It is far from being a comprehensive account; how does one compress decades of freedom fighting, litigation work and public service into one book? But it gives substance to the claim that mayors are the best pool from which one should choose national leaders. A mayor, after all, is faced with problems that bother countries and presidents. The problems local government officials contend with are exactly and as grave as those that confront national governments. Crises, after all, cross city boundaries.
This book is about one such person. As mayor, he poured 20 years of his life into making the sordid and bankrupt mess that was Makati into the country's premier city.
When he was elected to a national position, he was able to hit the ground running. Tasked to represent a president reluctant to attend world conferences, and assigned to the portfolios of housing and overseas Filipino workers, Jejomar C. Binay was one very busy bise.
Understanding of the Poor
The Child is the Father of the Man.
What happens to you as a child makes the future. The book narrates how the turbulent childhood of one Jejomar Binay created aches that shaped the man. Binay spoke of how he felt when their house burned down, when his mother died, and how poverty was an ever-present companion growing up.
"I still remember vividly my father walking through the remains of our house, bending once in a while to pick up loose coins that survived the fire. Jojo recalls that after the fire, he and his father would have their meals standing up at a nearby store that was serving dinuguan with pan de limon. Where they lived was no more than a hovel. When it rained, the sala would flood, and they’d have to make do in a small room that was a bit raised.
At night when he’d have to relieve himself, his father would accompany him to the outhouse.
In college, during lunch, my brods would pass their extra platefuls of rice which I would sprinkle soy sauce or fish sauce with calamansi."
The ache in Binay is always for the poor.
“Makati’s rich and middle class can look after themselves. It is the poor who depend on government, and they expect government to look after their well-being."
Binay's staff promotes the book as a compendium of solutions to the problems of the country. Basa, they exhort. They say that there are tried and tested mechanisms and approaches in the book for the dilemmas that face society today.
As a lawyer, he noticed that the destitute, even if they had the advantage of being in the right, would almost always decline to bring cases to court.
If representation for the poor is a dire need, one needs to produce good, like-hearted lawyers. Well, Binay There, Done That: "He opened the only law school offering full scholarship for all students. Tuition and miscellaneous fees are waived and benefits such as semestral book stipend and monthly living allowance were also awarded. Jojo was its founding dean".
Out-of-school and unemployed youth?
Binay There, Done That: “Makati was the first to introduce the Senior High School program in the country that offered graduates an option to enter the work force without going to college."
Unemployed after graduating from college?
Binay There, Done That: "The University of Makati entered into public-private-partnerships with Makati companies and service organizations where it developed courses that met the competency requirements of the private partners. This assured that a graduate would be hired by the partner organization, on day one."
Computer illiteracy among the poor?
Binay There, Done That: "Computer education was offered to Makati students as early as the pre-school level. Barangay Computer Centers were opened in 24 barangays to provide free computer access to Makati’s youths even outside their classrooms. Among local governments, Makati could still boast of having the best and most modern school buildings and facilities, which rivalled even those of private educational institutions."
"Cradle to Grave" Benefits
Being mayor for two decades accorded him the opportunity to address many aches and plaints of the poor. “When it came to Senior Citizens, Makati’s privileges were second to none. Over and above the discounts and other perks normally given in other cities, Makati’s elders could go to movies for free, anytime and any day they wanted. They received a birthday cake, Christmas basket, and a gift check twice a year. They could use/ride in color-coded vehicles even during restricted days. They had access to free medical check-ups and diagnostic exams (MRIs, CT scans, etc.) at the Ospital ng Makati.
“Indigents with yellow cards could be hospitalized free at the Ospital ng Makati if they get sick. Funeral services for free were also given to yellow card holders".
What he didn't get to do
The one large thing he wanted to do required that he win the presidency, which he did not unfortunately. “Because of the sacrifices of our Overseas Contract Workers that he saw in his travels abroad as the country’s OFW czar, his primary platform when he ran for President became job creation.
"He wanted to make the OFWs extinct, by making them all come home to equivalent or even more lucrative jobs.
“He intended to remove all restrictions on foreign investments that would create jobs for Filipinos. As he is prone to say,
Kahit na pahirapan din ng mga dayuhan ang mga Pilipino sa Pilipinas sa trabaho kapag araw, sa gabi kasama naman nila ang pamilya nila. (Even if Filipino workers are treated the same way in the Philippines by their foreign employers, at least they get to go home to their family daily.)’
"Bakit doon, kung nandito ang trabaho? Ang negosyo?"
The book took all of 3-years, a protracted affair, thanks to the Pandemic.
"Writing his biography started in late 2017, but didn’t take off until mid-2018", said Joey Salgado, co-author of the book. "We had interviews at his office, his home, and on two occasion, in my garage.
"By early 2019 we had a working draft but everything was put on hold because of the election. We went to press after quarantine restrictions were eased."
Now that the book is out, people in government would do well to at least check out the possible applications of the successes of one Jejomar C. Binay, former mayor, former vice president, former and founding dean of the University of Makati College of Law, human rights lawyer, and public servant.
Joey Salgado was a journalist for We Forum and Malaya; a PR consultant at AMA-DDB; a political writer at Great Wall. He is now in crisis management, public relations, speech writing, and perception management. He is spokesperson for Jejomar Binay. He has written and edited five books.
Krip Yuson is a multi-awarded literary writer. He was conferred the Southeast Asia Write Award (SEA Write), and has been elevated to the Hall of Fame of the Carlos Palanca Memorial Awards for Literature. He has authored 23 books, including novels, poetry collections, short fiction, essays, and children’s stories, apart from having edited various other titles.
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