The Long View: Retribution by election


Retribution by election

 / 04:30 AM August 16, 2023

It’s surprising to realize that Manila owns the South Cemetery in Makati and once owned the property that has been the New Bilibid Prison since the late 1930s. Manila technically regained its status as capital in 1976, but not really: Its briefly reclaiming the distinction from Quezon City in 1976 was part of the image-building of the dictatorship which then stripped the designation of meaning in 1978, when Metro Manila was designated the National Capital Region. Under Fidel Ramos a capital hocus-pocus took place, with Taguig quietly being zoned as the actual capital, which explains its becoming the future home of the Supreme Court and Senate, a plan itself undermined by the proposal to move administrative functions to New Clark City, a combined legacy of the Arroyo and second Aquino administrations.

At least no one questions Manila’s ownership of the South Cemetery which it seems to amicably commonage with Makati, which has built a Rockwell-style public cemetery facility within it. The same can’t be said for Makati and Taguig’s fight over Fort Bonifacio.

When When Makati and Taguig started their battle in court in 1993, neither was a city. Thirty years later, both are cities, and Makati City lost when the Supreme Court declared Fort Bonifacio is not Makati’s, including parts carved out of it known as the Enlisted Men’s Barangays—the “-embos” of Cembo, Comembo, East Rembo, Pembo, Post Proper Northside, Post Proper Southside, Rizal, Pitogo, South Cembo, and West Rembo.

So what did Makati City lose? No fewer than 10 barangays which contain 300,000 (now ex-) “Makatizens.” This is not just about half of the Makati’s overall population, it’s the political heartland of Binay country, which has reliably voted for the Binays for city office over the decades as well as for its members or lieutenants as representatives of the second congressional district which mostly comprises the now-lost area. It’s in these barangays that much of the social service infrastructure of Makati was put up: the Makati City Jail (Barangay North Side), the Makati Science High School (Barangay Cembo) and 13 other public schools, the University of Makati (Barangay West Rembo), and the Ospital ng Makati (Barangay Pembo).

Yesterday, this paper bannered parents in a panic over what would happen to their kids who are no longer entitled to the benefits not just they, but their children, are used to receiving. The Supreme Court in its decision has prohibited Makati City from making further improvements in the affected barangays. The annual “brigada eskuwela” when public schools are spruced up by parents-teachers associations, featured confusing scenes of the new management making an appearance, to the alarm or annoyance of communities that are basically complaining they are under alien occupation.

Makati Mayor Abby Binay has lost no opportunity to enumerate what affected residents are losing, something the new management, the Cayetanos, may be hard-pressed to not only match, but exceed, not just in terms of students but families. But the loss is real and promises to be palpable in the next election.

In an op-ed for UP sa Halalan, Marco Terrado listed down the political consequences of the Supreme Court’s decision: first, since ex-mayor Jejomar Binay lost there, the Binays may be left with a less-than-loyal base; next, the viability of the second congressional district of Makati City will be seriously diminished. The transfer of barangays means the district will be a rump district: from representing 365,013 citizens in 13 barangays it will be reduced to representing three barangays with 38,143 people. Representing the new rump district happens to be the Makati mayor’s husband, Luis Campos (and he succeeded his wife, who used to be the representative).

The composition of the city council could be halved, as well: currently, there are 16 city councilors, eight per district; remove one district, and its eight city councilors would vanish. As it is, Terrado points out that four incumbent councilors from the second district are residents of Cembo, West Rembo, Rizal, and East Rembo, all barangays that now belong to Taguig.

2025 will be an election in which Abby Binay, as a third termer, will be barred from running for mayor of Makati. Her elder sister, Nancy Binay, a two-term senator, is also barred from running again for the Senate. Speculation is rife that what they lost in court, the Binays could win back at the polls, by launching a dynastic invasion of Taguig.

Or they could count on sympathetic fellow dynasts to make the Supreme Court ruling academic. Sen. Francis Tolentino was quoted as saying Congress ”has the power to change” the Supreme Court decision, by which he probably meant they could pass a law redefining the territory of Makati (or Taguig). Here, the Binays have more votes in the House (two districts) while the Cayetanos have more votes in the Senate (two siblings are incumbent senators).

Manuel L. Quezon III.

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