Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay is no saint. No Filipino politician is, has ever been one, or is likely to be one.

The backroom deals, the patronage system and the alliances of convenience on which the political system thrives make it impossible. But politicians can and do redeem themselves despite the compromises they make to reach their goals. Claro M. Recto fought tenaciously for Philippine sovereignty, and was most likely assassinated for it. Benigno Aquino Jr. was certainly assassinated for serving as a symbol and rallying point of anti-martial law resistance.

Binay is no Claro M. Recto, and no Ninoy Aquino either. He did demonstrate more than Malacanang that he was ready to defend Philippine sovereignty when he made sure last December 4 that rapist Daniel Smith ended up in the Makati City Jail. Binay has been described as a junior Estrada among other epithets, and is apparently as determined as your next trapo to stay in power by making Makati his and his family’s exclusive turf.

Neither makes him any better or any worse than most politicos. But Binay at least has been doing the country a signal service by refusing to curtail freedom of assembly and free expression in his domain, transforming it into an island of dissent in a sea of metro Manila repression.

Not since the martial law period have these freedoms mattered most than from 2005 onwards. It was in late 2005 when the Arroyo regime begun to curtail these rights through, among other measures, its “no permit no rally” and Calibrated Preemptive Response policies.

Both were gross violations of the Bill of Rights, and both were meant to prevent citizens from gathering in the streets and expressing their contempt for an illegitimate president and the fraud that attended her bogus election.

Declared illegal by the Commission on Human Rights, the “no permit no rally” policy has remained in force, ready to be used against citizens at the whim of Malacanang and its police lackeys, whose idea of a calibrated response to anything is to simply bash people’s heads in. .

In an effort to provide its policy of repression a legal fig-leaf as well as to widen its assault on the Bill of Rights, the regime declared a state of emergency in February 2006, inaugurating it with the violent dispersal of demonstrations and the arrest of their leaders, a raid on the offices of the newspaper The Daily Tribune, the filing of sedition charges against party-list representatives, and the detention, still continuing, of Anak Pawis party-list representative Crispin Beltran.

The regime then seized upon constitutional amendments not only as a means of keeping itself in power until 2010 at least, but also to dismantle the libertarian legacies of EDSA 1 as these have been enshrined in the 1987 Constitution. Meanwhile, the killing of political activists accelerated from its already horrendous 2003 levels, while the killing of journalists continued, abetted by government indifference.

The aggressive and sustained regime efforts to suppress constitutionally guaranteed rights in order to guarantee its survival and dominance is the context in which Binay encouraged and continues to encourage protest in Makati, whatever his motives may be.

It is for being both head of the United Opposition (UNO) as well as for encouraging protests in Makati that Binay has become Malacanang’s prime target among all opposition mayors. The Department of Interior and Local Governments (DILG) thus ordered his suspension last October. The DILG investigated the four complaints against him only after Binay had obtained a temporary restraining order against the implementation of its order.

Having failed in that effort, Malacanang is fielding Senator Lito Lapid against Binay this May. Not knowing any better, and apparently unaware of Article III Section 4 of the 1987 Constitution which guarantees the right to free expression and assembly, Lapid has openly declared that his main intention in running for Makati mayor is to stop protests.

“Makati is a center of business and protest rallies have no place in that city because these affect economic progress,” Lapid said in an interview in which he explained why he wants to be mayor of Makati.

Mr. Lapid should go out more, or–if it’s at all possible–should read more on the current sentiments of Makati residents. There are any number of yuppies who look at protests as undue inconveniences in their petty lives. But much of the business community based in Makati has expressed alarm over political killings, which at least suggests that it welcomes efforts to stop them–such as, for example, through the protests Mr. Lapid would stop instead, presumably through the use of police violence.

Mr. Lapid has so far not said what else he intends to do if and when he becomes Makati mayor. That’s not a remote, but a distinct, possibility given all the advantages Mr. Lapid has. Among these are the flood of money from the Palace that’s likely to inundate the country like a tsunami, armed forces and police politicking, his celebrity status, and, last but certainly not the least, the fabled innumeracy of the Commission on Elections. All will be driven by the absolute determination of the current Malacanang occupier to throw Binay out of city hall.

About what’s really at stake in Makati Mr. Lapid is probably as clueless as he is about his platform of government. The residents of Makati shouldn’t be.

(Business Mirror)

Prof. Luis V. Teodoro is a former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Mass Communication, where he used to teach journalism. He writes political commentary for BusinessWorld.

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