A super-spreader event

Amid the rising of COVID-19 deaths and cases in Bacolod City, supporters of Mayor Bing Leonardia and Grupo Progreso were fearless enough to defy protocols and made Wednesday’s march from the San Sebastian Cathedral to the Bacolod Comelec office, a super-spreader event.

Footages of the march showed how enforcers attempted to shout above the din to ensure social distancing, but the supporters were clearly excited and threw caution to the wind. During the live press conference, there were also footage of supporters gathering in groups in their respective homes and barangays and that was fine even if some groups were clearly more than 20 people gathered.

The church was also filled and although seating apart was clearly followed, those who attended were more than the allowable 10 percent capacity which the city always reminded us while we are in this high-risk state.

The irony of it all is the news from Dr. Chris Sorongon, a member of the Emergency Operations Center and also a GP candidate for councilor, that we have two new Delta variant cases identified in the city. This is the variant that is said to be fast-spreading and virulent and has been pointed to as probably the cause for high cases and deaths recently.

I am not sure what the intention was of that gathering. Only insecurity will make you play the number games in these unsafe times. It is true that there will always be loyalists who will climb mountains to show their support, but GP should have had the moral high ground to dissuade these people from showing up.

More so now when we hear news of hospitals closing their doors, and of quarantine facilities being converted to midway facilities since hospitals are being reserved for severe cases, it is preposterous that the city government did not do anything to avoid this, but even marched alongside their supporters.

It clearly is dumbfounding because nobody really talks about the mayoralty candidates anymore. We’ve known about who’s going to face-off and by now, people have already made up their minds whether they’d go for Mayor Bing or for the challenger, former Cong. Albee Benitez.

It is silly to think that the show of force will be able to convince the undecided to be swayed to your camp at this point. We have seven months to go and a lot of things can happen still. But the gathering on Wednesday just shows how important politics is over public health and the very reason why there was an initial clamor for change.

What the public was more interested on were the composition of slates both camps are offering. Will we see a glimpse of “continuing progress” as the Leonardia group claims, or the “real change” that Albee is offering?

And while I have not made up my mind about whom to include in my choice for city councilors from Albee’s line-up, it was clear there are fewer people I would choose from the administration team.

Top on my list to consider are of course those officials and candidates that worked hard especially during this pandemic. Mayor Bing vowed that if re-elected, “what we have done before, we will do again after the pandemic.” That is quite skewed because the pandemic will be here with us for quite some time. So in the meantime, what do we do?

There are clear winners in the GP slate, like Em Ang and Chris who are visible in the campaign against COVID-19. Mayor Bing said they can remain as part of the EOC since it is not purely a government agency. This will give them an undue advantage since it is the agency that is crucial in this pandemic. I was surprised by that revelation though because I always thought the EOC is manned and funded by the city government. To declare it as a public-private enterprise is new to me.

Cindy Rojas and Israel Salanga are also two officials whom we’ve seen worked so hard during repatriations of overseas workers and residents. They’ve utilized their offices, even lost some staff members to COVID-19 and they were really seen actively working and not just for photo-ops.

Most of the incumbent councilors reminded the public what they’ve done and Carl Lopez took the longest in enumerating the legislations he sponsored. Unfortunately though, when he mentioned his greening advocacy, the only thing I recalled was how he failed to stop the cutting of trees along the old airport.

Some of them were so fond of speaking in the third person as if they were selling someone else and not themselves.

But if there is one person in the GP group that clearly impressed me, it was Vice Mayor El Cid Familiaran who spoke briefly and with all humility that he does not need to present his achievements as people will be the judge of what he has done in his years in public service. But that is really El Cid. No frills, which makes him very authentic.

The most obvious of course was the face of Cong. Greg Gasataya in the tarpaulin even though he was conspicuously absent after deciding he’d go “neutral.”

That to me was very telling that GP wants to hold him to his promise and as Mayor Bing said, he expects Greg to keep his word “till election day.”

My personal take on this – GP knows Greg has his own mass base and remains popular with GP loyalists. If Greg moves otherwise, they can claim he is a “traitor,” which was repeatedly implied anyway when they kept on saying, most of them remained with GP through thick and thin, which Greg didn’t. And when that happens, Greg may clearly lose votes from their followers.

Quite glaring now what the game plan is and if Greg initially thought he got away easily by staying “neutral,” he clearly has more things coming his way.*

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