The city of Bacolod is expected to be treated to the political zarzuela in the coming days after former Congressman Albee Benitez has filed before the Commission on Election in the city his application to transfer his voting rights from Victorias City to Bacolod at around 1:45PM today, April 22.
The billionaire businessman turned political filed his application after a spiritual mass held at the San Sebastian Cathedral. Traffic was put to halt in portion of San Juan Road as Benitez together with his allies led by political partymate Vice Governor Jeffrey Ferrer walked from the Cathedral to COMELEC. Before heading to a mass the group of Benitez had lunch at the social hall of Capitol together with provincial officials and some supporters.
Benitez, whose ancestral home is in Mt. View, Brgy. Mandalagan, said that transferring his voting rights to Bacolod is the first step in whatever political route he chooses. But, despite rumors that he is running for mayor of Bacolod against incumbent mayor Evelio Leonardia, the former congressman who now serves as a provincial consultant for economic affairs kept mum.
However, his ally, Cong. Stephen Paduano who represents Abang Lingkod partylist in the congress, said that election in the highly urbanized city will just be between “pula, puti”- referring to the red dominant party of Leonardia, Grupo Progreso, and that of Albee. When that happens, Gov. Eugenio Lacson said it will be a super battle royal in Bacolod.
Paduano said Bacolod will expect a preview of the political movement next month, and that the degree of the campaign will be determined by this movement. According to Paduano, their group is currently negotiating with both former and current officials of Bacolod for their political line-up.
Ferrer, who has been named as a potential running mate of Benitez, said that the former congressman’s decision to relocate to Bacolod is part of his intention to harmonized the capital of Negros Occidental and the provincial seat of power. He explained that it was through Benitez that the province’s once-rivalling political parties, LOVE Negros and United Negros, were unified.
Benitez, for one, said the need to unify the province and the city was raised last year when concerns were raised about the city and provincial governments’ lack of cooperation in enforcing a coordinated protocol against COVID-19. Bacolod, according to Benitez, cannot be treated as a separate island.
Ferrer said that whatever decision that Benitez will come up will always be supported by UNEGA and LOVE Negros. With Benitez moving to Bacolod his option now is only to run for a local office in Bacolod or pursue calls for him to run for senate.
Grupo Progreso has yet to make a comment on this recent development, but supporters of Leonardia turned to social media to question the interest of Albee in Bacolod.