How to solve a problem like Jejomar?
Posted by akosistella on June 10, 2010
Calling a Spade…
By Solita Collas-Monsod
On top of all those people surrounding President-elect Noynoy Aquino reportedly punching and kicking and clawing (figuratively speaking, of course) and generally jockeying for positions — remember that as president he has appointing power over more than 10,000 government and government corporate positions — the Binay victory has just given him the mother of all dilemmas: how is he going to solve the problem of Jejomar?
The problem arises because Aquino’s main campaign battle cry was to fight corruption, and of course Binay’s alleged corruption is legendary. Just ask Glenda Gloria, who did a piece on the very subject sometime in 2001 or 2002; just ask Conchitina Sevilla Bernardo, who was Binay’s vice mayor after the EDSA Revolution, and resigned in disgust because she couldn’t stomach what she considered the betrayal of the principles of the People Power Revolution through the comeback of corruption by someone who claimed to be the opposite of the traditional politician or “trapo.” Just ask any businessman in Makati, come to think of it — especially those in real estate development and/or construction.
Or Teddy Boy Locsin. Or another Binay vice mayor, Ernesto Mercado. Of course, in the case of Locsin or Mercado, the counterclaim may be that these people are sour-graping, since they were formerly very close to Binay, but had a falling-out because of broken promises.
Or how about the Commission on Audit, who discovered the overpricing involved in the building and equipment of the Makati Hospital and the Makati City Hall. Or the BIR, who claimed that Binay did not remit the withholding taxes of the Makati government employees, to the tune of around P1 billion?
Or how about the researchers in a public expenditure study, who found out that the City of Makati spends more on its education materials than the rest of the Philippines put together?
All smoke, and no fire? Not to anyone who wasn’t born yesterday.
So that’s what Noynoy has to contend with. What are his choices? One alternative would be to do a Carlos Garcia, who as vice president, ascended to the presidency when Ramon Magsaysay died in an airplane crash, and then ran for his own term as president in 1957. He won it, but the vice presidency was won by the opposition party candidate — Diosdado Macapagal. Garcia did not appoint him to any position in his administration.
The benefit to Aquino of doing a Garcia would be that he will have given a very strong signal to the Filipino people that he meant what he said about fighting corruption, and that he would not allow anyone tainted to work with him in the executive branch.
The fact that Aquino and Binay are personal friends will make the message go over even more effectively. Truly walang kai-kaibigan when it comes to making decisions. Wow. What a way to start setting new directions for the Philippines.
What about the cost? Well, Binay might then do a Diosdado Macapagal. Which means spending his entire term as vice president campaigning for the presidency in the next elections.
Macapagal won against Garcia’s bid for reelection — in spite of the fact that Garcia would have had to step down after three years as reelected president, because he would have served eight years by then — and presumably even the opposition vice presidential candidate would be secretly campaigning for him. In the same manner, Binay might also win the presidency in 2016. And the gains from six years of fighting corruption might all be for naught.
But wait. There is a substantive difference between the two situations. In 1961, Macapagal ran on a reform platform against the alleged rampant corruption of the Garcia administration (and as if to validate the charges, the latter appointed over 300 officials literally the night before he turned over the presidency — and these midnight appointments were reversed by the Supreme Court, obviously of a different caliber then the present one). Unless Noynoy completely bungles it, Jojo Binay will have a difficult time convincing anyone that he is reform-minded.
So forcing Binay to twiddle his thumbs during his vice presidency might not be that costly after all.
Except…as the saying goes, “idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” This saying apparently dates as far back as Chaucer in the twelfth century, who called idle hands the devil’s tools. Who knows what ideas a bored mind will come up with? Or a person seeking revenge for an insult? Noynoy’s security detail might have to be on red alert all the time, even if Binay has publicly proclaimed that Noynoy has nothing to fear from him on that account.
How about if Noynoy appoints Binay to a position that would do the least harm (as far as corruption is concerned anyway)? Well, maybe. Just like Fidel Ramos, who appointed Vice President Erap Estrada (not of the same party) to a non-cabinet, position — as anti-crime czar (chair of the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission). Or like Erap himself, when he won the presidency, who appointed Vice President Gloria Macapagal to be DSWD secretary.
The benefit of this kind of move on the part of Noynoy would be that Binay would not be humiliated (and seek revenge), and would not have all that idle time on his hands (and be the devil’s tool). Plus, he may bungle the job (having been given enough rope to hang himself), and find himself out of favor with the Filipino people.
The cost would be that, if he gets a cabinet position, Binay would be privy to the inner workings of the administration, and be able to make use of this knowledge when (notice I didn’t say if) he does run for the presidency.
Not very attractive choices for the incoming President. Which is why he is going to have to think long and hard about how to solve a problem like Binay — actually, I am sure he has already been wrestling with the problem.
But one thing sure: appointing Binay to the DILG — which was offered Binay in exchange for the latter’s not running for the presidency — would be like setting a fox among the chickens. All costs, no benefits. (BusinessWorld, June 10, 2010)