MANILA, Philippines – Vice President Jejomar Binay finally heeded President Aquino’s request for him to join the Cabinet, accepting the chairmanship of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC).
“After a discussion with the President, I am following his request to take charge of the housing sector as chair of the (HUDCC),” Binay said in a statement issued yesterday.
Prior to his acceptance, Gawad Kalinga had asked Binay to chair the HUDCC, a position previously held by his predecessor, former Vice President Noli de Castro.
“I look forward to implementing the President’s objectives for housing and shelter and working with volunteer organizations like the Gawad Kalinga, with whom I share a common dream of building not just homes but sustainable communities for our people,” Binay said, adding that he is ready to assist the President in his vision for the country and the people.
Aquino told the Malacañang Press Corps during a dinner on Tuesday that he offered five government posts to Binay, including the chairmanship of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), after he was told that the Vice President was reconsidering accepting a Cabinet position.
Joey Salgado, media officer of Binay, said the President was referring to posts offered during their Times Street meeting before the inaugural.
“The Vice President has always maintained that he is ready to assist the President. Such offer is not pre-conditioned on any Cabinet position,” Salgado said.
“It’s not the positions being offered to the Vice President but the need for people who can assist the President. In whatever capacity, the Vice President is ready to help,” he added.
GK founder Tony Meloto and executive director Luis Oquiñena met with Binay to present a national program, Kalinga sa Bayan, that would take care of the poor and the marginalized.
They asked the Vice President to champion this cause.
The program calls for GK’s basic commitment to help five million families, not just with land, homes and food, but in any other way that can ease their fears and suffering and raise the quality of their lives.
Kalinga sa Bayan will seek active engagement with local government units and offer itself as a catalyst for multi-sectoral initiatives to address basic needs and concerns of the poor in their towns and provinces.
“Vice President Binay as mayor of Makati has been an aggressive GK partner for two years and jointly supporting community building efforts of more than 400 informal settlers from Makati now relocated in a beautifully developed subdivision in San Jose del Monte in Bulacan,” GK said.
“Gawad Kalinga wants to share the effectiveness of its experience in addressing poverty in novel and powerful ways. GK believes that Vice President Binay will be a strong and dedicated champion for the poor with his own wisdom and effectiveness born of his experience and achievements in Makati City, which is the premier city of the country,” GK added.
GK said Makati residents, especially those in the lower economic classes, enjoy health, education and senior citizen benefits that are envied by those residing in other towns and cities in the Philippines.
Wanted: Viable government
Binay, on the other hand, expressed confidence that the Aquino administration will allocate more resources to social programs particularly health, education and housing in order to restore the dignity of ordinary Filipinos.
Speaking before a forum at the University of the Philippines-National College of Public Administration and Governance, Binay said that a society whose government neglects its people “can never be viable.”
He said social welfare is a temporary relief from the symptoms of chronic poverty but social programs can cure two of the most pernicious causes of poverty – ill health and ignorance.
“Social programs are not charity; they are a right of every citizen. Social programs go even further. They go beyond rights and entitlements to the core purpose of government,” Binay said.
“A society whose government neglects its sick and its hungry, its young and its seniors, its unemployed and unemployable can never be viable,” he added.
He said “if more resources are not allocated to social programs, the people, especially the youth, will not be able to contribute to the country’s prosperity.”
“If we keep putting the health and education of our young people on hold, all the more we will not attain prosperity because our young people will grow up unable to contribute to our economy in a meaningful way,” the Vice President said.
He stressed that it was the solution he made to bridge the gap between the rich and poor when he was mayor of Makati.
“The only real threat to Makati’s viability was the gap between its very rich and very poor as well as its long-time residents and newcomers, which was growing as fast as, probably even faster than, its economy,” Binay said.
Putting money where your mouth is
He chided his critics who gave political color to his pro-poor programs, saying it is not pampering the poor to get their votes, but the local government had to provide services that citizens deserve.
“It was a textbook social problem with a textbook solution: social programs,” he said.
Makati residents have benefited from Binay’s social programs. Around a million residents have “Yellow cards,” which cardholders can use to avail themselves of free healthcare services from the Ospital ng Makati. Senior citizens (“White” and “Blue” cardholders) also get additional discounts, P2,000 yearly allowance, free movies and birthday cakes.
Around 86,000 indigent families are also enrolled by the city in the national PhilHealth program, while schoolchildren are assured of free elementary and high school education.
“Makati’s social programs were not conceived and carried out to benefit only the poor,” Binay added.
The Vice President said that even the rich, especially the senior citizens, benefited from his programs, an area where the previous administration “miserably failed.”
“As for our senior citizen programs, even those who live in the most exclusive villages avail… Small privileges that they don’t need, but which they appreciate,” he said.
The Vice President said he has realized that “society will still not work if government fails to ensure that every citizen is able to share in the prosperity.”
De Castro: Binay has his hands full
Meanwhile, former vice president De Castro welcomed yesterday Binay’s decision to accept the HUDCC chairmanship.
De Castro said Binay could focus on the social problem of housing and continue the affordable housing programs for employees through the Pag-IBIG Fund.
“I can help him as former HUDCC chairman if he needs my help,” De Castro told The STAR in a telephone interview.
Interviewed over GMA-7, the Vice President said that he also wants to extend government assistance to distressed overseas Filipino workers who are reportedly seeking government.
HUDCC was created by former President Corazon Aquino by virtue of Executive Order No. 90 dated 17 December 1986.
The EO, which also abolished the Ministry of Human Settlements, placed HUDCC under the direct supervision of the Office of the President to serve as the highest policy making body for housing and coordinate the activities of the government housing agencies to ensure the accomplishment of the National Shelter Program.
The Council is composed of key shelter agencies, namely: the National Housing Authority (NHA), the Home Guaranty Corp. (HGC), the National Home Mortgage Finance Corp. (HGC), and the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB); Pag-IBIG Fund and Social Housing Finance Corp. (SHFC).
The chairman of the HUDCC sits as chairman of the board of the key shelter agencies and exercises supervision over the operations of the NHA, HGC, HLURB, NHMFC, Pag-IBIG and SHFC.
Binay, on the other hand, is an experienced local executive who was appointed by President Cory Aquino as Makati’s acting mayor after the EDSA Revolution.
In 1988, he was elected mayor of Makati and was reelected in 1992 and 1995. After a hiatus of three years, he again served as city mayor from 2001-2010, winning three consecutive elections.
He was also appointed governor of Metro Manila in 1987 in concurrent capacity and was later elected by his peers in Metro Manila as chairman of the Metro Manila Authority.
In 1998, Binay was appointed chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) with Cabinet rank. He was also appointed vice-chairman of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission.
The Vice President is also active in civic work. He is a member of the Rotary Club of Makati, R.I. District 3830, and is currently on his third term as the national president of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines and was elected Asia-Pacific Regional Scout Committee Chairman on Feb. 8, 2008.