Binays' Makati receives governance awards despite corruption charges
MANILA, Philippines – It was a tough year for Makati, with the ghosts of last year haunting the city government and its people in 2015.
New accusations of graft and corruption were levelled against Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay; his son, elected Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr; and members of their family.
The Binays were accused by their longtime political rivals of rigging bids, pocketing millions from the city’s coffers, and lying to their devoted followers in Makati.
In retaliation, the Vice President and his son filed a damage suit and several libel complaints against their detractors. Father and son are convinced that all the accusations are attempts by the Aquino administration to derail VP Binay's bid for the presidency in 2016.
There is also a new “Kid” on the block, who says he does not consider the Binays his enemies and yet he decided to include the family's political rivals in his ticket for the 2016 elections.
The Binay camp has since called out acting Mayor Romulo "Kid" Peña Jr for grabbing the credit from Junjun Binay.
At the center of it all are a handful of Makati city programs and projects that had more than their fair share of the limelight, tainted by charges of overpricing and ghost beneficiaries.
It’s worthy to note, however, that the same controversial programs that made the news in 2015 have been recognized by various awarding bodies through the years as well.
Is this perhaps a testament to the Binays’ assertion that despite the allegations against them, they continue to enjoy the trust of the people of Makati because of their track records as city officials?
Rappler looks back at the year that was for Makati City.
Transparency in procurement process, finances
Makati’s procurement process and finances were questioned in 2015 as whistle-blowers told senators that bidding conferences were rigged to favor certain contractors and individuals, many of whom were supposedly “dummies” of VP Binay. (READ: How Binay 'dummies' cornered Makati contracts for a decade)
In May, lawyer Renato Bondal branded as “illegal and anomalous” a 2003 joint venture agreement between VP Binay, Makati mayor at the time, and the Systems Technology Institute to establish the University of Makati’s College of Nursing.
More controversial perhaps was Jojo’s and Junjun Binay’s involvement in the 2007-2012 construction phases of the Makati city hall parking building II. The Ombudsman found probable cause to indict them for graft, malversation of public funds, and falsification of public documents.
While VP Binay will be charged at the end of his term in 2016, his son had already suffered the consequences this year: Junjun first faced a 6-month preventive suspension in March, then was eventually dismissed and barred from holding public office in October.
Omni Security Investigation and General Services Incorporated won the latest bidding for the city government’s security and janitorial services. Its former president Jose Orillaza claimed he was a dummy of VP Binay.
These issues, however, did not seem to stop Makati from reaping awards under the Cities and Municipalities Competitiveness Index of the National Competitiveness Council in 2015.
Makati ranked as 3rd most competitive city in the country, just two places down from its rank the previous year.
In terms of government efficiency, which the awarding body grants to a local government unit (LGU) “that is generally not corrupt, able to protect and enforce contracts, apply moderate and reasonable taxation, and is able to regulate proactively,” Makati remains 4th in the country overall.
Apart from these, the Department of the Interior and Local Government conferred to Makati the Gawad Pamana ng Lahi Award-Regional Level for the Silver Seal of Good Housekeeping in 2012. It also gave Makati the Bronze Seal of Good Housekeeping in 2011.
The city government said this was for Makati’s “transparency in the procurement process and full disclosure of its finances, and compliance with the Anti-Red Tape Law.”
Makati also received the 2014 E-Readiness Leadership Award, which Junjun Binay said proves the “unrelenting efforts” of Makati to “optimize the advantages offered by modern technology.”
This is despite the criticism the city government received exactly a year after for remaining the only LGU in Metro Manila that still issues cash envelopes for the payroll of city hall employees.
Social welfare programs
Makati’s social services were put under scrutiny as well in 2015.
In April, Bondal alleged that Makati’s resettlement programs in the city, in Bulacan, and in Laguna were overpriced.
He was not able to present proof, however, and the residents themselves said that their lives improved when they were relocated. (READ: Makati Homeville families: Leave us out of politics, just deliver services)
Three months later, elected Vice Mayor Peña, who replaced Junjun Binay in an acting capacity, suspended Makati’s “sister city” agreements with about 670 LGUs as a response to the corruption allegations hounding the Binay administration.
His opponent for city mayor in 2016, incumbent Makati Second District Representative Abigail Binay, plans to bring back the program if she wins.
Then there are the issues surrounding the free birthday cakes for Makati’s senior citizens. Ghost beneficiaries are said to be costing the city government P367 million a year. Peña himself is facing a graft complaint for supposedly colluding with Goldilocks and overpricing the latest contract for the cakes.
Former Makati Social Welfare Department officer-in-charge Marjorie de Veyra was among the city government officials who were dismissed by the Ombudsman together with Junjun Binay.
Ryan Barcelo, De Veyra’s nephew who succeeded her, received a beating from the Senate blue ribbon subcommittee when he defended the Blu Card program for the Makati elderly.
In August, VP Binay’s wife and former Makati Mayor Elenita Binay also questioned the Ombudsman for reviving the “years old cases” against her concerning equipment purchases for the Ospital ng Makati (OsMak) during her term as local chief executive.
Despite these, Makati’s social welfare programs have a number of notable awards.
In 2012, the Philippine Retirement Authority dubbed Makati as Most Retirement and Ageing-Friendly City. (READ: Why Makati seniors want Junjun Binay in city hall)
OsMak was given the ISO 9001:2008 Certification for Quality Management System in 2011 and 2012.
Makati was also recognized as a PhilHealth Center for Excellence in 2011.
De Veyra, meanwhile, received the Gawad Parangal as the Most Outstanding City Social Welfare and Development Officer during the 15th and 16th National Social Welfare and Development Forum in 2011 and 2012. – Rappler.com