• Binay blues

    Katrina Stuart Santiago

    Katrina Stuart Santiago

    Friends, countrymen, please  relax. I know it’s difficult to read something you disagree with, and it’s easy to take things personally when you are being told to keep your biases in check. My reaction is always to take a step back, reassess my own perspective, and wonder: is that judgment of my opinion valid? Clear about its own biases, too?

    But that’s me, asking questions. That’s me wondering if I might have missed a point or two, and whether a revision of the original opinion is in order. Or not. In the case of that piece that calls out the bias against the Binays dictating the manner in which they have been vilified and pilloried on social media, I stand by the question: What is it that everyone is not seeing here? Is it not valid to ask why the Philippine Daily Inquirer only came out with it 19 days after? Is it not valid to ask why it has done so at a time when so many other things could and should be in the headlines?

    Is it not valid to ask: How are we blinded by our biases, what is it we end up not saying, not asking, not thinking because of those biases?

    Does it necessarily mean that I am for the Binays, because I am not one with the rest of Pinoy social media and online opinion that collectively condemns their behavior?
    I laugh out loud.

    The absurd
    If you did some research, you would realize how preposterous it is to think that I am for the Binays at all, or that I would do public relations for them—as many-a-commenter has scurrilously said.

    It is not only preposterous, it is laughable.

    Because I have experienced first hand what it is like to be a government employee of the Makati City Hall, even as I live in Mandaluyong (with its own dynasty in the Abalos family). I’ve experienced the kind of system the Binays have created there, and know for a fact how and why it works, but also how and why it is questionable—and painfully so.

    As teacher in the University of Makati (UMak), I found out first hand what it is like to be part of a city that works. Where teachers have free hospitalization and are allowed the possibility of free housing; where they are acknowledged by the local police to be public servants; where our students are certain of jobs the moment they graduate, what with courses that make them better skilled for jobs that would otherwise be given to high school graduates. Think secretary and tourist guide, mechanic and receptionist, and call center agent.

    As such it was clear to me that UMak was not just the run of the mill local university; the promise of jobs that education makes is something that this local university fulfills. Of course one must ask: but why keep these graduates from achieving more, doing more, than being service workers?

    That is the painful side of this same coin. It is one that Binay is able to make his Makati citizenry forget because they also know to be thankful: this is more than what people have in other cities, we are all so lucky.

    What a joke
    I survived UMak for a year, and probably because I knew that I was merely passing through.

    When I use the word survive, I mean I plodded through that year of teaching, where the latter was secondary to being a government employee. I raced for the bundy for my six-hour days—including the days when I had only an hour or two of actual teaching to fulfill. I was paid a pittance for hours spent in the classroom, with no compensation for the time I spent checking and prepping for classes. For approximately P11,000 bucks a month, I was cash strapped for most of that year.

    Because I refuse to be blind, deaf, dumb, I asked questions. I realized that the teachers were surviving on that salary by going into debt with the cooperative set up by the school itself. Whenever the salary was late, that coop would rise to the occasion of advancing salaries to its members—with interest of course. Of course it was easy to be suspicious when the salary would always be late. Even more so when one realizes that the head of the cooperative is considered a local government higher-up.

    At some point one of the friends I made there told me: para kaming ginigisa sa sarili naming mantika. Which is to say too that the Binay system’s cracks are known to the people here, yet there is no righteous indignation against it, no condemnation, no resistance. There’s just no time for it.

    I had the time—and the freedom—for it of course. With so little pay I was living off my parents anyway, there was every reason for me to ask questions and demand better—I am certain I looked like some privileged brat, but I knew I was exactly that in the context of UMak.

    English teachers hated the textbook that we were all required to use, one that was far from being about teaching students English, as it was some linguistics experiment by a professor from the University of the Philippines. Not only did we have to teach our students this textbook, we were at the mercy of a UP professor’s periodical tests, which were not just a measure of students’ learning, but of teachers’ teaching. It was only after I refused to require it of my students that I realized teachers had a cut in those textbook sales—corruption can be as simple as that.

    Many teachers questioned that textbook, but no one had the time to fight against it. Finding myself in front of the UMak President, and having him ask about that textbook, I could only be honest. Soon enough the rest of the regular faculty were having an audience with the President (a first, I was told), and it was decided that the use of that textbook would be scrapped, and money would be raised for a textbook written by the English teachers themselves.

    That was one teeny tiny battle won, and the battles can only be numerous and continuous in a University—and a city—that delivers more basic services than any other, but which also makes sure to maintain the status quo. That is, keep the powerful where they are, keep the struggling working class where they are. Everyone’s too busy to ask questions.

    It’s what happens across this country of course, but without free hospitalization and education.

    There is nothing funny at all about the plight of the working class, neither should it be a cause that’s taken up only when convenient. In fact there is a depth and complexity to their needs that this whole anti-Binay drama fails to level-up to, as many now talk about how this is about the rights of security guards, and the need to respect them, etc. etc.

    I wonder how many can actually take on the cause of security guards and the working class for real. Say fight for the P125 across the board wage increase and get angry at the government for taking pride in the P10-increase in September. Say, fight against the Meralco price hike, one that will certainly make the security guards’ lives more difficult, as they spend the little that they earn on basic services, which are basic rights.

