The Mad Mad World of the Binays
No harm intended. No foul.
Every once in a while, we have rolling through our lives people who are larger than the rest of us, commanding a presence on a world stage that is front page, top line, full house. Some of these people are artists like Michelangelo and Bach, some are sports figures like Michael Jordan and Manny Pacquiao, some are scientists like Galileo and Einstein, some are performers like Elvis Presly and Celine Dion, some are warriors like Sargent York and the Magsaysay brothers of Zambales, and some are leaders like Winston Churchill and Adolph Hitler. Well, Hitler went to the dark side, the side of Darth Vader and the Green Goblin, of schemes and manipulations and ego bigger than any rational container, bigger than what is emotionally healthy.
What are we to make of a woman who visits England, is enthralled by what she sees, and wants to emulate it in one of the poorest countries in Asia? Who wants her exotic dreamland to look like the Queen’s and smell like the Queen’s, of orchids from Hawaii and Thailand, and with a view of earth not much different than God’s.
Instead of shouting “off with her head” like the mad queen in Alice in Wonderland, she screams “get that stench of pig manure out of my garden . . . and those wretched flies, too!” And so the piggery is encapsulated in sweet air.
Meanwhile, the Lord of the Manor is with the people, dressed in native garb. “I’m just one of you!” he says, smiling softly. He pronounces his vision of the nation under his rule, “we’ll take care of you, you poor, poor abandoned people! We won’t be like the leaders you have now!” He behaves humbly, the loyal servant, showing his modest face and modest SALN to the whole world, and suggesting that anyone who would be so ridiculous as to criticize his Lordship must obviously have a political agenda. THEY are the bad people.
“We are here to serve. We are good people, the best . . . unfairly maligned by ambitious scoundrels like Senators Cayetano and Trillanes. And that biased Justice Secretary de Lima. Surely you must see that!”
Off to the right we hear a noisy clamor. Dressed in floppy shoes and pointy technicolor beanies, we see the red-nosed press, or perhaps it is brown, running breathlessly to the darling Princess Binay, a senator in disguise, to get a point of view. It matters not that this point of view is totally lacking of any information whatsoever. They cram it into a headline to provoke confrontation because there is no need to inform or help solve the problem. There is need to sell papers and make money.
We have tin soldier Ted Failon blaring his overblown expose’ of the Chief Cop’s tiny estate whilst not being able to find the giant Royal Palace on a hill. We have esteemed lawyer Harry Roque endorsing Lord Binay and letting his hard-won integrity lurch into the drain pipe out of loyalty to a family friend; right and wrong mean nothing to this lawyer. We have the Aquino sisters behaving like giggling go-go dolls, endorsing a man who has been good to them.
Never mind what happens to the rest of us, the un-privileged class.
To the left is another choir. But it is quiet, lips zipped. We see senators and representatives and mayors of sister cities of Makati. This is the choir of the mute, the people who dare not criticize. If the King is naked, they see clothes. The conductor waves an invisible wand and the choir raises empty voices toward the theft of a nation going down right before their very eyes. Senators Santiago and Escudero do murmur a gentle piece of advice, “visit the senate and explain”, they tell VP Binay. But there is no indignation. No anger.
It is a choir of the political, not the caretakers of the land. It contains some of the most esteemed people in that land, even those named Poe and Osmena and Bam Aquino and Sonny Angara and Loren Legarda and . . . well, there are lots of them. People who will aim their voice everywhere but where it matters.
Manny Pacquiao is not in that choir. He is in a different group.
The institutions and people going down in flames by attaching themselves to the Mad Mad Kingdom is legion. CDQ, wherefore art thy integrity? Sister cities and their breathless mayors have been enticed into the lair of the Mad Mad Kingdom like so many rats lurching blindly behind a money-draped piper. They know they will share the riches of their lavish patron if he is Lord of the Philippines. Right and wrong means nothing to these mayors.
And, down and dirty, in the cockfight pit of the Senate Blue Ribbon Subcommittee, where Lords and Queens dare not tread, more and more people step forward to reveal their small part in the Mad Mad World of the Binays.
Their World is a world where decrees from the Lord’s jokers, his press people, pronounce the truth of things. It is from the Lord. It cannot be denied. This mad world is a place where civic buildings are declared world class . . . and green . . . and the building is expensive because of the foundations, trust us. The Commission on Audit has given its okay on the building, trust us. Attacks against us are politically motivated, trust us. The whistle-blowers are really the corrupt people here, trust us. The property in Batangas is not owned by the Binays, trust us. You are being given lies. Trust us.
And so those who are tagged as “Liars” by the Binays march forward before the Senate panel, cite their oath to tell the truth, and relate what they know. The weeks pass. Startling revelations are made. Jaws drop.
We discover the building is not world class. So admits the company that built it, the company that allegedly overpriced the building by a billion pesos in rigged bidding. So says the architect who was apparently “in on it”. So says an independent construction expert. The building is “average”. And so they, too, are added to the list of Liars. Nor is the building green. Liars.
As for that expensive foundation, we learn that no soil test was ever done. “The consulting engineer just used an assumption” says the architect, sweating mightily. Liar.
