You were the frontrunner early in the presidential race, perhaps owing to the fact that you announced your intention very early in the ballgame as well. The ‘premature campaigning’ gave your main opponent plenty of time to do a seemingly well-financed demo job, albeit with little success if the earlier surveys were to be believed. Nevertheless, the issues against you – mostly that of corruption – have to be addressed, which you said you will do at the proper forum. You did not consider the Senate hearings as the “proper forum” as you never attended any of its long, drawn-out sessions, preferring to answer the allegations “in court”. But what about the court of public opinion that will judge you too come election time? Filipino voters – especially those who are ‘informed’ and social media savvy – have been waiting for your explanation, and the campaign should be the proper time and venue to present not only your platform but more so, your answers to the concerns plaguing your candidacy.
At any rate, following are my questions:
1) Did you enrich yourself while in office as Mayor of Makati?
You were a human rights lawyer, a member of MABINI (Movement of Attorneys for Brotherhood, Integrity and Nationalism), before President Corazon Aquino plucked you out of obscurity to serve as Officer-in-Charge of Makati City in 1986 when she removed all sitting local government officials during her “revolutionary government” and replaced them with her appointees. Since then, you and members of your immediate family have won every election either as chief executive or representative of the country’s financial capital.
You said in your earlier campaign ads that your mother died because there was no money to pay for her medical bills. Then again, you also say by way of explaining the real estate properties reflected in your Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) that you inherited some of them from your parents. Isn’t there an obvious disconnect there somewhere? The simple-minded way of thinking being, if your parents were poor, how could you have inherited from them anything at all?
If you became wealthy by practicing law, it would have been quite understandable. So many lawyers in our country get rich by lawyering for rich clients or high-profile criminals. But since you have been mayor of Makati from the onset of your political career, you would have had to give up lawyering pro bono for the poor, which was MABINI’s advocacy. Nevertheless, your wife is a doctor. So, perhaps, the good Doctora earned more from the practice of her profession than you did as Mayor of Makati.
Then again, people generally do not believe that your wealth comes from regular toil – especially those who have heard, true or not, of the units in condominium buildings “in exchange” for approval of construction permits or something. Which, in fairness, is also ‘practiced’ by other city mayors hereabouts, according to real estate industry insiders. Was it you who started the trend?
2) Corruption is the sword that hangs over your candidacy. It is your baggage, according to one of your opponents. How are you going to overcome that and make voters choose you in spite of?
Corruption is defined by BusinessDictionary.com as wrongdoing on the part of an authority or powerful party through means that are illegitimate, immoral, or incompatible with ethical standards. It often results from patronage and is associated with bribery.
Of course the term can be applicable not only to you but a host of other ‘public servants’ as well. However, since you are the one running for President and corruption being associated with you like second skin, as it were, it is a valid issue that cannot be easily swept under the rug during an election period no matter how hard your spinners try to ignore it.
Be that as it may, the charges being leveled against you are yet to be proven in court. Still, perception is sometimes more convincing than fact and social media can be brutal. Would your ‘constituency’ – whoever they are or whatever they constitute which apparently are largely the beneficiaries of Makati City’s abundance back when you were making sister cities of every city in the country – stick with you through thick and thin?
You are confident that your “large political machinery” will carry you to victory, calling it your ground support which you say only you and Secretary Mar Roxas possess, boasting that the battle is actually between you two despite what the recent surveys and rallies show. But considering how your former allies, with their respective ground networks, have been abandoning your ship and transferring their support to another candidate – would your confidence still hold water?
The bigger question, though, is: How are you going to explain the charges of corruption and win over the undecided voters? The Commission on Audit does not come up with findings without basis or they have no business acting as examiners, inspectors or checkers of the people’s money.
3) Are you going to perpetuate the Binay name in Philippine politics?
You were against the Anti-Dynasty Bill, saying that everyone should be allowed to run for public office if they are qualified. Three of your children occupy elected positions at the same time. Two, after your son was (forcibly) removed from his seat at City Hall. Indeed, they were elected by the people but everyone knows that elections in our country often favor those who are in power.
In a recent newspaper interview, though, you said you are agreeable to enacting the Anti-Dynasty measure but “must come up with a clear definition of a dynasty.” So, what is your definition of a dynasty? How far down or across the line can members of a political family run for public office? How many of them can do so simultaneously within the bounds of decency and delicadeza?
Dynasty as defined by the Free Encyclopedia is “a sequence of rulers from the same family usually in the context of a feudal or monarchical system but sometimes also appearing in elective republics”. Obviously, we belong to the latter category – elective republic governed by a whole family occupying various positions concurrently.
Used to be that fathers passed on the ‘baton’ of public service to their sons when it was time to retire or leave – which was normal, decent and fair. Today, however, father, wife, children, siblings, ‘serve’ all at once in various instrumentalities of government either as elected or appointed officials. Is that the new normal, decent and fair?
4) With a few more days left in the campaign, how do you hope to “touch the hearts and minds of the people” considering that your ratings have gone down considerably?
One of your campaign promises which resonates well with the working class is the exemption from taxes of employees receiving below P30,000 per month. Some quarters are saying that is a preposterous claim because no less than 60 percent of taxpayers belong to that bracket. How then will you compensate for the revenues that will be lost? Or is it just one of those empty promises that politicians usually make during a campaign to entice voters?
In concrete terms, how do you plan on alleviating poverty? Having, as you say, experienced poverty first hand, what pro-poor programs are you going to implement that will make the poor say they are no longer poor? If, as you also declare, you know how they feel, how would you make them feel that Government actually exists for them, not just for the rich? And if Makati is your Exhibit A, how come half of your city is still populated by the poor in spite of you and your family having been at its helm for 30 years?
Your campaign slogan “Ginhawa sa Buhay ng Bawa’t Pilipino” (or was it “Kay Binay, Gaganda ang Buhay”?) is anchored on the premise of poverty alleviation but is not backed up by even a single narrative on how a Binay Administration would provide relief in the life of every Filipino. Is “Binay hindi bala” the counterpoint to “Tapang at Malasakit” with a specific agenda and timetable? Or is it just like “Oras na” and “Gobyernong may Puso”? Cliché, nebulous and apathetic?
5) Why do you deserve to be the 16th President of the Republic of the Philippines?
All things being equal and all basic qualifications aside, what would make those who are undecided at this point give their vote to you? Competence? Experience? Character? Are these the qualities that should matter most in making our choice for the next leader of our country? Do you have all those traits and more? Like patriotism, love and fear of God, strength of personality and conviction, leadership by example?
You are perceived as a traditional politician, part of the status quo, the usual order of things, politics as usual, a chip off the old boys’ club, same old, same old, The Establishment. Are you comfortable with that?
Wouldn’t you want to be the kind of leader that inspires change, sparks a revolution, ignites fire in the belly, institutes reforms that are inclusive not selective? Someone who is both loved and feared by the people? The one ‘Meant to be’ rather than ‘I should be’?