Binay: 'How the West was won'
() - June 13, 2010 - 12:00am

The 1962 movie “How the West was won” follows the saga of a family traveling westward, conquering all kinds of obstacles along the way. Jejomar Binay, who was called “Rambo” during his early days as Makati mayor, can make a movie with the title “How the South was won” because of the way he conquered the South as seen in the huge number of votes he got in the ARMM, Northern Mindanao, Davao, and Socsksargen which in the end spelled the difference between victory and defeat in the vice presidential race.

The amazing win of the Paco-born Jojo Binay is unprecedented, and marks the first time a Makati-bred politician would occupy the second highest position in the land. I spent one-and-a-half hours with the vice president-elect a day before his proclamation, and he told me about the tough journey and how he was able to overcome the odds during the campaign.

In fact, his close supporters and his children were not really too keen about his running because they felt his popularity was largely confined in Makati and Metro Manila. But the vice president-elect says he was prepared for the race, believing that his experience as Makati’s local chief executive gave him the training needed for a higher position. He says that when he took over in 1986, the city was virtually bankrupt with a budget of just P185 million. Today, it has an estimated P10 billion budget, and he feels he has done his part, confident that he is leaving it in the competent hands of his son, Makati mayor-elect Junjun Binay.

We told him he should write a book about how he won the VP race, since he is also a voracious reader, taking his cue from the experiences of Jimmy Carter — the peanut farmer from Georgia who became president of the United States. Carter was a virtual unknown when he decided to enter the 1976 Democratic primaries, so much so that even Carter’s mother sarcastically commented, “You want to be president of what?” when he told them about his plans.

Like Binay, Carter started with a very low recognition rating of 2 percent, but he sent people from Georgia to travel all over the US and tell them about his accomplishments as a businessman-farmer, state senator and governor. Carter also did his rivals one better, traveling thousands of miles and visiting numerous states, delivering speeches and touching base with rural voters – even before others announced their intention to run.

Jojo Binay did the same, using the mayors’ league to connect with local government officials and strengthening the “sister city” program of Makati, telling people how Makati became a premier city and helping needy LGUs through technology sharing and donations. In the process, he was able to sell not only the success story of Makati but also of himself, with the compelling rags-to-riches tale of an orphan who collected pig slop from neighbors and did odd jobs to put himself through college. Mayor Binay told me he knows “what hurts the poor” precisely because he grew up in poverty.

Those who have known the vice president-elect for a long time say a main asset is his ability to connect with the masa, and the personal touch he injects in dealing with officials and constituents. Makati dwellers are not surprised at the longevity of Binay as mayor since he is a hands-on executive, checking on the progress of projects personally, taking coffee in neighborhood sari-sari stores while engaged in a discussion with ordinary folks. He tirelessly goes to wakes, consoling the relatives and finding out how the city government can help the bereaved family.

Perhaps it was also a lot of luck that people inside the camp of president-elect Noynoy Aquino wanted to support Binay. It certainly did not help that factions and fractious divisions had formed within the Liberal Party — which caught Mar Roxas unguarded. An LP senatorial candidate also told me that Mar became so sure of winning that he made himself scarce in rallies, and during the times he was present, he only stayed for a short while.

The “Chiz factor” naturally helped, and Binay told me he also quietly talked with mayors and governors, and tapped the Alpha Phi Omega fraternity as well as the 3.5 million-strong Boy Scouts where he is national president. Contrary to rumors of junking, Binay says his tandem with Joseph Estrada helped a lot because of Erap’s continuing popularity with the masa. While a number of businessmen surrounding president-elect Noynoy are disappointed with Binay’s victory, the more practical supporters of P-Noy (as he now prefers to be called) are happy because Binay is a perfect complement to the president-elect who is very much identified with the upper crust of society. Binay on the other hand is able to relate to the poor and can serve as the new administration’s “man on the ground.” Despite allegations of corruption and accusations that he runs city hall like an autocrat, Binay undoubtedly won because many were impressed with his record as a local official, and they also want to experience what he did for the people of Makati.

Our population is growing at an alarming rate, with the number of Filipinos expected to reach 106 million by 2016. That’s 12 million people more than our current 94 million population — of which 40 percent will belong to the lower sector of society. Despite all the allegations that have been thrown his way, there is no question a man like Jejomar Binay, and many like him, will have the ability to connect with the masses and thus, will continue to be voted upon by the poor majority — an obvious edge in the 2016 elections.

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