Shadow

Lackluster

I was expecting new names, new personalities, multi-sectoral at the very least, in the slate of Bacolod mayoralty candidate, Albee Benitez. I was not that disappointed, but I wasn’t impressed either.

Many are excited about Albee of course. The video presentation that I caught on social media about provincial officials and the medical community vouching for him with regards to his cohesive response to the COVID-19 pandemic was a good reminder that indeed, the clamor for change and why Albee was convinced to run for mayor, all started because people were so frustrated with how the city government handled the pandemic.

I’ve said it then when I was still writing for another paper that this pandemic can make or break sitting officials. Which is also why Vice-Mayor El Cid Familiaran’s popularity has never wavered because at the onset, he became the face of the pandemic.

I wanted to attend the press conference after learning that two of my girlfriends, former councilors Celia Flor and Sonya Verdeflor are on the slate. Unfortunately, the power blackout happened so early, and with it, our water supply.

I was excited to see what was in store for us through the live coverage but I decided to go off the grid to preserve the battery life of my mobile phone for emergency use.

It was almost 3 pm when power was restored and when I finally turned on my mobile phone, I had numerous messages from friends and media alike about the launching of Albee’s slate.

Three of the councilors were from Grupo Progresso – Al Victor Espino, Simple Distrito and Bart Orola. Five if you count vice-mayoralty candidate, Atty. Caesar Distrito and Elmer Sy’s daughter, Pao. Those five will make a dent in the GP’s strength, especially the Distritos who have their own mass base that will now go for Albee.

I love that Celia decided to run again as we need a feisty councilor who does not toe the line simply because of alliances. Sonya is a hardworking civic leader and her record as three-term councilor will show that she has served the city well and I’m glad she is running again. Simple and Pao have their own niche to serve – the elderly and the youth. Women power is enough for me to give them my vote as I will for the other women candidates in the GP slate.

Practically everyone in Albee’s councilor slate are my friends, except for Bart and Jason Villarosa whom I have not had the opportunity to know. Al Victor is a family friend, Homer was a former colleague in the media, Thaddy, Kalaw, Patrick, and Vlady are friends and acquaintances so, at this point, I am not so convinced yet as I reserved some slots for candidates in the other party that I’ve seen hard at work as public servants.

I am curious who else are running as independents. Perhaps there will be one or two who will be interesting enough that will bring fresh ideas on good governance. So far, I’ve only seen Atty. Mark Mayo filing his COC and I’ve heard he is a good guy. But he is also a consultant of Rep. Greg Gasataya which erases the idea of being independent so I am not sure what new things he can bring to the plate.

Speaking of Greg, it still baffles me why he decided to hold that live announcement of his decision to run as “neutral.” It was really unnecessary and even made people question the purpose of that entire process as it clearly did not benefit Mayor Bing Leonardia or Albee Benitez, but just himself.

He played it safe and making that decision at the last minute hurt both candidates, that were supposedly his “friends,” and who were probably hoping that he’d choose one over the other.

Greg said Bing was a mentor that helped his political career. Albee is a good friend and that is no secret either. But it falls flat that he’d rather stay neutral to preserve whatever relationship he has with the two. It was purely for his own benefit.

This is politics and I personally would have applauded him if he stuck it out with Bing and his former party because it is merely that – a political decision which I am sure Albee will understand.

To justify that he’d rather concentrate on his hospital project (which I give him kudos for because that is what is badly needed in Bacolod) also falls flat because at the end of the day, even if Greg gets re-elected, he will still need to work with whoever wins this election. With what transpired, will Bing or Albee trust him still?

I’ve admired Greg because when everybody jumped ship to the ruling party of President Rodrigo Duterte in the last elections, Greg remained with the NPC along with Gov. Bong Lacson. That speaks volumes because it shows character and loyalty.

But I can’t say the same with his current decision. However, it may still be part of a bigger game plan which at this point is unclear on whether it will benefit the current mayor or the contender. I was told that when Greg filed his COC, his chief-of-staff, Tutay Corral was with him and although in the title he is the highest official in Greg’s office, it is public knowledge that he is an ally and a relative of Mayor Bing. So what gives?

It is six more months until we cast our vote and I am sure there will be more surprises in the coming days. Let’s see what GP has to offer as they file their COCs. Will it be a mix of the old and new, or will it make us go ho-hum, same crap.*

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