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Lee Kuan Yew and Jojo Binay

Vice President Jojo Binay has seen fit to eulogize Lee Kuan Yew, calling him “the architect of modern Singapore,” a “dedicated public servant and well respected leader,” and saying that “the success of Singapore is but a testament to his decades of remarkable public service.”

Nothing out of the ordinary in there. We do not doubt that Mr. Lee was all of that and more. He made a small island an industrial and commercial giant. Unfortunately, Mr. Binay went further in his eulogy. His praise of Mr. Lee was then used to praise himself: “His political will and pragmatic approach to governance was my inspiration in rebuilding Makati after the 1986 Edsa Revolution from a bankrupt municipality to the country’s premier city providing unparalleled social services to its constituents…”

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Now that has to be the most tasteless, and shameless, use of an iconic public figure’s death for one’s own political ends, in the hope that the glitter from Mr. Lee’s stature will rub off on him. It is a statement that also happens to be inaccurate. Only consider:

  1. Mr. Lee’s governance, from all accounts, was one that brooked no corruption at any level. The war on corruption was waged very early in his regime. Mr. Binay’s service as mayor of Makati was hounded by corruption and corruption charges from the beginning, which have lasted to this day. Where’s the “inspiration”?
  2. Mr. Lee’s “dynastic” tendencies is a far cry from Mr. Binay’s. Mr. Lee’s reign as prime minister of Singapore ended in 1990, and Goh Chok Tong (no relation) succeeded him. In 2004, Goh was succeeded by Mr. Lee’s son, Lee Hsien Loong. Mr. Binay has held sway over Makati since 1986. His successors as mayor have been his wife and his son. Where’s the “inspiration”?
  3. Mr. Lee “forged a widely admired system of meritocratic, corruption-free and highly efficient government and civil service.” Does that describe Makati City now?

Then there are Mr. Binay’s claims about Makati:

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  1. I have not been able to access the Commission on Audit report on Makati for 1986, so I cannot report whether the municipality was bankrupt in 1986. I can only say that Mayor Nemesio Yabut was the predecessor of Mr. Binay, and his reputation was not of the best.
  2. In any case, we have to remember what it was like in the Philippines in 1986, when Cory Aquino took over as president. The economy had collapsed earlier, in 1984, due to the international debt crisis—and its polity had just been shaken up by the assassination of Ninoy Aquino in 1983. It was chaos all over, not just in Makati.
  3. But to say that Mr. Binay built up Makati to become the Philippines’ premier city is a stretch. Makati was the country’s business and financial center even in 1986, Binay or no Binay. The skyscrapers, condominium buildings, hotels and shopping centers would have been built whoever the mayor was. I do not recall anyone saying that the reason they chose Makati was the Binay administration. Their entry may even have been in spite of him.
  4. The Makati experience is being used by Mr. Binay to woo voters. It goes like this: Vote for Binay, and he will make your cities, municipalities and barangays like Makati, with its own university and hospital, etc. That is obviously a falsehood. Makati’s revenues—from 62,000 business enterprises—is not replicable anywhere. Makati has benefited from economies of agglomeration, which have nothing to do with Mr. Binay.
  5. Are there “unparalleled” social services for its citizens? No question about it. The seniors even get a cake on their birthday, courtesy of a favored baker. But that is because Makati can certainly afford it; it has the highest income of all cities in the Philippines. The question is not whether the citizens of Makati (and those from all over the Philippines that are being wooed by the Binays) are having these “unparalleled” social services, but whether they should have more, especially since the sharing of the revenues seems to be “one for them (the constituents), one (or two) for us.”

Everything can be condensed into the following: Lee Kuan Yew made Singapore immensely rich, while Makati made Mr. Binay immensely rich. That’s the difference.

And by the way, I thought the Binays did not want the Senate hearings, because these were supposedly usurping the powers of the Office of the Ombudsman and the courts? “Let the courts decide,” the Binays said. So why are they fighting the Ombudsman and the courts every inch of the way? When the judicial proceedings to ferret out the facts are delayed by legal maneuverings, how are the citizens going to make an informed decision?

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TAGS: Jejomar Binay, Lee Kuan Yew, Makati City, Singapore
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