The question is not whether Binay is bad but whether he will be badder
Vice President point to the numerous graft and corruption charges he is presently facing at the Ombudsman and the many investigations launched at the Philippine Senate inquiring into his allegedly illegal deals during his tenure as Makati City Mayor as determinants of a coming dark age. In arguing against a Jejomar Binay presidency for the next 6 years, critics of the incumbent
To which Binay supporters respond, “Innocent until proven guilty,” or complain, “Well, who isn’t in Philippine politics anyway?”
While there is reason to expect, even fear a graft-ridden Binay presidency, arguing on the basis of his perceived character and supposedly “shadowy track record” does not only border on the ad hominem but also provides no standard for evaluating him in comparison with other similarly perceived corrupt officials. Not even variations in how deeply entrenched the acts of corruption are or how one is degrees away in terms of connection to the principal perpetrators would suffice as a standard.
In a previous piece, I have intimated that a politician’s projected political capital expenditure while in office can offer a more objective metric. In defining political capital expenditure, I referred to the influence, goodwill, and resources an elected official would have to disburse to pay off other actors or institutions and maintain a stable and governable coalition. Doing so would require inferring what possible challenges an elected official could face while in office, where these challenges could come from, and what payoffs may be necessary to neutralize them.
A politician running for office who will possess net political capital after assessing these expenditures is in this evaluative model, the most desirable in terms of guaranteeing political stability and governability that would have lesser incentives to engage in two clearly undesirable enterprises in a modern electoral democracy: one, dependence on extra-legal coercive mechanisms; and two, patrimonial plunder.
In this sense, perceptions of corruption allegations can be used as grounds for assessment without the outright appearance of partisan advocacy and can serve as a more objective predictive indicator.
Taking stock of Binay’s political capital
Before assessing expenditures, however, an inventory of a politician’s existing political capital should be in order. As a long-time local government official, particularly as mayor of the country’s financial district and then until recently as housing czar of the Aquino administration, Binay has no doubt dispensed sufficient concessions to fellow public officials and private actors contracting business with the government. The susceptibility of these strings to being pulled and pooled for and against a particular cause or person boosts Binay’s political capital both during and after the campaign period.
When he ran for Vice President in 2010, Binay found support from a side of the Cojuangco clan, particularly the power couple, Jose “Peping” and Margarita “Tingting” Cojuangco, who have remained by his side for this year’s campaign. The endorsement of the Cojuangcos not only provides Binay financial resources, it is also a form of symbolic power which leverages his humble origins with the country’s elite families. In addition, Binay’s purported relations with business tycoon Jaime Ongpin link him with powerful brokers in the Filipino-Chinese community whose support – public or otherwise – have often been courted to undermine or reinforce political administrations.
Binay’s political capital is further strengthened by his coalition with the Magdalo Party of Cavite’s Remulla dynasty. Now allied with the Revillas of the same province, the Remulla-Revilla partnership lords over 1.65 million or so voters – Cavite being the second most vote-rich province after Cebu. Even with the Garcias of Cebu splitting their allegiances between Binay and Senator Grace Poe, Binay still stands to gain.
The ability to corner votes and deliver a victory with a wide margin is crucial to any elected politician’s capital as the perceived legitimacy garnered through the polls is a critical security blanket against political adventurists and opportunists that can threaten regime stability.
To maintain this stock of political capital, Binay must spend on threats that endanger the alliances and capitalize on opportunities that would satisfy his support base.
Binay’s shopping list
Faced with multiple graft and corruption cases in various judicial and administrative venues, Binay should be expending a significant portion of his political capital stock preventing the process from gathering steam. Payoffs either during the campaign period or as guarantees once installed in office are costly, especially if they will involve dispensing spoils to actors whose interests or allegiances run against Binay’s main support base. This necessarily enlarges his governing coalition and in turn limits the expected shares of coalition partners from the prospective or current largesse.
Limited shares and bigger governing coalitions are potential sources of threats to Binay’s future regime. Compounding these challenges are institutional restrictions that the present administration have installed against rent-seeking in government.
While an incumbent, Binay is the leader of the opposition bloc which puts him at a disadvantage vis-à-vis the ruling coalition’s control of official State resources. Unlike Mar Roxas’ Liberal Party which can control local officials by withdrawing their equity as incumbents or withholding necessary funds or access to funds, Binay would need a deep pocket, a hefty campaign war chest or an attractive post-election promise to match the administration’s offer.
While local officials may commit at the onset, the challenge lies in keeping them in toe until votes have been canvassed.
Cornering a congressional majority is especially critical for Binay’s candidacy. Although congressmen in presidential democracies and pointedly in the Philippines tail the coat of the victorious presidential candidate when the electoral noise has settled and budget calls released, Binay’s weak vice-presidential candidate, Senator Gringo Honasan whose candidacy is likely his swan song in the political derby, paves the way for a non-Binay ally at the veep seat. This in turn raises incentives for non-Binay allies to position themselves as his administration’s fiscalizers and casually use available impeachment opportunities. With House Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte at the helm of the Liberal Party’s campaign, congressmen are hard pressed to stay in the coalition.
Bad for now, what about later?
Binay’s strongest suit lies in voter preference surveys. A strong lead at the pollsters reinforced by a consistently low showing of the administration bet should scare congressional and local officials and send them bargaining with Binay’s camp. Mar Roxas can spend all the capital he wants now but when push comes to shove, the instinct for future political survival is sure to make his local and congressional allies rethink their wagers. Again, this would involve embracing actors and groups whose coherence would require a careful balancing act. Any disturbance in his governing coalition could send Binay brandishing the dark side of the State’s force and having to bite more concessions than his regime could chew.
In sum, Binay’s victory is desirable only if he maintains the upper hand over and against the allies he has brought into the governing coalition. As it looks, however, rather than the self-made and autonomous politician his hagiography purports he is, Binay is deeply entangled in networks of potentially destabilizing and ungovernable preferences and interests.
The corruption allegations need not be proven true for anyone to predict the fate of a Binay presidency: if many perceive Binay bad now, his regime is bound to be badder. – Rappler.com
RR Rañeses is an instructor at the Department of Political Science, Ateneo de Manila University. He is also an independent political, economic, and security risks consultant and political management specialist.