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For all his supposed political smarts, Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, regarded as the real power center in Taguig politics, played the elections in the 10 recently-transferred Makati barangays like an amateur.
He tapped former Makati vice mayor Ernesto Mercado as his star player. Mercado was the former Binay ally who had turned against the family patriarch, former vice president and Makati mayor Jejomar Binay. In 2014, Mercado and Cayetano were the key personalities in the year-long Senate hearings, described by some observers as a demolition job, against the elder Binay.
Even before the official campaign period for the barangay polls, Mercado and his team flaunted their closeness to the Cayetanos as their main selling point.
Mercado was a constant presence during Mayor Lani Cayetano’s probing visits. A photo, circulated on Facebook by supporters, showed Mercado and his team with a beaming Mayor Cayetano, flashing the mayor’s “heart” finger sign.
It was a bad idea.
Cayetano’s political resurrection of a discredited Makati politician only reminded voters of Mercado’s betrayal and his connivance with the senator. The result was catastrophic.
Cayetano-backed candidates, including Mercado who ran in Barangay Pembo, lost. All the winning candidates for barangay chair are identified with Makati Mayor Abby Binay.
Were the Cayetanos testing the political strength of the Binays? Well, they got their answer. Were they made to believe that residents would immediately abandon the Binays after the transfer to Taguig? Also a possibility, especially when those they tapped as allies have a history of twisting the truth and telling lies.
There’s a lesson here for the Cayetanos and their political operators. Residents of Makati’s second district have long memories and nearly-immovable loyalties.
The second district barangays, known collectively as Enlisted Men’s Barrios or EMBOs, began as housing settlements for military personnel and their families. Before the February 1986 EDSA Revolution, they were patches of urban blight, neglected by both the municipal government and the military administrators.
Roads would turn to mud trails during the rainy season. Public schools built by the municipal government only had one functioning toilet. Electricity and water services were erratic.
Jejomar Binay changed all that.
Binay served as Makati officer-in-charge for more than a year after the EDSA Revolution. He was elected mayor in the first local elections to be held after the revolution.
Benefits and good politics
The municipal government under Binay set out on a massive program to develop the second district. They built concrete roads and a drainage system. Utility companies were told to install telephones and ensure regular water and electricity services. And Binay gave the residents what they have longed for: the chance to own the land where they have built their houses.
In 1990, then-president Cory Aquino signed Proclamation 518 awarding land titles to EMBO residents. It was the result of Binay’s incessant lobbying.
It’s a story of emancipation that has been passed on to succeeding generations. It also proved to be good politics. By addressing the needs of residents in the EMBO barangays, Binay was able to ease worries that as a former human rights lawyer, he would neglect the soldiers and their families.
Over the years, and with Makati securing its place as the country’s financial center, the local government built more roads, schools, and health centers. A tertiary hospital, Ospital ng Makati, was constructed in the second district, servicing even residents of Pateros and Taguig. The district is also considered as Makati’s education center, with the University of Makati as its centerpiece.
Add to these the long list of cradle-to-grave benefits that other local governments have yet to surpass. And the list gets longer with each succeeding Binay administration. Last year, the Makati city government allotted over P9 billion to fund programs and services in the second district, including the 10 barangays.
The handover to Taguig does not sit well with the residents, who have lost access to these generous benefits and services. And the resentment is mainly directed at the Cayetanos. The barangay election results was a protest vote.
The Cayetanos are in for a bruising, protracted fight for the hearts, minds, and votes of these disgruntled residents. It will take more than the promise of surpassing the benefits previously given by Makati to bring them to the fold.
Finding solutions could be tricky.
The Taguig local government may decide to throw money at the problem by pouring more resources and giving more benefits to these barangays. But they run the risk of alienating longtime residents. Ramping up the benefits for all residents to match Makati’s would hurt their bottom line.
For all their swagger, the Cayetanos and their operators are downplaying one inconvenient consequence: the Supreme Court decision transferring these barangays came with a political headache.
These 10 barangays constitute what can best be described as a renegade republic within the Cayetanos’ fiefdom – a renegade republic with a nuclear strength of 212,613 voters.
Whether the Cayetanos acknowledge it or not, the Binays now have a firm foothold in Taguig. They are now key political players. The Binays can make or unmake political fortunes.
The political terrain in Taguig has shifted. And for now it does not favor the Cayetanos. – Rappler.com
Joey Salgado is a former journalist, and a government and political communications practitioner. He served as spokesperson for former vice president Jejomar Binay.