IF–some would say “when”—Vice President Jejomar Binay
becomes president as a result of the 2016 election, the topmost reform he would work for is rigorous law enforcement.
Closely related to this is solving the problem of the general lack of discipline in Philippine society.
He said this in answer to a question I asked at the “working lunch”—actually a Manila Times roundtable with him—last Thursday in the dining room of his residence, the Coconut Palace. This pleasantly designed structure is in the compound beside the Sofitel Philippine Plaza in the Cultural Center of the Philippines Complex.
My question went: “What, sir, of the very many reforms that must be made in our country would you make your top priority?”
“Discipline. We must become a disciplined society. The general lack of discipline is why there is a surge in criminality.
Something must be done to curb riding in tandem criminals. It’s a matter of serious law enforcement. But there is a lack of will, a lack of discipline to enforce the law, or even just the will to obey it,” he said.
“This is not just a local-government or police problem. The lack of discipline and will to obey and enforce the law is also in the national government,” he stressed.
My colleague, Bobi Tiglao then asked, “So how would you do it?”
But the Vice President’s answer got drowned out by other insistent questions from the others. There were 22 of us editors and columnists who filled all but four of the 26 chairs around a long dining table equipped with UN-conference type microphone sets.
VP Binay occupied one of the center chairs at the long table. His Communications Aide, Joey Salgado, sat at one of the two leftside end places ten seats away.
Again in answer to a question, the VP spoke about how the president of any country could achieve good governance.
‘If Mayors Ruled the World’
He dwelt on the need for a president to have actual executive experience and demonstrated his or her competence as a government official—a mayor, governor or cabinet member.
Mr. Binay was mayor of Makati City, which is veritably the country’s business and financial capital, for 22 years—from 1986 to 1998 and 2001 to 2010. He was elected vice-president in May 2010.
Not a “leftist” though he is described by political writers as a populist, the Vice-President enthused about the book “If Mayors Ruled the World” by Benjamin R. Barber, political theorist and senior research scholar of the City University of New York’s Graduate Center who is reputed to be leftist. Barber is a successful seminar organizer and speaker on organizational management and effectiveness.
But the military, the judges and Malacañang during the Marcos regime viewed VP Binay as a “leftist.” That was because he was with Atty. Rene Saguisag, Atty. Joker Arroyo and other lawyers of the MABINI group who defended persons accused by the Martial Law regime of being communists. Most of these were victims of abuse and suffered torture.
The VP, a member of the Aquino Cabinet, refused to be drawn into sounding critical of the Aquino Administration.
He did say it was sometimes difficult being in the opposition party and the frontrunner among those running for president in the 2016 election, when President Aquino’s candidate is DILG’s Secretary Mar Roxas, the man he defeated in 2010.
He answered all the questions we asked including those about the outrageous electricity rate increase Meralco has imposed, how he would deal with China and how he stands on amending the Constitution.
Dismayed by electricity cost
He expressed dismay at the high cost of electricity and agreed that it was making the Filipinos, specially the poor suffer. He wishes more attention were given to renewable energy sources.
On China, he wants dealings with China to be pragmatic.
Without sacrificing the nation’s security interests and sovereignty over our seas and land territories, he said, the approach should be to emphasize trade and investment partnerships with Chinese people and Chinese agencies and corporations. He is for partnerships with Chinese companies to explore and exploit the disputed areas themselves.
On amending the Constitution, Vice President Binay wants amendments in the provisions banning foreign investment in businesses and industries that we need to develop and modernize. He would allow foreigners to own land and increase foreign equity that foreigners can own in now-restricted businesses and industries.
He does not favor changing our presidential system to a parliamentary one. It worries him that with Filipinos being too emotional when engaged in partisan political conflicts, we would have frequent changes in government and become less stable than we are now.