MANILA, Philippines — Makati City Hall has been very busy for the past few days.
Residents of different barangays have been pouring in, pitching tents in the open area. There is food for everyone. On a stage set up for speakers right across the Makati City Hall Building II, people are dancing and singing. Politicians are coming in and out. The main building lobby is flooded with people.
It seems like a fiesta but there is nothing to celebrate.
Hundreds of people have flocked to the City Hall to support Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin "Junjun" Binay Jr who is set to be served with a suspension order. They are ready to become human barricades against those who would implement the order.
Time for change
It is seen as a show of force and power – a display of the Binay family's mass base and influence – but not all of Makati is pro-Binay. Jake (not his real name), a middle-aged businessman and long-time Makati resident is one of them.
“Lumaki ako na iisang pangalan ang naririnig ko sa city hall….'Yun ay Binay. Nagtapos ako ng high school noong naging mayor si Jejomar Binay. Nakapag-asawa na ako, si Binay pa rin ang nakaupo. Tapos 'yung asawa niya bago siya bumalik. Ngayon ikakasal sa June yung panganay ko at ang mayor pa rin ay nagngangalang Binay. Are they power hungry?” he asked.
(I grew up hearing only one name in the City Hall; it is Binay. I finished high school when Jejomar Binay became mayor. I got married and Binay was still in power; then it was his wife's turn, but he came back. Now, my first-born is getting married in June and the mayor is still named Binay. Are they power hungry?)
In 1986, then President Corazon Aquino appointed human rights lawyer Jejomar Binay as officer-in-charge of Makati, after the sudden death of Mayor Nemesio I. Yabut. He was elected mayor in 1988.
After his third consecutive term ended in 1998, he was succeeded by his wife Dr Elenita Sombillo-Binay. The elder Binay reclaimed the position in 2001 and held it until 2010.
When he ran for vice president in 2010, his son Junjun ran and won as mayor. Junjun was Sangguniang Kabataan president and city councilor for 3 consecutive terms.
Jake alleged that the Binays seemed to have turned governnance "into a business" and that they grew their wealth while in power.
He said it is "common knowledge" in the city that all of the officials allied with the Binays allegedly get a cut in city projects – a claim made by the whistleblowers in the Senate hearings on corruption allegations against the Vice President.
"Ang masakit nito, marami sa mga taga-Makati ang nagbubulag-bulagan na lang kasi walang magagawa at saka nabibiyayaan kahit papaano. Libre nga naman ang ospital, gamot….Kapag senior ka maraming natatanggap saka libre sa sinehan. Mga ganun…pero kung iisipin mo, mas maganda siguro ang buhay ng taga Makati kung hindi sila nangungurakot,” Jake added.
(What really hurts is many of Makati’s residents turn a blind eye because they can’t do anything about it, and they benefit too. While hospitalization and medicine is free, and senior citizens enjoy privileges such as free movies, maybe the lives of the people of Makati will be better off without their corrupt activities.)
'Follow the law'
Mayor Binay has defied the suspension and has been his office at the 21st floor of the city hall main building since the preventive suspension order was announced. The number of people in and around city hall had affected transactions at the local government.
“Tingin ko kailangan niyang irespeto at sundin ang utos ng korte. Sagutin nila ang mga paratang sa tamang venue. Hindi ganito. Yung mga taga-Makati ang pinaka-apektado eh, ng ganyang political rivalries at iskandalo. Pati transaksyon sa gobyerno apektado,” said Ram Cabrera, who went to city hall to process her child’s birth certificate.
(I believe they should respect and follow the court’s order. They should answer all allegations in a proper venue. Not like this, the people of Makati are the most affected of these political rivalries and scandals. Government transactions are affected.)
Offices and transactions in the Makati city hall main building slowed down on Friday, March 13, because of the large crowd of Binay’s supporters massed at the lobby.
“Terible ito. Sinasayang lang nila ang pera at oras ng mga tao. Ginagastusan yung mga tao sa iba’t-ibang barangay para pumunta dito at sumuporta – 'yang mga pagkain nila, transpo at oras ng mga empleyado na bayad kahit na naaantala ang mga serbisyo,” she said.
(This is terrible. They are just wasting people’s money and time. They are spending money on the residents of different barangays to come here and express support – their food, their transportation, the time of the employees which are paid for anyway, despite of these delays of services.)