BACOLOD CITY, Negros Occidental, Philippines – The fire is still there, he said.
Seemingly beleaguered on social media for months, incumbent Mayor Evelio Leonardia walked to the local poll office here amid repeated chants of “Mayor Bing!” from a motley crowd of supporters who lined the streets for at least 500 meters from the main Roman Catholic church to the Commission on Elections filing area.
Leonardia sounded surprised to see the limited crowd, significantly smaller compared to previous filings by GP to comply with quarantine restrictions, warmly welcome him.
“The fire is still there, my supporters have always inspired me,” Leonardia said as he stood in line to file his certificate of candidacy.
Leonardia’s Grupo Progreso fielded a mix of veterans, newcomers and former candidates for its full slate of 12 councilors while Vice-Mayor El Cid Familiaran filed for re-election as Leonardia’s running mate, ending months of speculation amid talks that he is being courted by former Third District Cong Alfredo Abelardo “Albee” Benitez to be his running mate.
With Cong. Greg Gasataya earlier declaring his “neutrality” for the mayorship while filing his candidacy as official candidate of the Nationalist People’s Coalition, the GP tarpaulin background during its news conference included a picture of Gasataya labelled “congressman.”
Veteran lawmaker Archie Baribar, a re-electionist of GP, likened the city to a ship weathering a storm amid the COVID pandemic.
“We cannot change our captain otherwise we will sink,” he told DNX.
Baribar, an original ally of Leonardia during his early days in politics, was among the 12 candidates for councilors of GP that counted an LGBT advocate, a doctor, a nurse, and several lawyers.
Jonathan Diaz, village chief of 18, a residential area in the city center, became the first openly gay candidate for the city council.
Joining Diaz as first time candidates are Baby Cashmere Montalvo, described by GP officials as an IT expert and daughter of a former mayor, physician Chris Sorongon, deputy for medical of the Emergency Operations Center.
Businessman Ed Guillem and blocktime broadcaster Marlon Solidum are comebacking candidates who have both tried but failed to win in the past.
Resigned city administrator Em Ang who formerly headed the EOC also filed her COC as councilor along with incumbents Carl Lopez, Renecito Novero, Israel Salanga, Dindo Ramos, and Cindy Rojas.
The other half of the battle royale for the mayoral post in this urban center of more than half a million people is officially a candidate today and will definitely face former Third District Cong Alfredo Abelardo “Albee” Benitez.
Leonardia, the longest-serving mayor of Sugarlandia capital city, will, according to observers, face his most serious opponent since winning back the mayorship from Monico Puentevella, a multiple term congressman who had been Leonardia’s main protagonist for several years.
In the last polls, Leonardia faced Jocelle Sigue, a lawyer and former councilor who won as an independent for several terms but forged an alliance with Puentevella’s Maghilusa Kita Sa Kauswagan (Let’s Unite In Progress).