If attacks are political, there should be no evidence of wrongdoing, for the facts should bring forward only smoke, no fire. But we hear from former Makati City employees that bids were rigged, hear from a bidder trapped in an elevator to prevent him from submitting a legitimate bid, a COA official saying there were red flags about rigged bidding, an assessor who says today’s market value of the P2.3 billion building is less than P900 million, the architect who is artfully pinned down by Senator Cayetano and forced to acknowledge that the building is not worth P70,000 sq m, and we discover a trail of money that leads directly to the Mad Queen’s fairy land high on a hill in Rosario, Batangas.
“They are all Liars” says the Lord’s spokesman. “It’s all political.” Trust us.
And never, at any time, do we hear an explanation of why the taxpayers of Makati paid P2.3 billion for a building worth less than P900 million in today’s real estate market. We never find out why toilet bowls that cost P8,944 each today were purchased by Makati from Hilmarc’s vendors for P13,400 in 2010, P20,700 in 2011, and P32,400 in 2012. We are not told what has happened to dear friends of the Binay family, like the Chongs, who have suddenly disappeared to dodge their subpoenas. It would seem that bags are being hurriedly packed all across Makati.
Ahahahaha, and the body language! The body language of the witnesses, the liars and the truthtellers. It is a physical rendition of a world gone surreal! They don’t write scripts this good, this dramatic.
Vice Mayor Mercado’s testimony at first is given with reservations, with hesitation and a wish that this whole episode would just go away. The truth has to be coaxed out of him.
The truth does come out and the Binays call him a Liar and say that HE is the real scoundrel.
Ahhh, but that makes the Vice Mayor mad and he opens the floodgates of truth. Vengeance will be his. Out spills the deceits of the Binays, in loud, confident, even excited revelations. Three bags are thumped onto the table, the tools of a bagman delivering millions. Slides and videos of the Lord’s home, stocked full of valuable imports. Video of the Mad Queen’s estate, pigs and cocks and beautiful horses, and, ohhhh, those orchids. These revelations are brought to us by a man who participated in the scheme. He may go to jail if he is not named a witness for the State. He was made angry by the Lord of the Mad House who not only abandoned him, but tossed his reputation into the trash heap and tried to dump the crime on him.
A parade of whistle-blowers and “resource persons”, one after another, lean forward, push the microphone button, and set forth their testimony in forthright and earnest terms. Much of it is cross-confirmed by others. The Binays call them all Liars.
On the dark side of the table, where construction firm Hilmarc’s representatives sit, and the architect, and the Mayor of Makati – a Prince of the Mad Kingdom before he decides to flee the forum – people are hunkered down, tense, guarded in what they say, answering in generalities or pointing to others. They are illusive. Two Hilmarc’s executives flee and are remanded to the full committee for contempt citation. Admissions have to be extracted from the Dark Kingdom’s side with a ply bar, but it comes out: “the building is not world class, it is not green, it does not have special foundations, it is not worth P70,000 sq m”. This is a bunch of people who are very, very afraid, because the horror of being held accountable for what they have done just . . . will . . . not . . . go . . . away.
We see the dark eyes of ambitious Senator Trillanes glowing with delight as the Mad House is unveiled. We see the smiling, fast-talking, ambitious Senator Cayetano, smart, prepared, a scalpel at hand slicing through all the deceits and misdirections of people out to defend a huge collusion. He cuts through the madness and gives us a startlingly clear picture of funds brazenly stolen and delivered to the Lord and Queen of the Piggery for distribution to the entitled. Dissection of a crime. CSI Cayetano.
We see the body language of COA head Heidi Mendoza, tense, almost in tears. Put in a legalistic bind, she is required to relate what she knows about a case now before the courts. She shows her findings, that Makati previously used overpricing to siphon off taxpayer money for uses that are not known, but are certainly not legitimate. Why is she shook up? We learn that her house has been broken into two times, and that the morning of her testimony to the Senate she receives a threatening phone call.
This is the truth of the Mad Mad World of the Binays.
We can laugh about the comfortable pigs, but the real Mad Mad World is not nice. Ask a couple of security guards about that. Guys who were just doing their job but crossed the Prince and Princess of Binay. Every piece of evidence, every testimony, every revelation suggests this Mad House it is stock full of connivers and thieves and people who intimidate and threaten innocents.
It is a contorted world of schemes and manipulations, of using the poor as a tool. Of demeaning good people because it suits their purpose. Of buying the press and allegiances of sister cities and in 2016 perhaps a lot of votes. It is a place of entitlement and pronouncements that are not to be contested. It is a realm where money has been splashed around for the sole purpose of elevating a family to royal standing in their entitled place as King and Queen of the Philippines. With prince and princesses all dolled up and ready for the coronation ball.
For palaces and summer homes, horse ranches and air conditioned piggeries, tiaras and original artwork on the walls?
To be larger than life?
To find the Lord’s destiny to rule, to command. To make . . . and break . . . lives?
But there is an echo in my brain. A case of deja vu perhaps.
Haven’t we done this before?
Haven’t we learned?
Are we mad, too?
And the silent choir? Is there no patriot among them?
They direct their attention to the Chief of Police and demand he leave his post. They are indignant. Angry. Then they turn their eyes down. They look to the left and look to the right. They look at the ceiling. But they refuse to look at a man just one step from the presidency.
And they refuse to look at a people whose only power is what their elected representatives choose to do. Or not do.
They choose to pick on the the little people, and in that way, imitate the Binays.
They duck their heads, blind to the theft of a nation, deaf to the testimony of earnest people, mute to any call for accountability.
They are the maddest of them all, I think. They can find no compassion for the people they represent. No compassion at all for the nation they are blessed to serve.