    Or go beyond the security guards and talk about farmers’ rights, particularly over at Hacienda Luisita, where the President’s Cojuangco family have stood quietly by as the Tarlac Development Corporation (Tadeco) claimed and bulldozed farmers’ lands. These are farmlands included in the distribution program of the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), yet the eight farmers who resisted Tadeco’s bulldozing activities are now in jail.

    You want to talk workers rights, you want to talk about the powerful oppressing the powerless, the arrogant and wealthy throwing their weight around? Then level-up. Talk, too, about hunger and need, proper wages and justice. Talk, too, about systemic dysfunction. Otherwise you all are just speaking to each other in a vacuum that doesn’t alleviate the plight of the working class.

    On social media, one expressed the sarcastic hope that I never experience what those Dasma security guards experienced.

    Well, I won’t experience it, honey, and neither will you. We are not security guards after all.

    It’s been hilarious really. Thank you for the laughs.


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    1. The many questions you raised seem to be valid, but that begs the question: Why, for many decades, do we have a government run like hell by Filipino “PIGS” (Politicians Insatiably Gorging Slop; SLOP in the form of Power, Public Funds, Dirty Money, Graft, Corruption, POLITICAL DYNASTY, Influence Peddling, Personal Interest, SHAMELESSNESS)? Government here covers the whole gamut from barangay to local government to national government..

      Our dysfunctional democracy is mainly a failure of leadership because the basic building blocks that support democratic processes – VOTE and POLITICAL PARTIES – are quicksand. The VOTE that empowers the people to shape government is inutile when the wielders themselves do not understand its true power. We ask why we are still mired in poverty without realizing that our own votes did us in. We criticize “political leaders” for incompetence, yet we fail to be critical of our inept votes. Social media goes viral on many political issues,and terabytes are wasted because we have wasted our votes. Whatever it is, the culprit is effete vote. Voter education, and understanding the purpose of government are basic to a functioning democracy. Further research on voter profile and voting preferences could help COMELEC, PPCRV, NAMFREL, civil society unlock the ares for improvement if they are to take the lead. Who else could do it?

      POLITICAL PARTIES as mechanisms for developing competing ideologies, vision, plans, policies, programs for national social, economic, political development are non-existent. So too are the pools of political leaders that the parties are supposed to develop, and provide continuity of governance. What we have are personality-oriented “political parties” organized for convenience. Political dynasty is the only logical outcome. Principle-oriented political parties make governance truly democratic .

      Here lies the premise for debating the problems of Philippine democrazy and misgovernance.

    2. anona squamosa on

      I lived in Makati for fifteen years, the same village where Mayor Binay has a house. I’ve seen him jogging everyday, sans uniformed security men. I’ve never seen or heard the arrogance of the Binay’s. They were just simple persons mingling with the ordinary citizens. Nothing of the arrogance portrayed in the videos. We haven’t heard the sounds or the conversation in the video? Why? What are they hiding, if there is really something there, produce the sounds, please…An ordinary courtesy extended by the security guards, would not have made an issue of it….Why can’t they extend that to the Mayor of Makati, they don’t know who he is? Lame excuse, nagpakilala na nga yung tao, bumaba na sa sasakyan, eh ayaw pang palabasin…Security threat??? Aww, common….
      It’s all politics…Maybe it’s the answer to the other video that goes viral, too in YouTube…

    3. Sinabi ko na nuon at sasabihin ko ulit. Mayaman ang MAKATI at yong binibigay na benipisyo sa mga taga Makati lalo na sa mga senior citizen ay kapos pa. Sabi nga ni Ka Totoy Talastas ng Channel 25, dapat mas marami pa sana mga perks. Paano kurakot ang mas marami. Lahat ng mga meron public bidding na projects sa Makati, lalo na mga multimillion projects ay rigged public biddings. Dyan ang kita ni Binay galing. Human rights lawyer daw sya nun pero pro bono ang serbisyo. Walang kita na pagaabogado. Saan galing yong mga kayamanan nya, eh taga Culi Culi lang sya nun at dun nagjojogging at nakikikain sa mga taga roon. Dapat investigahan sya ng BIR. ATTENTION: COM BIR KIM HENARES. At least nakPending yong graft case ni dating Mayora sa Sabdiganbayan. Hk di mo alam mga ito kasi nasa UMak ka, iba ang mga transaksyon sa City Hall. Alam na alam ng dating nyang Vice Mayor Ernesto Mercado na sugarol ng mahjong at c asino at iba pa. Si Brilliantes alam din yan kaya lang hindi oobra sa style ng mga Binay. Mga taga Makati humingi pa kayo ng dagdag na benipisyo. Makinabang kayo hindi lang mga Binay.

    4. fernando alimano on

      This column is well thought out and finely crafted.
      Thanks a lot!
      It is so easy to go with the tide of opprobium against
      the Binays but current criticism against them is petty
      and smacks of Malacanang spin.
      And this column’s critique of the Binays and of Makati’s
      patronage politics is meaty, personally experienced
      and to the point.

