“It will be a super battle royale” should former Rep. Alfredo “Albee” Benitez decide to challenge Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia in the 2022 polls, Negros Occidental Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson said Thursday, April 22.
Benitez registered to vote in Bacolod Thursday amid calls for him to run for mayor of the city.
“I would like to keep my options open and the first step is transferring my (voter) registration from Victorias to Bacolod…Let’s just wait for the succeeding steps,” Benitez said.
Benitez said the overwhelming clamor for change and the call for him to run for mayor of Bacolod has been unexpected.
The clamor cannot be ignored, he said.
However, when asked if he has shelved plans to run for senator, Benitez said anything can happen.
“The public’s frustrations from last year have surfaced. We set up health protocols but the collaboration and cooperation between the city and the province would not seem to jibe,” he said.
“So I guess what they want is there should be better collaboration and better cooperation between the city and the province. You cannot treat Bacolod as an island, it is part of Negros Occidental, it is part of Negros Island and it is part of the Philippines,” Benitez said.
The billionaire businessman was joined by Negros Occidental officials and mayors in a show of support at the Capitol social hall in Bacolod City for lunch Thursday, Ferrer said.
Benitez was then accompanied by the officials led by Ferrer, House Minority Floor Leader Stephen Paduano, and his supporters to a mass at the San Sebastian Cathedral before proceeding to the Comelec where he registered to vote.
Supporters carrying tarpaulins and placards with messages urging Benitez to run for mayor gathered outside the Comelec as he registered to vote, prompting the police to remind them to observe social distancing.
Benitez said he had asked his supporters to stay home as we are still in a pandemic and to instead monitor what was happening on social media, but some still showed up.
As Benitez left the Comelec he was met with cheers and a shower of confetti.
Benitez said he has until October to decide whether to run for mayor or for another post in 2022.
Ever since they were small he has always been staying in Bacolod at their ancestral house in Mountain View, he said.
A meeting of the United Negros Alliance (UNegA) and Love Negros will be held Friday, April 23, where the mayors of Negros Occidental will air their support Benitez in whatever decision he will make, the vice governor said.
“That decision will obviously be made by congressman Albee, I think there is no lack of encouragement, it is coming from many sectors,” Lacson said of the call for Benitez to run for mayor.
“Love Negros and UNegA will meet tomorrow – it’s more informing the members what our teammate, (former) congressman Albee Benitez, is contemplating on doing,” Lacson said.
“We will support whatever decision the congressman will make, we will only explain why we are supporting him when he makes that decision on what position he will run for,” Lacson said.
Negros Occidental Board Member Andrew Montelibano said he is urging the supporters of his late uncle, former governor and Bacolod mayor Alfredo Montelibano, to unite behind Benitez should he run for mayor.
Montelibano said Benitez has done a lot for the third district and the entire Negros Occidental, especially in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.
“If we want a new kind of direction in Bacolod politics, I think we will never go wrong with Cong Albee,” he said.*