What Manila used to be, Makati is now in many ways. It is the premiere city even if it is not the capital similar to what Shanghai is to China, New York to the United States, or Rio to Brazil. Among the cities of the Philippines, Makati has the highest per capita income at P16,535 with a country average of P3,951 and the city with the lowest at P1,114; in total income real amount, it ranks second to Quezon City with Manila in third but no more than 10% difference between the three. In area and population, however, Makati is significantly, if not a great deal, smaller compared to the other two. QC is about 8 times larger than Makati in land with a population of 2.7 million compared to Makati City’s 550,000 residents while 1.7 million people live in Manila.
Makati as recent as the 1950’s was a small sleepy town with large open fields that the Ayala family owned with plans of developing the empty space into first class residential villages and later on, a business center. In a span of 25 years beginning in the late 50’s, the Ayala Corporation transformed their part of the city into a modern residential district and a business center with office buildings taller than any previously seen in the country. So Makati as the business and financial center of the Philippines owes that status more to the trailblazing Ayala Corporation that chose Makati as the site of their premiere land development project in the late fifties and succeeded with flying colors. In the twenty years that followed Ayala’s venture into Makati, the City trebled its population and firmly established itself as the new business center of the country. But there remained the other half of Makati outside the Ayala development that stayed poor and backwards. So, much of the advantage Makati has had over other cities in becoming the country’s premiere city is due to the efforts of the largest land developers in the country, rather than anything Binay had done. In fact, many of Binay’s programs are carry-overs of what his predecessor, Mayor Yabut, started, like the famous “yellow card” that provides a Makati resident with affordable if not free quality medical services.
If one were to peg the total expenditure of Makati over the last 28 years the Binays have been in power at, say, 200 Billion pesos , and compute 35% of that to have been lost to corruption, that amount lost and allegedly pocketed by its officials would come to P70B pesos, enough to add another 10 “ospital ng makati” at P2B each plus 20 more schools, more crime and fire fighting equipment, free internet access for all residents, enhanced services, and 20 more parking buildings, if they so desire. With that money, Makati could have embarked on an ongoing affordable housing project that would have made 20,000 families owners of the houses they would be living in. The city could have been much more than what it is today had there been less corruption or even just minimal corruption. It takes little to imagine what could be done with another P50B to P100B that was plundered and stolen by the Phantoms of the City Hall. That money could have seen affordable housing for Makati’s poor, a world class cultural center maybe, more schools including specialized learning centers for the arts and sciences, a hospital/clinic in every Barangay, a growing middle class, crime prevention programs, a world class university, etc. It should have been what New York City is to the rest of the United States, in stature and commercially.
So the performance of the Binays as Mayor for 28 consecutive years should be judged from the point of view of whether more could have been done for the city and how much more. When seen from that perspective, the Binays have not been that great after all as political, cultural, and economic managers of the City of Makati mainly due to rampant corruption and dynastic patronage politics. They have exaggerated their contribution to Makati’s progress and consequently, have been grossly over-rated by people’s simplistic appreciation of incomplete and misleading data backed by the Binay propaganda machinery.
In fact, even just an above average economic manager but with more scruples than the lords of Makati, aided by a team of imaginative knowledgable urban development strategists, in harmony with private developers such as the pioneering Ayalas, could have created the first truly world class city (entire city and not just a portion of it) in this country given the enormous advantages Makati has had over the rest of the Philippines. Another “could have been” to weep over.
Is the Senate Sub Committee investigation politically motivated? Of course it is. Just like all the rest are, including: the Vice President’s office; VP Binay’s housing programs, his OFW related activities, and all his statements and actions; official offices of his two daughters and his Mayor son; the Veep’s campaign organization that is already in place; and all the other aspirants for public offices in the coming 2016 elections. All are politically motivated if not obsessed. But does that diminish his culpability for the plunder charges hurled against him? No.