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The unexpected rise of dark horse Jojo Binay in VP race

Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay is confident the vice presidency is within reach. It will take a certain amount of magic, he says, for his closest rival to catch up with his numbers in the race for the second highest post in the country. The sudden rise of Binay, said to be the dark horse in the vice presidential race, has stunned a nation that had seen Sen. Manuel Roxas II as the front runner since the start of the campaign until a week ago, when pre-election surveys showed the two tying for the first time. On Thursday, three days after the elections, GMA Network’s partial and unofficial results showed Binay and Roxas still in dead heat — with Binay getting 13,374,107 votes as against Roxas’ 12,587,596 votes, a difference of about 800,000 votes. “I am confident that I will win ... I will be neck-and-neck [with Roxas], in the sense that there will be a one million [vote] gap or less between us," Binay told GMA News Tuesday.
In a press conference Wednesday, Binay tells reporters the only way he can lose is if his rivals cheat the election results. GMANews.TV
He said he is prepared to be the vice president of Sen. Benigno Aquino III, who is emerging as the clear winner in the presidential race with a lead of five million votes over former president Joseph Estrada, Binay’s running mate. Binay says his close ties with the senator’s family make him the best choice as Aquino’s vice president. His relationship with the Aquinos date back to the Martial Law years, when he served as a human rights lawyer giving free legal assistance to victims of former President Ferdinand Marcos’ dictatorial rule. It was former President Corazon Aquino, Noynoy’s mother, who gave Binay a break in public office when she appointed him acting Makati mayor in April 1986, two months after she was swept to power by a massive street uprising against Marcos. Humble beginnings Jejomar Cabauatan Binay was born on November 11, 1942 in Manila. In his early campaign ads, he claims that his family was so poor his mother died because his family had no money to buy medicines. The campaign strategy seems to have worked for Binay, in contrast with presidential bet Sen. Manuel Villar Jr. who was criticized for hyping his poverty-stricken roots to advance his candidacy. Binay says his uncles financed his college education at the University of the Philippines, where he earned his political science degree. He took up law in the same university and passed the Bar examinations in 1968. His legal career is marked by activism against the Marcos regime, becoming one of the well-known members of the lawyers group MABINI that gave free assistance to poor litigants who suffered under Martial Law. When Noynoy’s father Benigno “Ninoy" Aquino Jr. was assassinated in August 21, 1983 after coming back from exile, Binay joined the August Twenty-One Movement, which actively commemorates what is considered the martyrdom of Ninoy every year.
Binay joins Aquino at a gathering in August 2009. Joe Galvez file photo
In the tumultuous years that followed Ninoy’s death, Cory was persuaded to launch her presidential campaign against Marcos in the 1986 snap elections. Binay helped her win voters in Makati, where he became Cory’s first appointed local official. Since then, Binay and his family have ruled Makati, the central business district of metropolitan Manila. Corruption in Makati Binay was first elected Makati mayor in 1987 and went on to serve until 1998, when he was named chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) by then President Joseph Estrada. From 1998 to 2001, his wife Elenita served as mayor of the city. In 2001, Binay was re-elected mayor and went on to win two more terms, the maximum allowed under the Constitution. In the May 10 polls, his son Jejomar Jr. won as his successor. His daughter, Mar-Len Abigail, also won as representative of Makati’s second legislative district. Binay takes credit for Makati’s progress. Free medicine, free education, even free funeral services for the poor are some of the achievements that he trumpets in his campaign ads. In one commercial, a line goes, “Si Binay lamang ang nakagawa na ng pinapangako pa lang ng iba." Reporters who have covered Binay in the Makati beat admire him for his discipline and straightforward, albeit stern, demeanor. However, Binay’s administration has also been tainted with allegations of corruption and conflict of interest. In 2006, the Department of Interior and Local Government ordered the mayor’s suspension because the city government supposedly included ghost employees in its payroll. Binay’s camp claimed the suspension was part of Malacañang's political vendetta because of his criticism, in his capacity as president of the United Opposition, of the Arroyo government. The Sandiganbayan subsequently dismissed the charges against Binay. In the GMA News and Public Affairs program Unang Hirit: Hiritan 2010, Binay denied accusations that he received commissions and grease money from developers of Makati’s infrastructure, and that the birthday cakes given to Makati’s senior citizens supposedly came from a Binay-owned bakery. In March 2001, Newsbreak published an investigative report about Binay’s questionable wealth: P80 million in real estate properties, P12 million in undisclosed investments, undeclared ownership of properties such as a farm in Rosario, Batangas, and condominium units in Rockwell, Makati. Citing the mayor’s former aide, the Newsbreak article said Binay used dummy names to acquire properties. But Binay denied the corruption charges. He told Newsbreak: “These charges are a rehash of old election issues… The fact that these allegations of corruption are limited to trial by publicity is an undeniable and clear indication of not only lack of evidence, but a lack of any truth in them. Puro intriga lang."
