Mayor Evelio Leonardia has triumphed against more established names in his career, and is, therefore, no stranger when pitted versus perceived political giants.
This was the take of Dr. Chris Sorongon, spokesperson of Grupo Progreso, when asked that some political observers viewed the Bing Leonardia-Albee Benitez rivalry as a “battle royale”.
“Not so,” quickly replied Sorongon.
To say that it is a battle royale, he continued, is a misnomer; it’s an inaccurate label because Leonardia had faced much tougher political battles in 1995 against a giant where he prevailed and consequently, opened the doors for professionals and middle income Bacolodnons like him for leadership positions at the Bacolod City Hall.
He since went on win the mandate of the people and made history as the longest serving mayor, Sorongon said.
Sorongon expressed confidence of a landslide 15-0 win for Grupo Progreso come May 9, 2022 polls based on the turnout of supporters, who attend their daily barangay sorties.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
Former Third District Rep. Albee Benitez is contesting the Bacolod mayoralty seat against Leonardia.
His son, Javi, a bit player in a teleserye, is also running for mayor of Victorias City. His uncle, Francisco “Kiko” Benitez, is seeing re-election as Third District solon after replacing Albee.
Four other close relatives–JunB Bantug (vice mayoralty bet) and Councilor Derick Palanca and Dino Acuna, a former provincial board member being the SK Federation president in the 90s–are also running in Victorias City, while outgoing Mayor Francis Frederick Palanca, father of Derick, is the second nominee of the Abang Lingkod party-list.
All told, the Palancas, Bantugs and Benitezes ruled the northern Negros city for about 30 years, Sorongon noted.
‘HAKOT’ CROWD FOR ASENSO
The GP, Sorongon said, is unfazed over the “billionaire” tag that Albee carries with him.
“I am pointing this out because it will be the tumandoks that will carry us through. When we had our caravan as a pre-opening salvo event, GP made history by registering the longest caravan ever in Bacolod that was 7 kms long. We had no concert nor presence of showbiz personalities unlike the other camp. But thousands of people came out to cheer us. On our opening salvo, we had an estimated mammooth crowd of over 40,000. Again, we had no concert nor artista. Only tumandok talents. And during our daily barangay sorties, the GP slate is being mobbed by thousands of Bacolodnons compared to the handful that turn out during events of the other side. That is why we heard that they resort to bringing in “hakot” crowds from out of town on board vans or small buses. Well, it is very good for the local transport sector,” he revealed.
FOR BBM, FOR LENI
Benitez had endorsed former Sen. Ferdinand “Bong Bong” Marcos, Jr. for president.
His wife, Nikki, on the other hand, had followed the itinerary of Vice President Leni Robredo to as far as Kabankalan City in early March for a photo opportunity and joined her caravan up to the VP’s highlight event at the Paglaum Sports Complex.
She finally had her photo taken with Robredo at Paglaum.
BLACK & WHITE VS. BLANK & WHITE
First, Albee is a resident of Victorias City, who transferred his address in Mandalagan in April only last year but did not give up his domicile in the northern Negros city; second, he paid his cedula for only P525 despite records in Congress that he is supposedly a billionaire; third, he flaunts being the province’s economic adviser but has not brought in big ticket investments; fourth, he championed change for his campaign yet his slate is comprised of deserters from the GP which he tried so hard to break apart but failed, and fifth, he has no clear platform of government and instead anchors his mayoralty bid on propaganda,” Sorongon pointed out.
Benitez’s platform is empty and may be called as “blank and white” compared to the “black and white” document laid out by GP to the public before the start of the official campaign that defines the current administration’s targets for 2022-2025, he added.
Sorongon noted that Albee made it appear that he is brains behind the trailblazing Negros Occidental Comprehensive Health Insurance Program or the NOCHP.
But Sorongon pointed out that the brains behind the NOCHP concept was the late Gov. Alfredo Marañon, Jr. whose administration issued the health cards that were jointly funded by the provincial government, congressional district offices, including that of Albee’s, and local government units as well.
“Simply put the NOCHP, as a program, is a joint undertaking and Cong. Albee has no business claiming it as though it was his brainchild,” Sorongon, a medical practitioner, added.
Sorongon further emphasized: “Let us give credit where credit is due”.
Maybe, it will be more accurate and appropriate for Cong. Albee to say that his office invested more for the NOCHP logically because he had the most number of enrollees or card holders coming from the Third District, the GP executive said.