Binay vs. Lapid: The proxy war
HIGH GROUND By William M. Esposo 2006-05-22
Senator Lito Lapid is not difficult to figure out. He is plain, simple and that way, he is quite transparent and predictable. This early, I can see that he has been thoroughly motivated to throw his hat into the 2007 Makati mayoralty contest, to run against incumbent mayor Jejomar “Jojo” Binay, otherwise known as one of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s greatest nightmares.
I like to call the City of Makati under Jojo Binay as the Republic of Makati. No local government executive has displayed such a firm hold of his turf as Jojo Binay. Some warlord types can do it by using muscle and bullying tactics. Binay does it with good governance and the delivery of the services that his constituents need the most, health care and education.

Makati City is in the heart of Metro Manila. In fact it is the business center of the country (though many would contend that Binondo is still where the money is). Warlord-type politicians are no longer viable in Metro Manila where they will be easy pickings for our hyperactive media. Moreover, you have a good concentration of intellectually and economically sufficient citizens and an international community who can express themselves very well and before an assured audience of people with fair means and influence.

Jojo Binay has consistently won all Makati mayoralty fights—even if it is his wife who runs—not because he is a warlord type of a politician but because he had always done his homework and served the majority of Makati residents well. His most vocal critics are the entrenched and sometimes crooked elite who live in the posh subdivisions. They are however the minority and they have failed time and again to present a candidate who can beat Binay.

Before the 2004 elections, I was approached by a dear friend who was asked by a group of wealthy Makati residents to plan a campaign for a candidate for mayor who can defeat Binay. I was specifically told that money will be made available for whatever cost it will take to remove Binay from city hall.

I did not even entertain the offer. I immediately advised their messenger that their problem is a very basic one. There is simply nobody who can be fielded to beat Jojo Binay even if all the money of the Makati elite were made available for the task. I could have taken on the job just for the money but I am not the type to do things just because there is money to be made.

Enter Lito Lapid, the sagacious hero of Philippine cinema who single-handedly wiped out all the baddies on the big screens. No doubt, Lito Lapid carries more popularity than any of the previous challengers to the Binay dynasty in Makati City. I even have reason to believe that Lapid will be running with more money to support his candidacy than the amount previously offered to me by the wealthy Makati residents.

A political analyst will easily see that Lito Lapid’s bid for the Makati mayor’s post is not without the full backing of Madame Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. I do not for a moment think that Lito Lapid considered running in Makati on his own, sans the “motivation” provided by the Palace. In fact, I’d think that the “motivation” would have been very substantial to have persuaded Lapid to accept the challenge to run against a mayor who continues to enjoy a substantial support base.

Let me go further and state outright what I think this is all about. This is a proxy war and Lito Lapid is the proxy of Madame Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who is out to dislodge the one local official who hurts her the most.

By land area, Makati is small. By the number of voters in Makati, there is no significant number to even make a dent in national election results. But this financial center has become the springboard of far too many anti-Arroyo rallies and demonstrations that had been enough to send political shock waves that truly destabilize the Arroyo regime.

It is the strategic location of Makati as the heart of Philippine business and financial activities that impacts heavily on Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s desperate attempts to prevent ouster from Malacanang Palace. A rally of 20,000 in another part of Metro Manila does not make as much bad publicity for the regime than a rally of even just 10,000 that is held in the Makati business and commercial center.

Assuming that the Binay – Lapid fight will not be marked with cheating in the scale of what the Garci tapes suggests and that there will be no misuse of police and military forces to ensure the political fortunes of the administration candidate, I still see Jojo Binay emerging as the winner come 2007. I expect a lot of filth to be thrown Jojo Binay’s way, even possibly the filing of a case with the Ombudsman which the regime has attempted to do in the past.

To me, it is already a given that the Arroyo regime does not fight its battles on even terms or on a level playing field. Be that as it may, I still think that the goodwill that Binay has established with Makati voters cannot be easily offset by the sheer popularity of Lito Lapid and whatever “handicap” the regime may be able to impose on Binay.

My reasons for that assessment are as follows:

1. Binay’s achievements in Makati are well-known and widely-recognized by Makati residents. Makati residents enjoy the best health care among all local governments. You’ll hear of many Metro Manilans who are seeking residence in Makati if only for the health care benefit.
2. The Pamantasan ng Makati also happens to offer the best education program among all local governments. Dropouts of top schools try to get into the Pamantasan ng Makati knowing that it offers good quality education. To top it all, the students of the Pamantasan ng Makati get other freebies like free uniforms, free text books and school supplies, free computer use, and free filtered water all over the campus other than quality education. Just imagine how all these impact on poor parents.
3. Makati City under Binay has made transactions with city hall much easier through the use of computers. The city hall has been designed to make the residents who do business there feel like a cherished client.
4. The senior citizens in Makati receive benefits that now allow them to be called “senorito” citizens. In Makati, senior citizens receive a cake from the city during their birthdays and wedding anniversaries, P3, 000 burial expense assistance, P1, 000 cash gift every six months and they can even go see any movie in Makati for free.
5. In infrastructure, many low lying areas in Makati that have been perennially plagued by floods during our monsoon season finally found in Binay the end to their problem.
6. Unlike the photo ops trapos who want to show that they can mingle with the poor and eat their food, Jojo Binay is known to freely mingle with the poor and does partake of their regular fare. Before he became mayor, Binay lived among the slum dwellers as a community worker.
7. Lito Lapid’s very patron—Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo—will ensure the re-election of Jojo Binay. Just look at the ratings of Madame Arroyo—it is the worst ratings of any sitting resident of Malacanang. Arroyo’s standing with the people and Binay’s track record contrasts and that will dissipate whatever wind there is in the sails of Lapid’s candidacy.

Showbiz personalities have better chances of winning in national elections than in local ones. People relate better with local officials than they do with those who are nationally elected. Thus, it comes as no surprise that we have three showbiz senators who to date have not showed why they deserve to be in that chamber. But a popular movie icon like Rudy Fernandez did not stand a chance against a performer like Sonny Belmonte in Quezon City. Bong Revilla could not win re-election as Cavite governor.

You may not like his color, or his voice or even his vertical limitation—but Binay’s accomplishment as a mayor obliterates his flaws and is hard to match. I don’t think that Makati residents will just as easily listen to trapo promises or be blinded by showbiz glitter.

You may email William M. Esposo at:

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