The Binays face-off in Makati: Who are they and why are they fighting over the same city?

In Philippine politics, the cliche “blood is thicker than water” does not hold true. Here, family members have no qualms fighting each other for electoral posts.

And for the 2019 elections, one of the most high profile cases of blood relations shamelessly squaring off against each other is in Makati City, where former Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr. will run against his sister, the incumbent Mayor Abigail “Abby” Binay.

The Binays are members of Makati’s political elites. They have dominated the city’s government since the 1980s when Junjun and Abby’s father, Jejomar Binay was chosen by then-President Corazon Aquino to become mayor after his predecessor, Nemesio Yabut, died in office.

Jejomar was re-elected as mayor several times after 1986. He was so fully entrenched in Makati that he was undefeated for 21 years, only taking a break from 1998 – 2001 due to term limits, during which his wife Elenita became mayor.

During those two decades, Makati developed into an even bigger financial district and into one of the richest cities in the country. When Jejomar ran for Vice President in 2010, he claimed that the city’s success was due to his management (he even brazenly said he made the city “rich”) but many believe that the city’s development should be credited to many businesses’ decision to move their offices to the city — which naturally leads to high tax revenues.

Makati is also not entirely rich and has its fair share of illegal settlers, a ubiquitous sight in many Philippine cities. The city’s success is uneven and mostly only felt by the upper class.

Still, it wasn’t surprising that Jejomar’s political capital extended to his son Junjun. Taking advantage of the family name, Junjun was elected mayor in 2010, the same year Jejomar became Vice President.

But alas, Junjun was dismissed from his post by the Ombudsman five years later, for “grave misconduct and dishonesty” due to the irregularities found in the construction of a Makati parking building from 2007 – 2013. The Ombudsman didn’t stop there: Junjun was also barred from ever holding an elected position in government.

With Junjun out of the picture, another Binay was waiting in the wings — Abby became mayor in 2016.

But Junjun is down, not out. With his sister Senator Nancy Binay by his side, he has filed his candidacy, sparking off a family feud and political rivalry that would put House of Cards to shame.

Junjun said he was convinced to run by Makati’s politicians, many of whom have chosen to abandon Abby.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer quoted him saying: “There were 13 councilors who left my sister and also majority of the barangay (village) officials. 80 percent left her and they’re pledging support for me and now they’re requesting me to run again as the mayor of the city.”

Even before filing his candidacy, Abby was distraught over his decision.

In an interview in ANC’s show Headstart, she said: “This will divide our family even after the elections. You know my brother … through all the joy and the sorrow I have been with him. In all the crises that he has been through, personally and politically, I was with him.”

Breaking into tears, she also said that Junjun “will have his turn…and he had his turn.”

So far, the Commission on Elections has no plans yet to stop Junjun from running — despite the Ombudsman’s decision, the existence of an appeal or the absence of a final decision of the courts means that Junjun can still run for office.

Even the siblings’ father, Jejomar, is hands-off. He will let them fight to the finish come 2019.

Jejomar himself is far from retiring. He is running for Congress as Makati’s representative next year, three years after he lost to Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in the 2016 elections.

He said in a statement: “I am respecting their decision to run for the mayoral seat of Makati. I did not decide on who between them is worthy of becoming the mayor. The people of Makati will decide on that.”

Whoever wins between the two, one thing is for sure: the Binays have no plans to leave Makati’s political scene anytime soon.

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