Junjun Binay is slumped over his desk. Reading article after article that came out once the Inquirer’s explosive headline hit the internet. His aides surround him, encouraging him to fight, throwing him their “support” (whatever that means). Like most Filipino leadership teams, they are Yes-Men all the way. Loyalty and harmony are valued over candid opinions and intense debates.
I’ve met Junjun a few times – in our barangay, and in our Rotary meetings, where he would give his annual State of Makati presentation. He never personally struck me as arrogant. Aloof, perhaps. Tentative at times, maybe. But when asked pointed questions about public policy, he seems familiar with the challenges facing the city.
Assuming I was in city hall and if I were asked to help respond to this quagmire, here’s what I would do.
“Junjun, we gotta get out there. This is gonna be a bloodbath,” I say.
“But I didn’t do anything wrong,” he replies, his faced mixed with fear, confusion and anger.
“Sir, with all due respect, it doesn’t fucking matter now. Malacanang’s political engine is gonna hang you for this. There are talks that they’re gonna send Mar over. They’re gonna use this to deflect attention from Tacloban. The last thing we need is Mar swinging around his cock in city hall. If he does try that, we gotta make sure public opinion is on our side. And that people will see it as Noynoy firing the opening salvo for 2016.”
He looks surprised. “We have the support of Makati residents.”
“This isn’t about Makati. They’ll blow this into a Binay thing. Your dad will be hanged. Your sisters will be hanged,” I reply.
“Ok, what do we do?”
“You say sorry. You put your face out there. Take Joey Salgado off the game. Stop making Nancy issue statements on your behalf. At this point, you should be doing the talking. And we should be doing it fast. We issue as statement in the next hour.”
“WTF? Why would I do that? It’s like I admitted that I was wrong,” he looks pissed now. But inside, he feels the urgency.
“It doesn’t matter. Everyone already wants to chop your balls off. Your back is against the wall, with the knife near your pants. You’re pleading to their sense of decency. You’re pleading for sympathy. Look, if Clinton got away after that intern fling and came out the bigger man – no pun intended, Jun – then you can too. But you gotta man up.”
“Okay, so what do I say?”
“I’ve written the speech. Here’s what it looks like”:
“Thank you for giving me this chance to speak my mind. I can feel the immense anger directed against me. And I know that what I say right now will unlikely change your mind. But I owe it to everyone to respond.
So I’ll make this quick. I’m only going to say three things:
The first is that I am deeply sorry. I’m first and foremost sorry to Sirs Vergilio, Dionisio, Jofl, and Elpidio for getting them involved in this. You gentlemen were simply doing your jobs, and you don’t deserve to be caught in the middle of city hall and your village association for a personal mistake I made. It shouldn’t be your agency apologizing. It should be me.
To my constituents, please accept my deepest apologies. It doesn’t matter whether I explain in detail what exactly happened that night. What matters is the way my behavior will be judged. And upon deeper self-reflection, I could have definitely handled things better. This is what I should have done: I should have just instructed my convoy to turn back. I shouldn’t have alighted the vehicle and made a fuss about it. Perhaps that added to the agitation of my staff, who understandably just wanted to do their jobs. I should’ve just let it go. My time as your servant is worth more than a protracted spat about a random gate.
The second is that I understand. I understand how this looks like from your point of view. I understand that despite whatever I say, this will be seen as an example of me abusing my position and throwing my weight around. I understand that just by watching the video, one may conclude that my party harassed and intimidated the village guards. I understand that by bringing in the Makati police and asking the village guards to go to city hall, one may argue that I’ve curtailed their rights for no apparent reason.
I understand that in light of the insane politics of this country, the intense scrutiny of public officials, the public disillusionment, and the dying trust in government officials, I should have acted with more prudence, more caution, and more reflection. I should have made a stronger effort to be more self-aware on how my actions as a leader will be perceived.
The third is that this experience taught me how much more I have to learn. This is my first term as mayor. And I admit, gaining experience is still something I work on everyday. I realize that the root cause of my unwise behavior is my own hubris.
In my genuine desire to project an image of maturity, strength and experience, I end up being overly-aggressive and wanting to unnecessarily prove myself.
I’ve come to conclude that the best way to fight the hubris is to be constantly in touch with reality – with the people on the ground. When I lost my wife, I lost my moral compass.
So this is what I’m going to do: I’m going to surround myself more often with people from diverse parts of our city. Life in Makati can be a bubble. Makati isn’t Ayala Avenue. Makati isn’t City Hall. Makati is where almost 1 million people work to build a better life. Makati is the saleslady in SM wondering if her 6-month contract will be extended. Makati is the MAPSA traffic enforcer working under the noontime sun. Makati is the customer service specialist who, at 2am, is making sure her client in New York gets her flight tickets on time. Makati is the entrepreneur working out of an incubator in 55 Paseo de Roxas, quietly building innovative products for the world.
Makati is the shining example of what the rest of the Philippines can be. And I have an immense responsibility to learn from my mistakes and be the best leader that i can be. This is my promise to you.
Thank you very much.”
The goal is to ensure that Junjun comes out of this a better man. And be perceived by people as the better man. One should also note what this hypothetical response does NOT communicate:
- It doesn’t disparage the Inquirer report. People are smart enough to know that media distorts as much as politicians do.
- It doesn’t mention the VP. The message has nothing to do with the family. This was a lapse in personal judgement, and that keeping away the family is what’s best for everyone.
- It doesn’t seek to antagonize DVA or its residents.
It’s Christmas. People just want to forget about politics and enjoy the break. People are more open to forgive. If Junjun’s communications team were smart, they’d do this. At this point, a disarming, unexpectedly sincere apology – a rarity in this government – may just stem the tide.
I’ve been a jerk to guards before. Sometimes we just get trapped by our own egos. But I’m lucky to have honest friends who cared about me and spoke up about my condescension. Junjun needs honest friends too.