Lord of Makati
Oh, what a circus, oh, what a show—and in the country’s premier showcase city yet. If anyone harbors the thought that the Philippines is now a modern democratic nation able to handle conflicts and crises in the body politic according to the rule of law, the scenes in Makati in the past few days should disabuse him or her of the notion.
Straight out of a warlord playbook, Makati Mayor Junjun Binay resorts to the crudest populist trick when faced with a legitimate suspension order from the Office of the Ombudsman: He dramatically barricades himself in his office, summons his constituents to surround City Hall and offer him protection from imagined harm, deputizes his lieutenants to stoke the tension with a stream of provocative statements, plays to the camera as an oppressed family man unable to attend his daughter’s graduation from kindergarten (but who forced him to hole up in his office, in the first place?), and basically thrashes the law by saying that the Ombudsman’s power to suspend officials charged with wrongdoing applies only to small fry—such as those unlucky not to have the Vice President for a father, for instance—and not to him.
On Monday morning, as many as 2,500 antiriot policemen, including 200 Special Action Force commandos, had to be deployed by the Department of Interior and Local Government to Makati City Hall to escort DILG National Capital Region Director Renato Brion in serving the suspension order on Binay and 21 other city officials. Even then, Brion could only tack the order on the building’s entrance, while being jeered by Binay’s supporters. The mayor, ensconced in the 21st floor of the building, would not so much as dignify the Ombudsman’s order by receiving it personally. Later in the day, his sister, Sen. Nancy Binay, slammed the deployment of the troops: “This is not a war zone. We’re not ‘high-value targets’ for them to send this large number of policemen.”
But it was in fact her father’s office that first raised the specter of violence, by warning that a “misencounter” could happen should the DILG serve the suspension order on her brother. It was her family’s camp that hoisted the threat of disorder or chaos, of the possibility of ordinary men and women getting hurt, should authorities enforce the Ombudsman’s order.
Under such circumstances, sending an adequate force to quell any possible mass disturbance, as well as protect the government official doing his job, appears to be a reasonable move. It’s bad enough that it was no less than the office of the Vice President that had trivialized the Jan. 25 Mamapasano bloodbath with the “misencounter” quip, merely to twit the VP’s nemesis, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas. Quite as startling is when the VP’s daughter jumps into the fray with her own schoolyard mockery, echoing her father in wielding the tragedy of Mamasapano as a political club and forgetting that her duties as a senator of the realm now trumps her loyalty to family interests.
Or is this the game plan all along? That Nancy Binay’s role is to man the flank in the Senate as part of her father’s moist-eyed drive for the presidency, unfailingly raising the family standard to the detriment of the higher calling of her office, whenever the father’s all-consuming ambition seems threatened in any way? As it does now, or so the family says—the Ombudsman’s order, like many other issues thrown at the Binays such as the Batangas hacienda, the irregularities at City Hall, the Boy Scouts-Alphaland deal, inevitably framed as one more naked attempt at derailing the VP’s run for Malacañang.
That is exactly the narrative that the mayor and his wild-eyed factotums are pushing—that his suspension from office is meant as another stumbling block to his father’s run for the presidency in 2016. What a crock. He will be suspended for all of six months, and the immediately executory nature of the Ombudsman’s order is to protect City Hall, and by extension the people of Makati who own that seat of government, from any machinations that an incumbent official might do—clean the books, for instance—to dodge the charges. The mayor has all this time protested his innocence, saying he has nothing to hide. The Ombudsman now gives him the proper forum to rebut the charges against him—and what does he do? Petulantly lock himself up in his room, so to speak.
Warlordism—worse, the infantile kind—is alive and well in Makati.
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