MANILA, Philippines —Senior citizens were noticeably jubilant when the Court of Appeals handed down a a 60-day temporary restraining order (TRO) halting the changing of the guard at Makati City Hall on Monday, March 16.
In the middle of the crowd at the Makati City Hall’s quadrangle were the city’s senior citizens from different barangays, organizations and affiliations, cheering and dancing as they rejoiced the TRO on the suspension order against Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr.
They have many reasons to celebrate, they said.
“Eh kasi inaalagaan kami dito sa Makati. Ang gamot namin walang bayad, hospitalization namin importante para sa mga Binay. Bakit pa kami maghahanap ng ibang mayor?” said Norma Balleser, a 66-year old resident of Barangay San Antonio who camped at the city hall’s lobby for 5 days to support their mayor.
(We are well looked after here in Makati. Medicine is free, our hospitalization is important for the Binays. Why should we look for another mayor?)
With Balleser was 68-year-old Ligaya Noag, who told Rappler that her group brought extra clothing, blankets, and pocket books in anticipation of their long stay inside city hall.
“Handa kaming pumunta dito. Ngayong may TRO na, okay na kami. Puwede na umuwi. Pero kapag pinilit nilang tanggalin dyan si Junjun, babalik kami dito,” Lola Ligaya said.
(We came here prepared. Now that the TRO is in, we are okay. We can go home. But if they will insist on removing Junjun, we will come back.)
Makati City has more than 65,000 senior citizens registered at the city’s Social Welfare Department. All of them are members of the BLU card program, launched in 2002 during the time of Jejomar “Jojo” Binay as mayor, which entitles them to a list of benefits and privileges.
“Dito sa Makati, nakakatanggap ng cash gift ang mga matatanda. May benepisyo kami kapag birthday namin, may cake pa. Exempted kami sa number coding,” said Arsenio Baylon Jr, a 77-year old resident of Bangkal, Makati.
(Here in Makati, the elderly receives cash gifts. We have birthday benefits, we even get cakes. We are exempted from number coding.)
Whistleblowers in the Senate hearing on alleged corrupt activities of the Vice President had accused the Binay family of benefitting from the “overpriced” birthday cakes given to the senior citizens. (READ: Ex-Binay aide: VP, Nancy earned from building, cakes)
“Simula ng maupo ang mga Binay dito sa city hall noong 1986, mga nakakatanda na agad ang inuna niyang bigyan ng pansin. Hanggang ngayon…sinusundan ni Junjun ang yapak ng tatay niya. Hindi kami makakampante kung mawawala si Mayor Junjun Binay dito. Kung si Vice Mayor ang uupo baka mawala o mabawasan ang benipisyo namin,” Baylon added.
(Since the Binays took over city hall in 1986, they prioritized the elderly. Until today… Junjun is following his father’s footsteps. We will feel uneasy if Mayor Junjun Binay steps down. If the Vice Mayor takes over as mayor, our benefits might be reduced or removed.)
The Binay camp assured the public that everything in city hall is back to normal. All employees and offices can resume their work, said United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) secretary general JV Bautista.
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