Binay party: Same personality, new brand

Vice President Jejomar Binay's new political party will retain his 'masa' image but go beyond his Makati 2010 branding

EVOLVING BRAND. Vice President Jejomar Binay's allies say his new political party will build on his "core identity" but the branding will evolve past the Makati 2010 image. File photo from Binay's Facebook page

MANILA, Philippines – Jejomar Binay in 2016 will be the same Jejomar Binay who ran for vice president in 2010 but with some changes. 

This is how the presidential bet’s political lieutenants explained the idea behind Binay’s new party, whose announcement heightened posturing and fast-tracked organizing for 2016 two years before the polls. (READ: Q and A: What Binay’s party move means)

“A brand has to evolve. It cannot remain the same because the voters, the demands of the voters change so you have to meet those demands,” said Navotas Representative Tobias “Toby” Tiangco, one of the people Binay tasked to form the party.

Tiangco admitted even he was surprised when Binay revealed last week the formation of the party and its June 12 launch in an interview with The Philippine Star. The interview came just days after the team held its first meeting to organize the party, which still does not have a mission and vision, by-laws, and even a name.

Yet Binay’s allies told Rappler they are not starting from scratch. In a country where political parties’ identities are synonymous to their leaders’ personalities, they said the party will be forged after the Binay mold.

OWN PERFORMANCE. Binay's allies say his team will focus on the vice president's own performance instead of minding criticism from other presidential aspirants. File OVP photo

Beyond Makati

Binay’s spokesman Joey Salgado said the team doing the groundwork consists of “the usual suspects.”

Besides him, Tiangco and Binay’s chief of staff Benjamin “Benjie” Martinez Jr, the group includes members of the academe, private sector and former government officials they are consulting to conceptualize the party. Salgado said Tiangco will play a major role, being the self-styled “attack person” of the group.  (He refuses to be called a dog.)

Their initial idea is to encapsulate “what the Vice President stands for, what his advocacies are.” Tiangco said a key component is retaining the masa (masses) image of the orphan-turned-mayor of the country’s financial district. 

“That is the core identity. The best way to demonstrate his concern for the poor before was to show how he did it in Makati. In 2016, will that still be the image that has to be shown to the people? It’s the messaging that has to evolve,” Tiangco said.

Tiangco and Salgado said the new party will highlight the services Binay was known for as Makati mayor like free health care and education plus the sectors he is now in charge of as vice president: housing and Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs).

A difference is that while they called their United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) “constructive opposition” in the 2013 polls, this time they are not keen on using the term that analysts found to be confusing. (READ: UNA: The opposition that’s not quite)

“Let’s just say it is expected to be a major party that will contend the 2016 election. The Vice President’s new party will obviously not be the administration party because the admin party is the Liberal Party. The VP’s part of the Cabinet so technically, how can he be in the opposition when he fully supports the program of the President,” Salgado said.

The UNA secretary-general, Tiangco said it’s not labels that count in the presidential race.

Paano mo ipapakitang ikaw ang tunay na may malasakit sa mahirap? How can you show you are the most capable to run the country? ‘Yung competence.” (How will you show you are the one who truly cares for the poor? It’s competence.)

Organizing early is not an issue for the team whose principal makes it a point to be among the first to visit disaster-hit areas, and to meet officials and ordinary folk in provinces. As Makati mayor for over 20 years, Binay developed an extensive grassroots network in local governments, coupled with his Alpha Phi Omega (APO) fraternity, UP College of Law and Boy Scouts of the Philippines connections. (READ: Binay and the politics of firsts)

The group is still brainstorming names but the running joke is to call Binay’s party United Nationalist Alliance of New Organizations or the Pambansang Alyansa Ng mga Dakilang Anak ng Kalayaan. The UNANO and PANDAK suggestions were shot down.

'EQUAL STATUS.' UNA secretary-general Toby Tiangco says Binay and Estrada's political parties will enjoy "co-equal status" under UNA in 2016. File Rappler photo

Solid Binay-Erap coalition?

