is known to compel one to bend the law or ignore it altogether, to help oneself to public funds, even to literally get away with murder.
That the mayor and his convoy, which included his sister, a senator of the realm, wanted to use a restricted exit gate and managed to do so by virtue of his position and despite the initial resistance of security guards acting in accordance with village rules is clear. That’s the problem right there, and under this administration that early on indicated its intention to change the scheme of things by banning the quintessential symbol of entitlement: the wang-wang. The video of the incident showed it, including the drawn firearms of the mayor’s guards, Sen. Nancy Binay’s presence at the scene, and the subsequent lifting of the metal barrier by members of the Makati police who arrived armed with high-powered weapons. A startling detail—the umbrella held over the mayor’s head by an aide who faithfully trailed him on that rainless night, weirdly reminiscent of the parasol famously held by a chief justice over Imelda Marcos’ pompadour at one occasion in her family’s heyday—somehow completed the picture of a powerful man claiming entitlement.
That the president of Right Eight Security, the employer of the village guards, later apologized to the mayor—“profusely,” per Makati City Hall spokesperson Joey Salgado—is puzzling, given that the guards were merely following the village policy of prohibiting the exit of vehicles through the gate on Banyan and McKinley after 10 p.m. Or maybe not entirely puzzling in view of the peculiar dynamics that rules fiefdoms such as Makati, where it would be folly for courtiers to be in dutch with the dynasty that has long ruled it.
And indeed the guards who were sufficiently spirited to enforce the village rules were subsequently taken by the policemen called by Mayor Binay, brought to the police station, and released four hours later, as told to the Inquirer. How strange that these guards would “volunteer to go with the police,” as Salgado now alleges (and for “verification” of their firearm permits yet, as the Makati chief of police, Supt. Manuel Lucban, says).
The sad fact is that people in power continue to find the need to flex muscle at the slightest opportunity, and take umbrage when crossed, and cry malice, cry persecution, when found out and exposed. An overweening sense of entitlement prompted Mayor Binay to behave the way he did—that is, pull rank over the low men on the totem and force them to violate rules, through the instruments of the state no less—and Senator Binay to countenance it. In fact the halfway attentive observer will consider it a no-brainer: Given that there was no life-and-death situation involved, the siblings, being privileged people from whom much is expected, should have paused to think of how the muscle-flexing incident could possibly embarrass their father, Vice President Jojo Binay. But it turns out that the former human rights lawyer thinks nothing of it, and thinks his son deserved passage even if it’s against the rules.
“Privilege, you see,” wrote Chinua Achebe, “is one of the great adversaries of the imagination; it spreads a thick layer of adipose tissue over our sensitivity.”
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