Binay-Cayetano rift: From Fort to Dasma and 2016

MANILA, Philippines – No moral ascendancy. 

In effect, this was the message of the Binay camp to Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, who called on Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin "Junjun" Binay Jr to go on leave after the Dasmariñas incident on November 30. The incident was reported by the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Thursday, December 19.

“If I recall correctly, no one asked the local chief executive of Taguig to go on leave when armed employees of the Taguig public safety department went on a rampage on McKinley road and this was recorded on CCTV and shown in media,” Joey Salgado, spokesperson of the Binay camp, told Rappler in a phone interview on Saturday, December 21. Salgado was referring to Cayetano’s wife, Taguig Mayor Lani Cayetano.

Salgado described as “most unfortunate” Senator Cayetano’s statement that the Vice President must ask his son to go on leave and face an investigation for his and his security guards’ behavior. 

Salgado took a side swipe at Cayetano by bringing up the Makati-Taguig scuffle over Bonifacio Global City (BGC)The mayor’s eldest sister Senator Nancy Binay, also hit Cayetano for riding on the issue for his own 2016 ambitions.

Mayor Binay is under fire for insisting that his convoy be allowed to pass through the Banyan gate of the exclusive Dasmariñas Village close to midnight, contrary to the subdivision’s rules. Cayetano weighed in on the issue in a press briefing Friday.

Cayetano said the issue smacks of special treatment and presents a challenge to the Aquino administration. He criticized Mayor Binay, saying it was an issue of “abuse” and not courtesy as the Binays claimed. 

Cayetano said, “Will he (Vice President) treat him (Mayor Binay) any differently? Or will he give him special favor? Is this a preview of a Binay administration if he becomes the President?”

Reported to be seeking higher office in 2016, the senator also referred to Vice President Binay’s declared presidential bid. 

“If you want to be President of the country and you want an administration that is free of abuse, you have to make a painful decision.”

Incident at the Fort

Salgado did not respond to Cayetano’s points but instead brought up a September incident when Taguig’s Public Order and Safety Office (POSO) clashed with Makati employees at the height of the two cities’ territorial row over Fort Bonifacio. He said back then, there were no calls for Cayetano’s wife to go on leave.

“On the contrary, what Mayor Binay did, true to his character, was, he went to the city hall and talked to the mayor and the matter was resolved peacefully and amicably,” Salgado said.

The spokesperson was referring to Mayor Binay’s decision to visit Mayor Cayetano at the Taguig city hall, where the two agreed to settle their cities’ differences peacefully in court.

The Makati-Taguig and Binay-Cayetano rivalry intensified after the Court of Appeals favored Makati’s appeal to declare some parts of Fort Bonifacio and some others barangays (villages) to be within the city’s territory and not Taguig’s. Taguig is appealing the decision.

The September incident arose when POSO employees removed “Welcome, BGC, Makati” banners on McKinley Road in Forbes Park. This sparked a scuffle, with POSO personnel supposedly harming a barangay staff recording the incident with a cellphone.

Mayor Lani Cayetano then said she will not tolerate her employees’ wrongdoing, but also criticized Mayor Binay for claiming authority over BGC. The two mayors clashed over whether or not the court’s decision was immediately executory.

Nancy hits Cayetano’s ‘publicity’ ploy

Senator Binay, who was in one of the vehicles in the convoy, also took a swipe at Senator Cayetano for commenting on the Dasma incident. 

“I kept quiet when employees of Taguig were seen on CCTV entering McKinley road in Makati acting in an aggressive manner,” she said in a statement Saturday.

“I am not one who comments on every issue just to get publicity and to advance any political plans,” she said. “At hindi ko ugaling manira ng ibang tao para lang malagay sa media.” (I don’t make it a habit to destroy other people to be in media.)

As a colleague in the Senate, Binay said Cayetano could have just asked her what happened. 

Run-up to 2016

The recent exchange of words between the Binay-Cayetano political dynasties is just the latest in a rivalry that began with the rift over Fort Bonifacio, and which is seen to be a preview of the run-up to the 2016 presidential polls.

Cayetano is the secretary-general of the Nacionalista Party (NP) of former Senator Manny Villar. The NP allied with the ruling Liberal Party (LP) in the 2013 midterm polls. The Binays are stalwarts of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).  

Senator Cayetano dismissed the Binays’ insistence that Mayor Binay deserved courtesy as chief executive, saying that Dasmariñas village was  private property. This was a point that village resident economist Winnie Monsod and netizens also raised.

Pressed about this, Salgado pointed to the statement of Valenzuela Representative and former Valenzuela Mayor Sherwin Gatchalian, a key ally of the Binays.

‘Mayor’s authority is clear’

“As to the extent of the authority of any mayor, whether in Makati, Valenzuela, Taguig, what Congressman Gatchalian said was very, very clear. The authority of the local chief executive is very clear,” Salgado said.

In a statement Friday, Gatchalian said, “the actions of the security guards totally disregarded the authority vested on Mayor Binay as the leader and father of the city.”

“If a mayor cannot enter or leave a property within the area of his jurisdiction because of supposed rules and regulations that were drawn and implemented by a group of private individuals, then this would surely diminish his effectiveness as the leader of his town or city,” Gatchalian said.

Yet Cayetano questioned this argument. He said it went against President Benigno Aquino III’s campaign against the wang-wang mentality, referring to politicians’ abuse of power and sense of entitlement.

“It might seem like a small issue for others. But in the eyes of the poor, this is wang-wang, this is abuse," Cayetano said.

In a statement released Saturday afternoon, Salgado also said that "disrespect for an elected official is something we don't want to wish on anyone." He added, referring to Cayetano, "We know the good senator will be the first to take offense if armed private security guards of an exclusive subdivision surround the convoy of the mayor of Taguig in a gesture of disrespect."

Cayetano earlier said, “The issue is not because he is a Binay. The issue is because of the abuse, and my personal information is, this is not the first time this has happened.”

Will Mayor Binay face probe?

Cayetano also called on the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) to investigate the incident. He said though that DILG Secretary Mar Roxas, also a potential 2016 presidential contender, can inhibit himself from the probe. Roxas is the president-on-leave of Aquino's LP. 

Asked if Mayor Binay was open to face an investigation, Salgado said, “That is speculative. We don’t answer speculative questions.”

What does the Binay camp make of Cayetano’s statements and his references to 2016?

“We don’t want to go further than [our] statement,” Salgado said. – Rappler.com