BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN
Negros Occidental local chief executives (LCEs) signed yesterday a manifesto of support for former Rep. Alfredo Benitez, urging him to run for mayor of Bacolod City, in the May 2022 synchronized elections.
Cadiz City Mayor Salvador Escalante Jr., who is the United Negros Alliance secretary general, however, said that Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson requested not to fully disclose the manifesto of support to the public, until such time that Benitez makes a decision.
Escalante said the manifesto was signed by 28 component city and municipal mayors of Negros Occidental, who attended the Love Negros and UNegA general assembly in Talisay City, while Murcia Mayor Gerry Rojas sent his representative, and Hinobaan Mayor Ernesto Estrao and Sipalay City Mayor Gina Montilla-Lizares, who tested positive for Covid-19, failed to attend.
Pressed on reasons why the mayors want Benitez to run for mayor of Bacolod, Escalante said there is a need for Negros Occidental and Bacolod to be in sync with each other, citing the fight against Covid-19 and the need for one economic recovery plan, among others.
Benitez filed an application to transfer his voter’s records, from Victorias City to Bacolod City, at the City Comelec office on Thursday.
Lacson, Vice Gov. Jeffrey Ferrer, and other provincial officials, Abang Lingkod Rep. Stephen Paduano, and former Rep. Mercedes Alvarez also joined the general assembly of Negros Occidental mayors from UNegA and Love Negros.
Escalante said that the economy of Negros Occidental is not doing good, with a negative growth rate because of the Covid-19 pandemic. “Once we vaccinate and there will be herd immunity in the next several years, what’s next?” he asked.
Lacson earlier said he expects that the mayoral race in Bacolod City will be a “super battle royale”, if Benitez decides to go for it.
In response to the call of mayors, Benitez said, “I will still have to keep my options open.”
“There are certain things that I would like to clarify and my curiosity about running in Bacolod City,” he added.
Asked on the percentage of chances that he will definitely run with the support of Negros Occidental mayors, Benitez replied, “Any public servant cannot ignore the clamor and call of the people.”
But Benitez said that he will go around in Bacolod City to get the pulse of Bacodnons, in the next several months.
He admitted that the overwhelming support he got was “giving him sleepless nights”.
“It’s not a simple decision. It’s no joke,” Benitez said, adding that he has to consider a lot of factors, before he will make a decision.
Asked if he can beat the present administration, that has formed organizations for decades in Bacolod, Benitez said that they are considering everything. “Why are they openly endorsing the former congressman as mayor of Bacolod, instead of the incumbent mayor, who is the president of the League of Cities? The question is why,” Paduano said.*