Bad weather for Binay
In truth, Vice President Jejomar Binay had no choice. The turbulent passage of Typhoon “Luis”—and, at the time of the announcement, the still-unknown scope and scale of destruction—did not make for the right backdrop to Binay’s scheduled address before the nation. Or, more precisely, a political speech, by the country’s second highest official, to rebut increasingly detailed allegations of corruption, would have rightly been seen as inappropriate, if delivered at a time when hundreds of thousands of Filipinos were still worrying about much more basic things, such as a roof over their heads.
A postponement was called for, and an alternative event scheduled. Binay decided to visit two of the typhoon-stricken provinces, to personally assess the damage. As the government’s housing czar, Binay has all the right to conduct what are called ocular inspections. All the same, the decision to survey the trail Luis left behind was in keeping with the “presidential” theme that his new and excitable spokesperson, Cavite Gov. Jonvic Remulla, ascribed to Binay’s scheduled speech.
Indeed, Remulla pushed the theme further. After describing the prepared speech as “emotional, heartfelt and presidential in tone,” he asserted that Binay had written most of the speech himself. This is standard praise from spokespersons, and regardless of whether the official is in fact a writer in his own right (for instance, US President Barack Obama) or not (President Aquino and now apparently Binay too), is used to emphasize the official’s sincerity.
But to appropriate an axiom from Binay’s own legal profession, a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client. We certainly hope that Binay has engaged the services of professional writers, as well as legal and other expert counsel, because sheer sincerity is no longer enough.
What can we expect from Binay’s defense? Remulla dropped a broad hint or two. The Vice President will give a very “touching narrative and why governance matters.” We understand the first to mean his life story; we can expect Binay to present a grand narrative about his hardscrabble life, his struggles as a human rights lawyer during the Marcos regime, his unshakable loyalty to his allies and friends. Only the cynical will begrudge Binay his rags-to-riches story; only the naïve, however, will not question why he became wealthy on nothing much more than a mayor’s salary.
The second hint from Remulla we understand to mean Binay’s track record in Makati City. The host of the country’s central business district, Makati leads local government units in its welfare programs for constituents. (The now famous, or infamous, cake given as birthday gift to the city’s senior citizens is a symbol of that largesse.) Makati’s wealth has been the envy of many other LGUs; in fact, Binay’s campaign slogan when he ran for the vice presidency was premised on that track record: This is how it is, or how we are, in Makati.
But neither dramatic narrative nor a vision of governance will be enough to rebut the serious allegations against Binay, coming as they do from erstwhile trusted members of his inner circle and former high officials of the city government. Ernesto Mercado, once his vice mayor, seemed to have mustered enough will and courage to return to the Senate blue ribbon committee a second time, with testimony even more damaging than the first. And the startling testimony of Mario Hechanova, who claimed to rig the biddings to favor Binay’s preferred suppliers, began to be corroborated with the appearance last week of the unlucky supplier who had been deliberately trapped in the elevator, to prevent him from submitting his bid.
In other words, a general denial, or a blanket counter-accusation, or pained explanations about how all the allegations are politically motivated, will not be sufficient to dispel the public’s growing doubts about Binay’s integrity. He must make a positive assertion.
Unfortunately for him, he has no choice. Whereas before he denied that any wrongdoing had even taken place; now, he (or his spokesperson) allege a conspiracy among his underlings. Either the Makati City Hall parking building is not overpriced (and thus presumed corrupt), or he had no control over his own people. Under these severe conditions, it will be very difficult to be, or even seem, presidential.
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