Mayhem in Makati: LP scuttles Binay network
ACTING Makati Mayor Romulo Peña Jr. scuttled Vice President Jejomar Binay’s sister cities network swiftly as soon as he took over City Hall last week from suspended Mayor Junjun Binay in a turbulent change of power.
Mayor Binay, son of the embattled Vice President, vacated his office on Wednesday in compliance with the suspension order issued by the Office of the Ombudsman in the course of its investigation of the allegedly overpriced Makati City Science High School building.
This followed a tumultuous two-week standoff between the national government and the influential Binay family that has ruled Makati, the country’s financial center, for nearly 29 years since 1986.
In March, the Ombudsman issued a six-month suspension order against Mayor Binay in connection with the Makati City Hall Building II, which was also under investigation for alleged overpricing.
Binay then secured a favorable Court of Appeals ruling to justify his stay, just hours after Vice Mayor Peña, a non-Binay protégé, was sworn in as acting mayor on March 16, after Binay Jr. received the suspension order.
The mayor stepped down on July 1 after he failed to secure a temporary restraining order on the second preventive suspension issued against him by the Ombudsman.
Violence erupted among supporters of Binay and the police after officials of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) had served the suspension order at City Hall.
Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas blamed the violence on the refusal of Mayor Binay to heed the Ombudsman order. This prompted Roxas to warn: “Mayor Binay, you don’t own Makati.”
Roxas also said the DILG was considering filing charges against Vice President Binay’s security staff who allegedly assaulted police authorities on Monday.
Peña, a member of the ruling Liberal Party (LP), was sworn in on Tuesday after Binay yielded to the suspension order. Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales warned that she would not tolerate “mob rule” after supporters of Vice President Binay battled police authorities enforcing the suspension order.
About 700 riot policemen, armed with truncheons and shields, descended before dawn on Makati City Hall, and sealed off all its entrances. Caught inside were the Vice President and his son.
Tensions rose as Binay supporters tried to push their way through the police barricades and started throwing chairs at law enforcers.
Some employees claimed the police started the scuffle and pushed the crowd away from the entrance. Several people were reportedly injured in the commotion.
According to Roxas, the Philippine National Police had copies of the footage taken by TV networks on the exchange between Binay and the government men, who claimed that the Vice President threatened them and some Binay followers allegedly manhandled some policemen, including a female officer.
In the TV footage, Binay was heard saying, “You have abused the people.” This episode took place as the Aquino administration was winding down its last year in office, foreshadowing a turbulent exit for his government, and emergence of thuggery by both sides in this transition to the 2016 presidential election.
In the run-up to the election, the Binay political clan is fighting tooth and nail to prevent being crushed by the resources of the Aquino administration, which is determined to block the election of Binay for President in 2016. Binay, who defeated Roxas, Mr. Aquino’s running mate in 2010, has declared that he is running for President next year.
The election of Binay as Vice President in 2010 has confronted the Aquino administration with the nightmare of giving him a Cabinet portfolio responsible for overseas Filipino workers affairs—something odious like a plague in the house.
Binay has resigned his Cabinet positions after attacking the administration for being “uncaring” and “blundering.”
This incompatibility of the political values of the reformist thrust of the “straight path” platform of the administration and of the corruption scandals engulfing the Binay family dynasty in Makati helps explain why the administration is so obsessed in canceling Binay’s sister cities scheme, which the government believes is the key to Binay’s electoral success in the 2010 election.
Acting Mayor Peña didn’t lose time in dismantling the more than 600 city agreements entered into by Makati City under the Binay administration as the infrastructure of its patronage network financed by Makati City.
This extensive network, with links to grass-roots local governments, is claimed to be responsible for Binay’s electoral success in national elections.
According to the Binay camp, under the sister cities agreements, “Makati City donates vehicles, secondhand books, school chairs and tables supplies to its sister local governments, which are mostly fourth- and fifth-class municipalities.”
This has been going on since the 1990s. Upon taking over as acting mayor, one of Peña’s first acts was to suspend the sister city agreements and to have them subjected to an audit.
Last week, Peña also suspended the operations of the Makati Friendship Suites, where local government executives can stay as official guests of Makati City.
Peña explained that an audit of the sister city program was needed to check if Makati’s resources were being spent wisely and if some of the funds allotted to the program could be used instead to “further improve services and benefits” for Makati residents.