By Beting Laygo Dolor i Contributing Editor
His horrible finish in the 2016 presidential elections notwithstanding, former vice-president Jejomar Binay is assured of remaining the political kingpin of Makati City, long considered the Philippines’ premier business center.
For one, the mayoralty race in Makati is between two of his children, incumbent Mayor Abigail Binay and former mayor Jejomar ‘Junjun’ Binay, Jr.
The incumbent mayor said she had the “full support” of their father, a claim which her brother refused to contradict.
The older Binay is himself mounting a political comeback by running for a seat in one of the two congressional districts of Makati, even as his son-in-law and husband to Mayor Binay is seeking re-election in the other district.
Meanwhile, another of the former vice-president’s daughters, Nancy Binay, is seeking re-election as senator.
So overwhelming is the Binay presence in Makati that there are no serious challengers for the top elective posts in the city.
Incumbent First District Congressman Monsour del Rosario has chosen not to seek re-election against the Binay patriarch, opting instead to run for vice-mayor under Junjun Binay.
While previously saying that Makati’s voters should “choose who they want” as their mayor, the former vice-president had reportedly tried to dissuade his son from running against his sister, to no avail. The former mayor is said to be bent on clearing his name after he was perpetually disqualified from holding public office by the Ombudsman.
Junjun Binay has been charged with plunder in the Makati parking building scandal where a mid-rise building was constructed as an annex to Makati City Hall during the term of the younger Binay. The Commission on Audit determined that the building was grossly overpriced and Junjun Binay was convicted of plunder. The Commission on Elections allowed him to run because his dismissal is under appeal and is therefore not yet final.
Former vice-president Binay was long considered the front runner in the run up to the 2016 presidential elections.
Allegations of massive corruption during his term as Makati mayor, however, surfaced during the campaign period, and from front runner he sank in popularity, initially to Sen. Grace Poe, and eventually to Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte.
Also, the man whom Binay defeated in the 2010 vice-presidential derby, former senator Mar Roxas, rose in popularity.
The final presidential tally saw Duterte being elected with some 16 million votes, followed by Roxas with about 10 million. Poe placed third with roughly nine million votes, while Binay was at the tail end with five million.
This, despite his having the most organized campaign machinery with the deepest pockets.
A fifth presidential candidate, former senator Miriam Defensor Santiago, suffered serious health issues during the campaign and placed a distant fifth. She passed away soon after the 2016 elections.
Jejomar Binay Sr. was said to have entered a period of depression after his loss but eventually re-entered public life by becoming a professor at the University of Makati, which he put up during his term as mayor.
It was during his time as mayor that the elder Binay also set up such projects as free movies and free medicine for senior citizens who are valid residents of the city. The city’s youth are also eligible for free education up to the college level.
Many other cities have copied Binay’s populist programs but only Makati thus far offers free education up to the college level. The city also boasts of a modern hospital offering free services exclusively to city residents.
Binay was a former human rights lawyer who allied himself with the Aquino family during the Marcos era. He was appointed mayor of Makati when Corazon Aquino assumed the presidency in 1986.
Despite its relatively small size, Makati is considered the richest city per capita in the Philippines with its local tax collections in the billions of pesos every year.