The Binay Republic
Nancy Binay is a mother. She is a daughter. She is a sister. Most importantly, at least for the next 6 years, Nancy Binay is a winner.
She is a winner with at least 10,840,047 votes, in spite of what a particularly loud online public claims and continues to claim.
Nancy says the framing of her campaign was the result of “a unanimous decision” among the members of her campaign team, the same team that ran her father’s successful campaign for the vice presidency.
Her story is the story of everywoman. Her advertisements have her ladling out bowls of porridge, stroking the bellies of pregnant mothers, bringing birthday cakes to the elderly. She is in schoolrooms, in hospitals, surrounded by children, embraced by old men.
“I mean that’s the real me,” she says. “I can’t deviate from what I am. I derive my experience from being a mother, from being a daughter, from being a sister. We’re all at some point daughter, mother—what was the other one? Daughter, mother, sister.”
Nancy is cheerful. She is thinner than she was when the campaign began. She smiles often, laughs often. Her frankness is disarming. She says what she thinks, starts sentences, stops midway, starts them again. There is none of Loren Legarda’s stiffness here, no sign of Chiz Escudero’s smirking slickness. She wears ill-fitting floral blouses, her make-up looks like make-up, and her bag is the sort that may have a candy bar for a giggling son.
Nancy is nice. She is not sharp, or witty, or particularly on point, but she is nice, the sort of reassuring big sister nice that allows for breakfast muffins and boyfriend confessionals and help in homework assignments. This may be a wonderful thing for her husband or her children or the father who seems to genuinely like her, but whether it is good for the nation is another issue entirely, especially when this nice woman who has been bullied online still says she has to talk to bloggers to decide on her position on the Cybercrime Prevention Act.
That Nancy Binay was elected means there is a public, a large millions-strong voting public, that believed in her enough to fall in long sweating lines to perform their civic duty on a summer day in May. The people have chosen, and they have chosen to believe in her, this woman, Nancy Binay, mother, sister, daughter.
Binay has been attacked publicly, repeatedly, over many things. She has been the butt of many jokes, has been called a coward and a fraud, laughed at for the thinness of her resume (personal assistant to her father, personal assistant to her mother, board of trustees member in 4 family foundations), and for her refusal to face in debate her legislative opponents.
Mostly, Nancy Binay has been attacked for being Nancy Binay, in a way Grace Poe, senator-elect, number one in the rankings, was never attacked for being her father’s daughter. The attacks on Nancy were vitriolic, the language almost violent. Perhaps it can be attributed to her ordinariness, an unspoken unwillingness by the iPhone-toting Facebook-posting generation to consider as leader a woman they happily cast—and have cast in a series of Facebook memes—as the second coming of the Black Nazarene.
The senator-elect says she was hurt, but it does not matter, because she chose not to let it matter.
She talks about how she won. It was in large part because of her last name, she admits. It helps that the name Binay is “in a way synonymous with service.”
“Every time I go to the province,” she says, “the way they look at me is the same way they look at my father. So maybe they can see that I will be bringing in the same sort of service.”
She is reminded she is now a legislator. She is asked about plans. Her answers are vague. Something about children’s welfare. About “legislation that would really help our constituents.” The public, she says, “is looking for somebody who can really help them.”
What Binay does not talk about is the legislation itself, no matter how specifically she is asked. Nancy Binay did not have a platform, what she had was a brand.
She brings up the word herself. Asked how she defines herself separately from her father, she answers that she can’t.
“Maybe I can improve the brand,” she says. “Like with soft drinks, I’m still a soda. If my father is Coke Light, maybe I’m Coke Zero.”
Never mind that a senator-elect of a democratic republic has just publicly announced that the public can be reduced to a choice of diet sodas. What is more important is this—that Nancy Binay has convinced the public that the Binay brand is the path of salvation, and the Binay brand is Jejomar Binay.
But Jejomar Binay has never been a legislator. Nancy’s sister Abby may be a congressional representative of the second district of Makati, but it is not her sister’s name that Nancy touts when she talks about the Binay brand, it is Jejomar.
The Vice President’s administrative success has little to do with the making of laws, he is an executive, one who can arbitrarily decide to feed the hungry and heal the sick without defending that decision on the Senate floor as a representative of 90 million Filipinos, without the necessary bargaining and politicking and horse-trading and informed decision-making necessary for the passage of a law. Nancy may know how to disburse her pork barrel, but it is the least of her duties.
This is not to say Nancy Binay has no opinions. She is, for example, against the Reproductive Health Bill, because she is a family woman who successfully spaced her 4 children.
“I have to be true to myself. I don’t practice artificial contraception, and it worked for me, my kids are properly spaced.”
Nancy Binay forgets she is now no longer only herself. She is now compelled to be every woman she promised to be, and she cannot choose which woman. She is now the mother of 17 children. She is now the pregnant 15-year-old daughter. She is now the battered sister with the philandering husband. She cannot be limited by her experiences and claim that same limitation justifies her choices.
Beyond the campaign
Nancy Binay won because she ran a brilliant campaign, and chose not to speak on what she did not know. It was a risk, and the risk paid off. She was emotional, she was human, she was honest. She does not pretend to be anything more than what she is, and that she doesn’t is a phenomenon in Philippine politics. Her winning says less about her than about a country forced to endure the greasy gimmickry of unapologetic messiahs.
But the campaign is over. The tarpaulins have been collected, to be used as roofing for shanties along the Pasig river. The free T-shirts will fade, the last interviews will air, and Nancy will go to school. There are promises that were made, stories that were told, an entire national narrative built around an underdog who was booed in the ring and still took home the belt.
Nancy Binay is a winner. She may not be a legislator, but she is many other things. She is her father’s eyes and ears, she is her mother’s right hand. She is a woman, she is a mother, a sister, a daughter, a can of Coke Zero. She is many things and all things, but what she is not may yet damn the people who voted for her.
These are not the best of times, or the worst of times, this is a beginning, and the future of Jejomar Binay’s 2016 republic depends on the firstborn girl who calls him father. - Rappler.com