What was Lito Lapid thinking?
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2007-02-11
This one is for Ripley’s: in less than a week since he announced that he was fighting Jojo Binay for Mayor of Makati, Senator Lito Lapid had already spoiled his chances of success.

In an unexpected recent encounter at the Senate, Lito Lapid came face to face with the top honcho of Makati who he wanted to replace. The encounter was covered and beamed later on TV Patrol of ABS-CBN.

No, it had none of the riotous animosities that came with Jojo Binay’s previous encounter with another frustrated contender, Bobby Brillantes. On the contrary, the chance meeting was so cordial that one can’t help wondering why other politicians can’t be as well-mannered as that.

What surprised me was what Lito Lapid said during the brief exchange:

1. Lito Lapid said that Binay did a fantastic job as Makati City Mayor and he is just hoping that after 20 years of tasting "Binay cooking" — Makati voters may just want to now try Lapid’s "Kapangpangan cooking."

2. Lapid also stated that he is in no position to engage Binay in a debate. Binay earlier welcomed Lapid’s announcement of candidacy and invited his challenger to a debate so that Makati voters can clearly decide the better of their choices. Lapid said that a mere High School graduate like him can’t possibly engage an accomplished lawyer like Binay in a debate.

3. Further acknowledging the good work of Jojo Binay as Makati Mayor, Lapid said that if elected, he intends to continue these good and effective programs.

4. Lapid also stated that he is not suited for the Senate, an acceptance that he is not prepared for the requirements of the job. Ergo, said he, it is better if Jojo Binay, the lawyer, goes to the Senate and he (Lapid) goes to the top local government post in Makati.

From where I sat, wrecking another chair, Lapid’s display of telltale ignorance was political seppuku. What was Lito Lapid thinking? Was he thinking at all? I don’t think he realized that he practically admitted that he lacked qualifications and that the man he wanted to replace has done a great job.

If I were running Jojo Binay’s campaign, I will only need to annotate tapes of that TV Patrol news clip with relevant commentary to emphasize the obvious. Then, I will mass-produce this in CD format and disseminate it all over Makati.

That will save Jojo Binay from having to go through all the ridiculously pathetic crowd-getting song and dance routines that are the staple fare of Philippine political campaigns. Even Gloria and Mike Arroyo had to do dance numbers when on the campaign trail just to pander to the delight of today’s showbiz star-struck voters. But in this case, Binay does not need to extol his accomplishments and defend his program. By God — Lito Lapid has already done that for him!

How lucky can Jojo Binay get! Getting your political rival to endorse your candidacy is the ultimate windfall. In all my years of observing and analyzing political battles, I’ve neither seen nor heard of anything like this. Lito Lapid cannot deny what millions watching TV Patrol here and abroad have seen him say on television.

Lito Lapid’s chances

No doubt, Lito Lapid is far more popular than Binay’s previous challengers. 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. 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.

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 her ouster. A rally of 20,000 in another part of Metro Manila does not generate as much negative publicity 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 wide scale cheating and terrorism, I still see Jojo Binay emerging as the winner for the following reasons:

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 benefits like free uniforms, free text books and school supplies, free computer use, and free filtered in the campus. Just imagine how all these impact on poor parents.

3. Makati City under Binay has computerized all transactions with City Hall. 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 "señorito" 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 as a sincere gesture rather than for show. 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 Malacañang. Arroyo’s standing with the people and Binay’s track record are a contrast and that will dissipate whatever wind there is that blows 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 Makati 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.

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