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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The silly vaudeville war over control of MakatiBY

By Max V. Soliven
The Philippine Star 10/18/2006

One doesn’t know whether to laugh, or cry – or both – over what’s happening in Makati. Rejecting a six-months’ suspension order issued by the Department of Interior and Local Government, and declaring it illegal, Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay yesterday holed up in his City Hall and refused to budge. To emphasize his defiance, he even donned the uniform blouse of a colonel of the Marines (he’s a reservist) but he was definitely "out of uniform" since he wore it like a jacket over a red shirt while yelling "political persecution."

What will the national government do next to eject Jojo, who’s long been a thorn in the side of our Presidenta GMA, gleefully issuing rally permits for every demonstration against La Gloria? In the past year he jammed up Ayala avenue in the financial district, our virtual Wall Street, by mustering rallies and opposition gabfests under the statue of Ninoy Aquino.

Of course it smacks of "political persecution," but – while the Chief Executive, of which her DILG Secretary Ronnie Puno is an extension is in a propaganda no-win situation – the law is the law. Was there enough evidence to make the charges of maintaining ghost employees on a ghost payroll stick? What further complicated matters is that the Palace named Rodolfo Ferraren, DILG National Capital Region Director, "caretaker" OIC of Makati to run the city government. As such, isn’t Ferraren then one of Ronnie Puno’s men? Sus, what a situation.

Ferraren was forced yesterday, since Jojo simply wouldn’t yield, to occupy the old City Hall building and issue statements and directives from there. "Ferraren, who?" a lot of people asked. What’s sad is that, with the new and current City Hall under "siege," and the old City Hall not yet capable of opening for business, with whom will the public deal? What about those with urgent business or other matters to conduct with the "Makati government"? It reminds me of divided Berlin before the fall of the Berlin Wall, when we had to cross from "free" West Berlin through Checkpoint Charlie to Communist East Berlin. Today, Berliners refer to the former City Hall in the Communist East (city halls in Germany are referred to as the Rathaus, no insult intended) as the Red Rathaus – or at least they did when I last went there some years ago.

In Makati, which Rathaus will the citizens recognize? That is the question. Ronnie Puno went on television to try to explain that pro-administration mayors have also been suspended, not just an opposition stalwart like Jojo B. He cited a string of names of pro-GMA mayors suspended, including that of the mayor of Lemery, Batangas. Alas, the Makati vaudeville show was disheartening, not amusing. Whatever happens, the bets are that Binay will "win" reelection in May next year, or his son whom he has been grooming to succeed him in his Dynasty.

The joke is that – despite Lito Lapid studying English studiously in order to prove he’s competent in language, and other matters, not just action star method-acting and the quarrying business – Jojo has a political hold (some say stranglehold) on Makati which simply can’t be broken. A MABINI lawyer close to Tita Cory in the anti-Marcos fight, Binay was appointed Officer-in-Charge (OIC) in Makati after People Power deposed Macoy and Corazon C. Aquino became President. Jojo never left the post of Mayor of Makati, except for a brief period in which he let his wife, a doctora, take over to hurdle term limits objections.

In short, the Jojo Binay Dynasty has been uninterrupted since 1986. Kids have grown up to manhood and womanhood, never knowing what it was not to have a Binay as Mayor – and, naturally, Jojo’s relentlessly loyal and pugnacious "yellow army" to enforce everything. When Jojo was interviewed last night by TV, he had switched to a dark blue shirt from red shirt but, by golly, he still had on his Marine camouflage jacket. One cheeky announcer asked him if he was entitled to wear that Marine uniform, and Jojo toothily replied he’s a reservist. (Looked less like a Marine colonel than a Boy Scout, if I may comment – and Binay is no Boy Scout.) Oh well, Jojo smiled into the camera and declared: "There’s a saying a Marine never runs from a fight!" On hearing this, someone I know remarked that Binay is not a Marine, "but a Submarine."

* * *

As for the 2007 election, whose "fix" . .er, I mean, ballot will prevail? Binay’s or Puno’s. There was a lot of pious talk yesterday to the effect that "nobody is above the law." The trouble is that we hear that over-used legal maxim too frequently from political outlaws who believe that the law applies to everybody except themselves. It would have been more credible on the part of GMA to have named somebody with proven integrity like MMDA Chairman Bayani Fernando as Makati "caretaker" instead of the unknown and untested (Puno boy?) Ferraren. This move would have irritated Binay more since he hates Bayani. But this wasn’t done, probably to Fernando’s relief. There are those who’re saying that in a face-off between two devils, "better the devil we know."

In any event, Puno was interviewed on TV in a side-by-side, line down the middle sort of thing. It turned out that apparently the government’s case against Binay still hadn’t been fully documented, but Puno while not a lawyer but a shrewed political analyst and election wizard – silkily replied that if Binay, as he threatened, contested the suspension order in the Court of Appeals, he would immediately abide by the Court of Appeals decision. Puno smoothly assured Jojo and the public there would be no police or any armed move to eject him bodily from City Hall, and he could camp out there forever. Except that any checks or licenses, or documents he signed wouldn’t be recognized by the government. Where does this leave Makati? In a state of paralysis. And the "outside" world, when it deigns to glance at our Liliputian struggles and dramas, will shrug and scoff: "There go those Filipinos again." Then go back to North Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, terrorism, and the other concerns which are more global.

They didn’t even notice that former President Cory briefly weighed in to express her sympathy for Binay because he’s "an old friend." My gosh, she’s beginning to speak and sound like her daughter Kris Aquino.

Our democracy Pinoy-style is, I confess, increasingly surreal. For example, only last Monday, Ilocos Norte Congresswoman Imee Marcos announced that instead of her mom, former First Lady and ex-Superma’am Imelda R. Marcos, her son Fernando Martin "Borgy" Manotoc would be running next year for Mayor of Manila. "Borgy", Imee pointed out, has "lots to offer the people of Manila, particularly the youth." After all, his father Tommy Manotoc, she noted, comes from Tondo. Gee whiz. What is "Borgy’s" work experience which qualifies him for Mayor? He’s a fashion ramp model, and a commercial model. One time, gossip goes, Imeldific watched one of Borgy’s fashion shows in which he was modeling men’s shorts, bare-chested. Grandma Imelda remarked later to him: "Anak, anong minu-model mo? Bakit ka naka-hubad?" (What are you modeling that you’re . . . uh, half-naked?) There’s a generation gap there, surely. Only recently, handsome Borgy was involved in a bout of fisticuffs in the "Embassy" (no, no, not the US Embassy but a disco club) at The Fort. He allegedly clashed with GMA-7 singer, Jay R. Imee said afterwards she would spank him if it turned out he had done this and was in the wrong. What will Manila do with a Mayor whom Mama will spank?

Perhaps Borgy’s qualification for mayor will be boxing, in the same manner that our Boxing Champ Manny Pacquiao is running for Vice-Mayor on the Atienza ticket. Our politics, indeed, has more variety than Noah’s Ark. And yet, when all is said and done, it may be amusing to laugh at ourselves and our political comedy – but there is a time we must stop laughing. It’s time for us to get serious and tear away the hyperbolic cobwebs of our political hypocrisy.


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