Saturday, 21 December 2013

The Superpowers of Junjun Binay

Makati City Mayor Junjun Binay
Makati City Mayor Junjun Binay
The powers of Philippines government officials, are the stuff of legends. It's hard to say where the truth ends and where the lies begin. Once in a while, we get to see the truth in it's naked form.

Here, a camera bears silent witness to abuse of power. According to an Inquirer News report, it is a CCTV footage (below) of the Banyan gate of Dasmarinas Village along McKinley Road in Makati City. It has a time signature so we can tell exactly when it started, 2013 11 30 23:39:12 and when it ended at 2013 11 30 23:54:10. And it confirms the rumours that the Junjun Binay and his family do wield superpowers.

Our story begins when the 4 SUV convoy of Makati Mayor Junjun Binay and his sister Senator Nancy Binay, arrives at the Banyan gate at 11:39 pm on 30 November 2013. The convoy is waiting for the boom to go up, but it doesn't. So a man steps out to find out why and maybe inform the guard whose convoy this is. The security protocol of the village does not allow vehicles to pass through that gate after 10 pm. All exiting vehicles will have to take the Palm Ave. gate 150 meters away from the Banyan Gate, so the guards stick to their protocol.

I understand why this might irk the Mayor a bit. The guards could just do them the courtesy of raising the barrier for a few seconds and it would be over, but the guards didn't, They persisted steadfastly on implement village security regulations. This is likewise understandable and quite commendable under the circumstances, so as government officials the Binay's should have just complied with regulation. It would take very little effort and time to respect the village rules and exit through the other gate, while appreciating that the guards had the discipline to implement these rules without special favor to anyone, not even the Mayor or the Senator. It did take a lot of courage and discipline for the guards to say 'No', given the stature (and temperament as revealed) of the officials involved, It is after all their job to secure the gates.

Now here is where it gets interesting. The Mayor would not let it go. His convoy refused to leave until the guards let them through. The video shows that for 15 solid minutes the Mayor and his entourage conducted themselves in a manner that screamed through the silence, 'I have the power and you will bow to my will!' You see a man brandishing a long weapon, displaying it prominently for the guards to see, perhaps in the hope that this would intimidate them into submission. Another man had a pistol which he loaded and cocked also probably for the guards to see. None of that worked. The guards did not lift the barrier.

You then see Mayor Binay talking on his cellphone with one hand on his hip. (the classic power pose). You can tell that, this man is indeed the Mayor because at some point you will observe another man who was standing beside him, run frantically back to the car as if something terrible happened that needed his urgent action. That man opens the car door and retrieves an umbrella. He then hastily returns, and from that point on will relentlessly follow the Mayor around with the umbrella. In the meantime about 5 or 6 men are walking around as if patrolling the area.

As the footage progresses, three more guards arrive on their motorbike in close succession. They would be surrounded by the Mayor's men, disarmed and made to stand back on the opposite sidewalk. The Mayor was outside the gate under his umbrella pacing anxiously, waiting for something or someone to arrive. Let me just point out that if they had turned around and exited through the other gate when the guards first suggested it, they could have been well on their way and none of this display would have been necessary, but I guess the Mayor had another thing on his mind. All throughout the footage, the guards stayed at their post and maintained their position.

Finally the police arrive. It's hard to make out exactly how many they were, but 2 men appeared to be in uniform. The other figures were too dark to make out. One of the policemen raised the barrier, approached some people standing around on the road and talked to them. It was at this point when all the Mayor's men on the road, went back into their vehicles and drove off through the gates. It was over. Or was it?

Inquirer News reports that the policemen who arrived were Makati City Police who directly reported to the Mayor. And 3 of the guards present at the time were arrested, taken into custody, held for 4 hours before the were released. The report quoted the head of the Makati City Police Supt. Manuel Lucban, as saying regarding the arrests,
We wanted to verify if the permits of their firearms were in order and [we did not file] charges. They were eventually released,”
Okay, they had to arrest the guards and detain them for 4 hours in the middle of the night to verify if the permits of their firearms were in order. The police urgently needed to verify firearm permits of these particular guards because they were posing some serious threat to public safety? Do they do this as standard procedure with all the guards or just the ones who don't know who's boss. Anyway everything was all ironed out in the end. The guards were all instructed by their agency to apologise to Mayor Binay and no charges were filed. What? Wait! No! Apologise? For what? Doing their job? No charges were filed for what crime exactly?

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The Bottom Line

My guess is Mayor Junjun Binay was not aware that a camera captured this entire exercise and he probably believed after his awesome display of superpowers at the stroke of midnight, that no one would ever dare cross him again. But here's the thing, people are fed up with abusive power tripping public officials who think that their power and position put them above everyone else. They act like the public resources under their stewardship is meant to be dispensed at their every whim, for whatever suits their fancy.

I really wonder if all Public Officials, especially Mayor Binay, is aware of Republic Act 6713.
Section 4. Norms of Conduct of Public Officials and Employees. — (A) Every public official and employee shall observe the following as standards of personal conduct in the discharge and execution of official duties: 
(a) Commitment to public interest. — Public officials and employees shall always uphold the public interest over and above personal interest. All government resources and powers of their respective offices must be employed and used efficiently, effectively, honestly and economically, particularly to avoid wastage in public funds and revenues.
Okay let's break it down. This is the code of conduct that Mayor Binay is bound to, by virtue of the public office he holds. He is bound to uphold the public interest over and above personal interest. Reviewing the video, the only interest he adamantly upheld was his own. Public interest would have dictated that he comply with the village security regulations, but everything he and his people did was focused on defying that regulation. For what purpose? Was he on any urgent official duty that required him to pass this particular gate in the village? The time and place strongly imply that this was not official business, and his insistence to pass through the gate had no reasonable justification.

The initial intention might have been for his convenience, but as time passed, it turned into an arrogant show of who's boss. Compared to all the effort he put into getting the guards to lift the barrier, it would have been far more convenient to simply turn around and use the Park Ave. Gate which was a mere 150 meter away. Instead, he argued bitterly with the guards, he had his men display their weapons, he had his men disarm the guards, and to top it all, he called in the Makati Police, who finally lifted the barrier to let the Mayor through. To use the Makati Police Force for this purpose, and worst of all to have the guards arrested, that was just the most blatant violation of RA 6713. Where is the public interest in all of this?

It's not enough to tear the Mayor apart on our social networks. It's about time we make our laws work in our favor. We need to demand that public officials, like this Mayor who brazenly violate the code of conduct, be penalised to the fullest extent. There is no excuse for behaving like that especially in public office.

The final point I want to drive home is this. Mayor Binay is an elected official. He is in office because voters put him there. People's votes determines who will control the power of office, whether it be Mayor, Governor or President. The person who is voted will be in charge of public funds, of public resources and of public institutions (like the police and military forces). So it is very, very, very important that the votes go to a competent person with good moral character, who will uphold public interest over and above their own. It's no longer enough to just cast your own vote wisely. If we want to see decent people in office, we must do our part to campaign vigorously for decent people and educate all the voters we have access to. This is the duty of every Filipinos. If we are remiss in that duty, we will keep seeing the likes of Mayor Binay and Vice President Binay in office. Good government starts and ends with the people, so get involved.

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