MANILA, Philippines – How are the Binays able to sustain the undying support of Makati voters through the years?
Data mined from the Philippine Government Procurement System (Philgeps), which keeps a record of the procurement contracts entered into by government agencies and local government units, show that the Makati city government has been showering its residents with hundreds of millions in pesos in Christmas bonanzas.
From 2009 to 2014, the city government under Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay, and now under his son, Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay, released more than P1.2 billion just for Christmas giveaways.
This does not include Christmas giveaways also given to Makati elementary and high school students.
Year on year, the city government of Makati allocated almost P200 million for canned goods and related products.
In 2014, when the political attacks on the Binays heightened, the younger Binay approved the release of more than P236 million for Christmas giveaways.
For the poor
As one of the richest local government units (LGUs) in the country, Makati has earned plaudits for its basic social and health programs directed at the marginalized and the elderly. It provides drugs and medicine subsidies to its residents, and it’s the only LGU that gives out cakes to its senior citizens.
It is perhaps the only LGU that reserves a huge portion of its funds to spread the Christmas cheer.
As of 2010, Makati has a population of 529,000 with the number of households at 126,457. Assuming that Christmas giveaways are given per household, the city government has already shelled out an estimated P9,541 for Christmas groceries per family in the past 6 years.
Former Makati vice mayor Ernesto Mercado said only the poor residents are given giveaways during Christmas, excluding households in gated communities.
While it is one value-added service to the poor, Mercado admitted that it is one form of political patronage using taxpayers money.
For example, the Christmas giveaways in December 2009 and December 2012 could be construed as a form of campaigning because these periods are just a few months away from the May 2010 and 2013 elections.
But because these were given way before the election period, the amounts released cannot be considered a campaign expense.
In 2014, aside from the P236.239 million allocated for Christmas groceries, the city government also appropriated P42.121 million as “Christmas giveaways for public elementary and pre-school students” of Makati and a separate P76.225 million for “T-shirts and bags for Christmas giveaways.”
Lawyer Renato Bondal said that to be fair to the Binays, the giving of Christmas groceries was a tradition begun by the late mayor Nemesio Yabut. “The Binays only followed the tradition.”
To be sure, however, allegations that Binay, in particular the Vice President, has been using the city coffers to gain political favors is not new.
As far back as 1992, a former political ally, Marissa Chan, accused the former Makati mayor of using city government funds to enhance his political stock. Chan was former head of the Makati Social Services Department.
In her affidavit, Chan confirmed a Commission on Audit report that anomalies tainted the procurement of Christmas goods since Binay assumed office in 1986. Between November and December 1987, she said she got P8 million in cash advances “to further promote the image of Binay” in preparation for the elections to be held January 1988.
But former Ombudsman Aniano Desierto dismissed the graft charge filed against Binay after he found there was no conspiracy to commit crime.
Makati observers say that depending on how one views the giveaways, they’re either generosity or political patronage. What’s your take? Let us know in the comments section below. – Rappler.com