Monico Puentevella felt he was given justice yesterday.
Inside the lobby of the Bacolod City Government Center, Puentevella looked happy as Mayor Alfredo Abelardo “Albee” Benitez joined him for the ceremonial unveiling of his portrait on the northern wall of what is now known as the BCGC, formerly the New Government Center.
Monico became the 40th mayor of Bacolod in 2013 up to 2016.
He succeeded Evelio Leonardia, his former political ally turned chief nemesis in this highly-urbanized city of more than 600,000 people.
In this Sugarlandia center, politics goes more often with coffee than pan de sal and almost everyone is an analyst with political acuity as sharp as a bulangero or cockfighting aficionado who can spot the winning winged gladiator.
Among those whose portraits hang on the BCGC wall are those of acting mayors like Rolando Villamor and Alfredo Jalbuena but Monico noted that his, an elected chief executive, was not there for six years after he stepped down from City Hall.
After Monico’s term ended in 2016, it was Leonardia who took over from 2016 to 2019. He was re-elected for a second term in 2019 and appeared headed for a last one until Benitez decided to run.
It took the election of Benitez, who was supported by Puentevella in the last polls, to have his portrait and that of Cong. Greg Gasataya hung on the wall.
But who orders the hanging of portraits?
Lawyer Lyzander “Bong” Dilag said it is the City Mayor’s Office that takes charge of it.
It is not known if Leonardia gave the order that Puentevella portrait must not be hung if such an order was given during the last six years of Leonardia’s term.
What is known now is that in the past six years, Puentevella’s and Gasataya’s portraits never made it to the wall.
Puentevella founded and leads the Monico Kabuhi Ko (Monico My Life) party, later rebranded as Maghiliusa Kita Sa Kauswagan (Let’s Unite for Development) that suffered successive defeats against Leonardia’s Grupo Progreso (Progress Group) for at least two successive polls (2016 and 2019).
It was only in the last May polls that Puentevella was able to score a proxy win with the victory of Benitez who was supported by Monico’s MKK, the Abang Lingkod partylist and some Grupo Progreso stalwarts led by Cong. Greg Gasataya.
But how can this constant power shift in the city explain why it took six years for Monico’s portrait to be hung?
To Monico, the answer is simple.
Politics in the city said, is “dirty and petty.”
But at least yesterday, Monico Puentevella, former solon, former mayor has found some small measure of justice.