'Ganito kami sa Makati.' Newsbreak reported that the Makati City hall was supposed to cost P1.1 billion. In March 2001, the building had bled the city government coffers by more than P3 billion. Photo courtesy of Binay's Facebook page
In its annual audit report of the Makati government for 2008, the Commission on Audit noted the following irregularities, among others:
  • The city accountant and the general services officer’s records have an unaccounted difference of about P3.7 billion.
  • The city accountant declared about P148.7 million in expenses for medicines, textbooks, and other materials even if the items were not yet delivered.
  • Offices using rewards cards for fuel expenses exceeded their monthly allocation.
  • Officials and employees were given cash advances even if they were not authorized as disbursing officers to receive the money. “Cash advances had an unliquidated balance" amounting to about P200.6 million, the COA report said.
  • The city government has an uncollected income of about P4.6 million from collections from Makati Homes II, which it leases.
Ex-mistress On the homestretch of the campaign, photos of Binay and his former mistress were leaked online – prompting Binay to admit publicly he had an extra-marital affair that nearly cost him his marriage. He said the release of the photos was meant to derail his vice presidential bid, which had started to gain ground. By that time, Binay had bumped off Sen. Loren Legarda as the second-placer in pre-election surveys. A week after the photo was released, Binay tied Roxas in the first place in a Social Weather Stations survey. It was also the week after Sen. Francis Escudero, who himself had presidential ambitions but scrapped them later, endorsed the Aquino-Binay tandem even if both had different running mates.
A screen grab of the "Noy-Bi" ad. GMA News video grab
Noy-Bi Indeed, the May 10 polls’ partial results mirrored Binay’s rapid rise in the pre-election surveys. On Wednesday, Binay told a press conference that only a manipulation of election results could make him lose. Earlier, the mayor claimed getting information that operators in Mindanao are working to manipulate poll returns. But Roxas’ Liberal Party shrugged off Binay’s statement, saying that the mayor was merely conditioning the public’s mind that he was cheated should Roxas eventually come out the winner. Binay has also denied having a rift with Estrada, his running mate in the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino party. “Never did I doubt the trust and confidence of Erap (Estrada’s nickname). In fact, I am indebted to him," Binay said, fending off talks that he was riding into Aquino’s popularity and had ditched Estrada.
Binay and Estrada at a press conference in Mandaluyong City on the homestretch of the campaign. GMANews.TV file photo
Throughout the campaign, Binay told reporters covering the PMP campaign that his relationship with Estrada was firm. He also denied the party left him out during its sorties, saying he campaigned in other areas to maximize the three-month campaign period. In his speeches, Estrada repeatedly says he is lucky to have Binay, “the best mayor," as his running mate. Binay, in turn, showered Estrada with praises. Regardless of whether his pro-poor image shared with Estrada or Escudero’s “Noy-Bi" endorsement fueled Binay’s take-off, the Makati City mayor seems poised to be Aquino’s vice president. “Kami naman nag-umpisa ng ‘walang iwanan,’" said Binay, referring to Noynoy. – YA, GMANews.TV