The remarkable thing is not that Jojo Binay is getting no end of mud thrown his way. The remarkable thing is that none of it seems to be catching.
Or at least that none of it seems to be bringing him down. He has been accused of various cases of corruption, the latest of which is the overpricing of the Makati Parking Building—by P2 billion, his detractors estimate. He has been accused of fomenting dynastic politics, having a son as mayor, a daughter as representative, and another daughter as senator, quite apart from being the vice president. His son has been accused of abusing his office, demanding to be let out in Dasmariñas Village in a no-exit gate. Yet he hasn’t just remained standing, he has been thriving.
Last I looked, he was leading Mar Roxas—or indeed the other “presidentiables” since Roxas isn’t even number 2—by a mile. Last I looked, a beeline was forming toward his camp, including officials from P-Noy’s own official family. Last I looked, members of P-Noy’s own personal family were openly expressing their support for him. In fact, last I looked, P-Noy himself in extemporaneous remarks at the end of his 2014 State of the Nation Address singled him out as going back a long way with him, being there with the family in their fight against Marcos and the subsequent coup plotters.
The last ones pose all sorts of conundrums. Either they themselves do not see, or buy, the corruption charges, or they figure some things supersede the issue of corruption. Whatever it is, it has allowed Binay to shrug off the charges. Nothing is sticking, nothing has stuck. The charges of corruption haven’t, the matter of dynastic politics hasn’t, the issue of Junjun Binay’s apparent misconduct in Dasmariñas hasn’t. The last pushed to oblivion by Roxas’ more patent and high-profile misconduct at Wack-Wack not long afterward.
Will this last one finally do the trick? Will the next ones—this won’t be the last, more should be forthcoming as 2016 draws near—do so?
Well, stranger things have happened. But I myself seriously doubt it for one basic reason. Which is that the only alternative to him the public sees right now is Roxas. When people ask, as they do ask, “If not Binay, then who?” the answer is Roxas. Their fates are intertwined. Theirs is a zero-sum game: The gain of one is the loss of the other. And vice versa.
I’ve always thought that Binay’s spectacular numbers—comparable to P-Noy’s when P-Noy left his rivals biting his dust at the gates—owe to that. They don’t owe to his intrinsic popularity, or indeed charisma, they owe to his main, or sole, competitor’s intrinsic unpopularity, or indeed lack of charm. Lest we forget, when
Binay first ran for a national position, which was as vice president in 2010, he was so far behind Roxas, the latter crowed that his opponents were just snarling for second place. Roxas himself was enjoying the numbers Binay is enjoying now, courtesy of having hitched his fortunes to President Aquino. Their fortunes did not owe to their internal virtues, they owed to external factors.
Today, when people ask me how Binay has zoomed past the competition, I have only one answer: Roxas.
The same is true for the various accusations that have been hurled against Binay. The reason they are not catching is not that he has a Teflon personality, everything just slips away. Though it helps that more than Erap, he enjoys a Robin Hood reputation. Erap’s stealing from the rich to give to the poor was largely PR, Binay has his propoor projects—the University of Makati, low-cost housing, all sorts of public welfare services—to hide any such allegation against him. But in the end, what effectively hides it is the public’s willingness not to see it, which again owes to the question, “If not Binay, then who?”
Today, when people ask me why nothing seems to stick to Binay, I have only one answer: Roxas.
Take out Roxas there, and the equation changes completely.
So long as 2016 is locked in the framework of Binay vs. Roxas, so long will the vicious cycle remain. So long will Binay continue to gain traction and Roxas to suffer from inertia. So long will the gap between them continue to widen. So long will all accusations of corruption against Binay sound like voices in the wilderness. So long will they be not seen, or heard.
Now in fact is the perfect time for alternatives to arise. Now is the perfect time for us to look for one. Or else the vicious cycle will remain vicious not just for the Liberal Party but for the nation as a whole. Now is the perfect time to raise the banners of Nota, or “none of the above,” and lift ourselves from the pit, or trap, we have allowed ourselves to fall into.
The situation, as I keep reminding people, was a lot worse before August 2009. It was just a choice between nondescript, if not mediocre, potential candidates, and we weren’t even sure Gloria wouldn’t find a way to stick around. We can’t wait around for Providence to lend a hand once again and solve our problem for us in the form of another P-Noy. We have to do it ourselves. We have to take our fate into our own hands.
If you want something badly enough, if you want something longingly, ardently, desperately enough, says “The Alchemist,” you can conjure it into being. If you build it, says “Field of Dreams,” they will come. These are not just platitudes, they contain a huge grain of truth in them. I know you need money too to win an election. I know you need power too to win an election. I know you need logistics and parties and forces too to win an election. But as P-Noy who emerged from out of the shadows in 2010 shows, you need need too to win an election. A people need to need you, a people need to conjure you into being.
It all begins with a recognition of that need. It all begins with the need to get out of the rut.
It all begins with the need to say, “None of the above.”
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.