    5. Filipino politicians have the voters psyche down pat. They know what to do to endear the voters to them. So in case something goes wrong, the voters will look the other way.

    6. I read Ms Santiago’s article last week and of course this one that I am commenting on right now. People seem to be saying and reacting to things she never even writes about, albeit putting words in her mouth. Among the comments of her last article I remember only one person getting the main point; intelligently and very courteously pointing out that in fact Ms Santiago was writing about media responsibility — and nowhere near defending the Binays, in fact. Where in this article does Ms Santiago even mention or suggest that drawing of guns is acceptable? — By anybody for that matter. Also, in light of the many perspectives taken by netizens and many a self-fashioned social commentator nobody seems to realise the perspective of security, may it be of those employed by Dasmarinas Village or those employed by the Makati City Hall. Being in close proximity to the person you are tasked to secure is essential, which is why as soon as Mayor Binay stepped out of the car his security followed. Back-up is essential. Once the guards at the gate realised that they were facing a bevy of other armed security personnel they called for back up. Making sure the one you are tasked to secure is out of harm’s way and sight is too. I think this was the whole point of the umbrella (at night) especially blocking sight from those travelling the main road. A friend of mine, in humour and drunken stupor, mentioned that if she had seen the Mayor by the road she would have run him over. Intelligence and information is key. Knowing who you are protecting, seeing bigger pictures and being able to comprehend situations and read between the lines is definitely of utmost importance. I was told that the Dasmarinas Village security guards did not really know, never mind recognise, Mayor Binay, which I think is alarming. But this is another matter of social interest that should be taken up separately. At the end of the day, everyone was just doing their jobs and, in fact, no one took it personally. I have to say that that’s something that we can all learn from.

    7. Ang isyung ito ay pinalaki lamang noong mga anti-Binay sa media. Who gave the copy of the cctv, taken during that fateful encounter, to PDI, which in turn, put the “exclusive report” on its front page, many days after it happened? My guess is that lady columnist of the PDI who resides in Dasma village.

    8. Fernando Rovillos Jr. on

      The protracted tirades are innocuous it can not harm nor inflict injury nor kill but it is understandable for we have developed a social stigma on the ostentatious extravagance aptly called imeldific syndrome as a by product of the abuses usurpations excesses during the Marcos regime. We have all our imperfections as human beings. We do need erasers on our pencils. But politicans are not quick to apologize rather they rationalize on the mistakes they do as means of political preservation and survival. These are triggers that we react vehemently but afterwards when the intensity attenuates and eventually dissipates we are amused and laugh about it.

    9. Any public servant has a positive and negative shadows. Of course, his projects as a mayor using taxpayer’s money…trabaho ng kahit sinong mayor yun. Sinuwelduhan siya don. Yung itinatagong negative shadows ni binay,.. yun ang dapat mong kilatisin. Ngayon, kung nagbubulag-bulagan ka, karapatan mo yan. May lugar sa Laguna, napakabait ng mayor sa mga tao, pero, drug-coddler naman. Kahit alam ng tao, hindi matalo-talo….kasi nga yung visible projects ang nakikita ng mga tao. Yung extra-curriculars nya…huweteng, drugs, womanizing, etc. walang pakialam ang tao. Hindi kita pinagbibintangang nagbubulag-bulagan. .

    10. So you’re saying the drawing of gun by Mayor’s guard was acceptable? Simple question. That’s what’s so offensive about this case. And the imeldific payong.

    11. Bretta Sunico Richard on

      I am not a fan of Binay’s fam. but I think I owed something from them.
      My father was hospitalised for 3 mo. in Makati Hospital and we don’t
      paid nothing for it. He don’t survived for that, and then Mayor Binay visited
      the funeral parlor and give abuloy to one of my sibling. He bothered to visit
      a poor guy bec. it’s belong to his city. They are maybe not the best politicians
      but not the worst one.

      • I hope you realize that whatever you got really belong to you. All the hospitalization and funeral expenses came from your taxes, not from Binay’s personal wealth which was zilch before Jojo B. entered politics. You do not owe them anything….

      • Bretta, It might interest you to know that the “abuloys” in the funerals is a result of our Makati Council Ordinance to financially assist the relatives of the departed, not from the kindness nor from the personal pockets of the Binays. The same with supposedly free hospitalization for the indigent patients and the building of Ospital ng Makati They all come from the taxes we paid and the continuing health care services come from the taxes we pay every year. Also the same for the supposedly free education. Makati is so rich that we could afford social services that other cities and municipalities don’t have. But the question is not just what we have now but what could it be with good government. The hundreds of millions of pesos could translate into a better and more modern educational facilities, better and efficient health care without corruption. Please look in the Audit Reports of the Commission on Audit (COA) and the criminal cases we filed against the Binay family and you’ll find out that life would have been better for Makati residents had the Binays been honest. COA audit reports described how the Binay family systimatically looted Makati’s treasury. This is how they built their ill-gotten and undeclared wealth beyond explanation. Should you need more info, we shall be happy to provide documents for you to read. Thank you.