People base their opinions of other people from what little they know. Even I admit to doing so. Here is “the little I know.”
I had been a Makati resident/worker since 1999. I have lived in that area two blocks away from the MMDA office at Orense, so in a sense I have been under the coverage of both Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay and MMDA Chief Bayani Fernando, although at the outset I had neither seen nor met either one personally.
The apartment we had moved into was left in disarray by the previous tenant; the biggest piece of junk was the bottom part of a tattered sleeprite bed that they had left just outside the front door. We moved the bulky thing out on the sidewalk, and waited for the garbage collectors in their trucks to arrive. When they finally did, they would not take the mattress, giving one reason or another, even refusing to take the small gratuity we offered them just to take it away. Day by day they would pass at the same scheduled time, and they wouldn’t take the damn thing away.
Then one afternoon, there was this hubbub in the street, a group of people, some uniformed security, with this Chinese-looking, blue-jacketed man in the lead. He was pointing at the sidewalks left and right, saying what was wrong with them and what should go and what should be taken away. When he came to our side of the street he pointed to the ugly mattress and said “Wala dapat yan dito, tanggalin yan!” (“That shouldn’t be here, take it away.”)
I did not know who he was speaking to, because he was not looking at me, and he was not looking at his retinue either. No one from his group made any move or note to take it away. I ran after him calling out “Sir, sir, Ilang beses ko na pong pinapatanggal yan sa mga basurero pero ayaw po nilang kunin.”
He paid no heed to me. He acted like he didn’t hear me at all, although I was right next to him. He walked on, leaving me there dumbfounded. When I recovered, I asked one of the uniformed policemen who he was. The cop replied “Yan si Bayani Fernando, Chairman ng MMDA.”
That was my first introduction to Bayani “BF” Fernando. Since we had no means of moving the mattress anywhere else (moving it back into the house was out of the question for health reasons) the thing stayed on the sidewalk for several days, until we contracted a manong with his kariton to take it away. No MMDA person came to check on it or to take it away themselves, in fact no MMDA was to be seen in our area at all after Mr. Fernando’s visit.
In 2003 I was pregnant with Maia, and all my suki at the turo-turo at the prefab beside the Nemesio Yabut Public School were both happy and apprehensive for me, as they all knew or had heard about the perils of pregnancy for women over 40. They kept asking me if I had my yellow card already. “Ano yung yellow card?” I asked them, as I had no idea what it was.
Patiently, thinking perhaps that I was the most clueless Makati resident they’ve ever met, they told me. If I had a Voter’s ID or Comelec Certificate that proves I am a Makati resident/voter, I could avail myself of the Makati Health Plus Program, which was better known as the Yellow Card. It was a program by the Makati City government for indigent residents to avail themselves of free medical treatment at the Ospital ng Makati, and other participating hospitals in Makati. While I was sincerely touched that they should count me as one of them, I decided not to pursue the matter, as I would rather have someone more deserving to avail herself of these benefits. Besides, I was not a registered voter in Makati City, after having many years ago given up on the Philippine electoral process.
In the five years that I have resided (Guadalupe Nuevo) and worked (Guadalupe Viejo) in Makati City, I have never experienced any fear while walking home from the office in the wee hours of the morning. The streets were always bright with lights, and at almost every corner a Barangay Tanod or two would greet me, “Good Morning, Ma’am.” In the morning on school days I would see uniformed school children making their way towards the nearby public school, in complete uniform and identical schoolbags, all courtesy of Makati City Hall.
I have never until now met Jejomar Binay, but I do know of his history as a labor lawyer and a street parliamentarian. And I know of the safe streets, and the uniformed children in school. I also know about Mrs. Binay becoming mayor of Makati after Binay himself, presumably to keep the seat warm. I try to see both sides of the coin, and try my best to see what the balance is at the end.
I have read about and heard of the miracles that Bayani Fernando had wrought over the City of Marikina. And I have read about the strike at BF Metals in 2002.
BF’s conduct towards his workers, particularly in BF Metal, is not a case of strictness but of cruelty.
At one point, he visited the Cainta plant and saw a rank-and-file worker who has in the production area with a hole in his shirt. Whereupon, Fernando beckoned the worker to approach him and instantaneously stuck his finger and tore the lowly worker’s shirt.
First and foremost, the mass action by the workers last March 19 was not a strike but a picket-protest – a legitimate exercise of the Constitutional right to peaceably assemble to air grievances.
The workers staged the picket from 6:30 a.m. to 7:45 a.m. before their hours of work. At around 8:00 a.m., they entered the company premises to work. This is evident with their “time cards” and pay slips for that day, which verified that the intent and the result of the mass action is not a stoppage of work. Hence, there was no strike.
But, after work-hours, the BF management hung a streamer that read, “We are on Strike” at the factory gates. Management submitted a photograph of this streamer as its evidence for its illegal strike case.
A look into the way the man’s mind works: A recipe for disaster – by Paulynn Sicam
But Bayani Fernando doesn’t believe in composting, or even in segregating garbage. He’d rather pursue quick fixes, like landfills, if only he can get the residents of other towns outside Metro Manila to become the metropolis’ dump. In the meantime, he said the MMDA’s recycling centers that he inherited has tons of compost nobody wants, so composting cannot be a good idea.
It is easy to see why the residents of Marikina are supportive of the city’s projects. Marikina is the poster child for all other cities and municipalities. When Bayani Fernando was elected Marikina mayor in 1992, he took the blueprint of Singapore and applied it to a city that had gone to seed, saddled by an ailing shoe industry, perennial flooding, and unchecked urban sprawl with its accompanying blight. With tactics described as “political will” by true believers and “dictatorial” by others, Fernando took the city by the collar and shook it into its current spectacular shape.
And a lot of people now know about the misfortune that Christopher Abdullah had suffered under the hands of the MMDA.
Some may say I should not blame Bayani BF Fernando for the storm trooping actions of his minions, the way Congressman Nograles exhorts us not to blame GMA for the storm trooping actions of the police who have “taken into protective custody” Congresswoman Riza Hontiveros-Baraquel during the International Women’s Day march.
But I would also like to point out that there is such a thing as command responsibility. I think it’s way beyond time that Bayani BF Fernando (who is still surprisingly silent after two rounds of Metro Aide strikes right on his doorstep) wrestled with the ghosts of his current regime and come out, either victorious or tail between his legs, but at the very least, come out for real.
So to answer the question in a comment to a previous post in this blog, who would I rather have, Bayani BF Fernando or Jejomar Binay?
I think you well know the answer by now.