In a city where one family has wielded political power for the last 27 years, somebody has to stand up and uphold the principle of checks and balances, according to reelectionist Makati Vice Mayor Romulo “Kid” Peña Jr.
“When leadership is confined to just one circle, do you think the people will get the right information they deserve?” said Peña, running mate of opposition mayoral candidate Renato Bondal.
Both men are former village chairs who used to be allies of the powerful family of Vice President Jejomar Binay, who became mayor of the city after the 1986 Edsa Revolution, a position later held by his wife Elenita and then by their son Junjun.
Winning a second term for Junjun Binay on May 13 would assure them of three decades of unbroken, dynastic rule.
Peña, who started supporting the Binays when he was still a youth leader, turned against them in 2010 to be the running mate of Ernesto Mercado, then the vice mayor challenging Junjun for the top City Hall post.
After winning, “I tried to reach out to them hoping for a reconciliation. But I don’t know. They always see me as a threat,” he recalled in an Inquirer interview.
The budget for the Office of the Vice Mayor was slashed “by 96 percent under a realignment scheme ordered by the mayor” right after the 2010 elections, he recalled. The cuts forced him to downsize his own staff and rely on volunteers to pursue his projects in the barangays.
Asked why he was relatively “quiet” for an oppositionist in the last three years, the vice mayor said he was still hoping then that he could mend his relationship with the Binays.
But chances of that happening remained slim. During Junjun’s proclamation rally last month, the reelectionist mayor openly lambasted Peña for frequently missing city council sessions where he, as vice mayor, was supposed to be the presiding officer.
But Peña maintained that he was absent only on days when the council was scheduled to pass resolutions proposed by Junjun Binay, measures which he deemed questionable.
Among them was a 2012 resolution allowing the city government to get a P5-billion loan for its infrastructure projects. “I was absent then because I didn’t see the need to enter into a P5-billion loan agreement for infrastructure projects… Our budget is already P10 billion every year,” he said.
Now gunning for another term under the Liberal Party, Peña is pitted against former city administrator Marjorie De Veyra, whom he described as “a faithful employee of the Binays.”
“If I will become vice mayor again, I will be very vocal,” he said.