I’M not a resident of Makati. Neither do I work there.
Once long ago I was on the payroll of the Makati City Hall because I was a teacher at the University of Makati, where (at least at the time) teachers were considered city hall employees.
That is only relevant now because I feel for the Makati employees whose salaries are on hold, what with two men functioning as mayor. It is relevant because one knows that this is all political. It is borne of some grand scheme that has nothing to do with the people of Makati, or the employees of the city hall.
I remember how miserable it was when as teachers of UMak we would be the last to receive our salaries. That is, after the city hall had released the salaries of its office employees, and whoever else was on the payroll. I remember how so many of my co-teachers would end up going into debt – with interest of course – to tide them over while waiting for our salaries to come in. We never knew why salaries were delayed, and there was rarely an explanation. It was like no one really cared about how we might survive without it.
Imagine how miserable it is now for Makati City Hall employees.
The (in)visible hand
This crisis has been blamed on the anti-Binay forces in government, and obviously so.
This is not to absolve Vice President Jejomar Binay of those corruption charges, as it is to ask: what does Mayor Junjun Binay have to do with the Makati Parking Building? That’s a building that began construction in 2007. Junjun became Mayor of the city in 2010. At the very least, you give him the benefit of the doubt; at most, you work with the chronology of events and find that he can’t be the one most culpable.
He and his sisters have said it time and again: this is merely a demolition job against the Binay name, and only the Vice President’s chief rival in the 2016 elections has the power to make it happen. That is, this is all a scheme of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Mar Roxas, as it is nothing but the Liberal Party throwing its weight around.
It is difficult to believe that this is not political. We also know that probably because it is so, it does not care for the people who might be affected by this crisis of two mayors.
What else is new.
On March 16, Vice Mayor Romulo “Kid” Peña was sworn in as acting mayor of Makati. On the same day, Mayor Junjun Binay got a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on the suspension order from the Office of the Ombudsman.
The Department of Justice, the Ombudsman, the DILG all stand behind Peña, and ask that Binay accept the suspension order. Binay has filed a complaint with the Court of Appeals asking that it cite DILG and Secretary Roxas in contempt for ignoring the TRO. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima says that the TRO is “moot and academic” because Peña was sworn in ahead of its issuance. All three government offices believe that Binay should just acknowledge Peña as acting mayor of Makati.
Because Peña in fact is acting as mayor. He’s held his own rituals as head of the city, his signature is the one to be recognized by the Land Bank of the Philippines, he did the rounds of Makati and re-introduced himself to the people. He has the power to choose the heads of the city departments – all of whom were suspended with Mayor Binay. With the Departments of Justice and Interior on his side, the acting mayor is all set to take over and work towards a smooth transition.
But of course the people of Makati just aren’t that lucky.
Mayor Junjun Binay has decided he will not leave the Makati City Hall. He questioned his suspension, as expected, but he also surprisingly decided to live in Makati City Hall. He seems set on staying for as long as it takes.
He sees nothing wrong with this and declares that things are normal in the city hall. That is, despite that crowd of people who stand guard outside; that is, because he is doing his duties as Mayor of the city, the offices are functioning as expected.
On TV what we see are images: the Mayor’s daughter celebrating her birthday in the city hall, Senator Nancy leading the flag ceremonies with the Mayor, Mayor Binay signing some agreement or other with the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).
What the Mayor is banking on of course is the loyalty of his people, within and beyond the city hall. After all, if everyone ignores the acting mayor, how can he function as anything at all?
Yet what Mayor Binay is ignoring is the people and employees of Makati, who can only suffer under the weight of this crisis.
Because he could actually choose to be the bigger man here. He can accept the suspension and leave city hall. He can just watch the acting mayor struggle with a city hall divided by its loyalties. Mayor Binay can call it a day and go home, and prep for 2016. After all, that’s just a little more than a year away, and while the acting mayor might raise his chances of winning as Mayor then, under such public scrutiny, and with the Binays waiting for him to fail, how can Peña not?
Then it will be a battle of words and propaganda. And the Binays and Peña can go to town with it, for all I care. At least then the employees of Makati, the ones earning an honest living, will get their salaries on time. Sometimes, given all this politicking, we fall back on bare minimum. With 2016 so close, that might be enough.