Binay is forming the group after leaving his party of 32 years, the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) without even informing party president Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III. (READ: Binay-Pimentel: The ties that bind)

The two have not been on speaking terms since Pimentel bolted UNA ahead of the 2013 polls after Binay accepted into the senatorial slate the man he accused of cheating him of 4 years of his Senate term: resigned Senator Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri. On Friday, Pimentel announced that PDP-Laban is breaking away from UNA.

Binay is unperturbed. He plans to continue his partnership with former President Joseph Estrada’s Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) under UNA. Tiangco said this explains the need for the Vice President to form a new party.

“How will UNA be a coalition if PMP has no partner? If you form UNA as a party, what will happen to PMP when we want to maintain the co-equal status of the parties of Erap and Binay,” he said.

Tiangco dismissed reports Estrada might challenge Binay for the presidency and split the masa vote. He said the Manila mayor even called to inform him that he already announced that Binay will be UNA’s standard bearer.

Under Binay and Estrada, the 2016 coalition will include incumbent UNA officials: the 6-member Senate minority and 8 members of the House of Representatives. Tiangco admitted that these are only a handful but the primary force is the officials he said are raring to join Binay.

“The party will have mostly local leaders but all politics is local. Any party should always get the sentiments of the people on the ground. The deeper your penetration on the ground, the more well entrenched the party is. You know the people’s pulse,” Tiangco said, explaining the long-standing Binay philosophy.

Alam mo naman ang partido, ‘pag nagkaroon ng presidente, nagse-stem cells iyan, biglang nagmu-multiply,” he added. (You know the party that has the president becomes like stem cells, the membership multiplies.)

WHY CARE? The Binay camp says it does not care about Senator Alan Peter Cayetano's attacks against the Vice President, making it a policy to ignore him. File photo from Cayetano's Facebook page

‘Ignore Alan’

Binay’s party announcement prompted political junkies to float a series of 2016 tandems. For the vice president, there’s Nay-Vi or Bi-Vi (Binay-Vilma Santos Recto), Binay-MVP (businessman Manuel V Pangilinan) and more. (READ: VP MVP? Binay considering him in 2016)

Salgado said his boss wants an “unconventional running mate.”

“He is looking at two options: an economist, someone with a background in business, preferably from the private sector. Another option would be the local governments. Both have management experience, which is tailor-fit for an executive position. Rather than look at the present crop mostly coming from the Senate, why not look at others?”

For Binay, choosing a partner is not a priority. His camp said he will likely announce it at the “last minute.”

Another thing the Vice President is not paying attention to are the attacks of presidential hopeful Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, who is loudly hitting Binay for what pundits say is the top issue against him: corruption.

In Senate hearings and media interviews, Cayetano called on Binay to categorically say he will be tough on Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile, his allies implicated in the pork barrel scam, the worst corruption scandal in recent history.

Binay said speculation that he will push for his allies’ acquittal is far-fetched but only responded to the question when it was phrased not as a response to Cayetano’s challenge. It’s become a policy of sorts in the Binay camp to ignore Cayetano’s offensive, saying he’s only out for media mileage.

Tiangco said the group does not mind Cayetano, or even the Liberal Party’s Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, Binay’s fierce rival in the 2010 polls.

“The challenge is to perform well in your given job. And if you perform well in your given job and get a trust rating that will give you 70% toward election for voting preference, why would you care kung siraan ka nang siraan ng kalaban mo (your enemies keep hitting you)?

Unlike Cayetano, the Binay group does not disclose on the record its 2016 preparations or even answer questions about polling and advisers. To them, refusing to respond to Cayetano’s digs is part of the discipline of sticking to the message.

On the pork barrel allies issue, Tiangco said, “Imagine [class] CDE. Will they weigh that more than affordable health care, free housing, their OFW relatives, education? We say ignore [the attacks]. When Binay wins, there will be free education like in Makati, free health care. Those on death row in the Middle East, how many did he save?”

Binay himself said each candidate has his or her own style. With two years to go, there is still a lot of time to see whose works best. – 

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