Leonardia ‘no stranger in toppling perceived political giants’

April 26, 2022 by No Comments

“INCUMBENT Bacolod City Mayor Evelio Leonardia has triumphed against more established names in his career, and is, therefore, no stranger when pitted versus perceived political giants.”This was the take of Dr. Chris Sorongon, spokesperson of Grupo Progreso (GP), when asked that some political observers viewed Leonardia and former congressman Alfredo “Albee” Benitez rivalry as a “battle royale.””Not so,” said Sorongon, who is running as councilor under the Leonardia-led group, adding that to say that it is a battle royale is a misnomer.”It’s an inaccurate label because Leonardia had faced much tougher political battles in 1995 against a giant where he prevailed and consequently, opened the doors for professionals and middle income Bacolodnons like him for leadership positions at the Bacolod City Hall,” he stressed.The GP spokesperson said Leonardia since went on to win the mandate of the people and made history as the longest serving mayor of the city.Sorongon expressed confidence of a landslide 15-0 win for GP come May 9, 2022 polls based on the turnout of supporters who attend their daily barangay sorties.’All in the family’The councilor bet, in a press statement, said that the Palancas, Bantugs and Benitezes have ruled the northern Negros city for about 30 years.Albee’s son, Javi, an actor, is also running for mayor of Victorias City. His uncle, Francisco “Kiko” Benitez, is seeking reelection as Third District solon after replacing his father.Four other close relatives, vice mayoralty bet JunB Bantug and Councilor Derick Palanca, and Dino Acuna, a former provincial Board Member being the Sangguniang Kabataan Federation president in the 90s, are also running in Victorias City, Sorongon said.Palanca’s father, outgoing Mayor Francis Frederick Palanca, on the other hand, is the second nominee of the Abang Lingkod Party-list, he added.Hakot crowd?Sorongon also said that their group is unfazed over the “billionaire” tag that Benitez carries with him.”I am pointing this out because it will be the tumandoks that will carry us through. When we had our caravan as a pre-opening salvo event, GP made history by registering the longest caravan ever in Bacolod that was seven-kilometer long,” Sorongon said.”We had no concert nor presence of showbiz personalities unlike the other camp. But thousands of people came out to cheer us,” he added.On GP’s opening salvo, the group said it had an estimated mammoth crowd of over 40,000.”Again, we had no concert nor artista. Only tumandok talents. And during our daily barangay sorties, the GP slate is being mobbed by thousands of Bacolodnons compared to the handful that turn out during events on the other side,” its spokesperson said.He added: “That is why we heard that they resort to bringing in hakot crowds from out of town on board vans or small buses. Well, it is very good for the local transport sector.”‘Covering all grounds’It can be recalled that Benitez earlier expressed support for the presidential bid of former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.His wife, Nikki, on the other hand, had followed the itinerary of another presidential aspirant, Vice President Leni Robredo, to as far as Kabankalan City in early March for a photo opportunity and joined her caravan up to the main event at the Paglaum Sports Complex in Bacolod City, Sorongon said.”It’s the usual formula of many trapos or traditional politicians. The couple probably wants to cover all grounds to protect their political Interests since Marcos is leading the surveys followed by Robredo,” Sorongon claimed, adding that “whoever wins among the two, they have their one foot in already.”‘Black and white, blank and white’In 2021, a petition for exclusion from the list of registered voters of Bacolod City was filed against the former lawmaker.GP, in the same statement, pointed out that Benitez is a resident of Victorias City who transferred his address in Mandalagan in April only last year but did not give up his domicile in the northern Negros Occidental city.The petition, however, was dismissed by the Municipal Trial Court in Cities in October 2021.”The court emphasized that we have complied with the minimum requirements mandated by the law in so far as requirement on residency is concerned,” Benitez’s lawyer Andrei Norman Saril earlier said.”From his [Benitez] transfer of registration to Bacolod City, that is more than one year before the election,” the lawyer said, adding that “the court reiterated the decision of the Election Registration Board (ERB) that there is no other requirement except for six months [residency] before the day of the election.”Benitez, meanwhile, also serves as the provincial economic consultant of Negros Occidental.But for his rival camp, he has not brought in big ticket investments.Sorongon said he [Benitez] championed change for his campaign yet his slate is composed of deserters from the GP which he tried so hard to break apart but failed.”He has no clear platform of government and instead anchors his mayoralty bid on propaganda,” Sorongon said.Benitez’s platform is empty and may be called as “blank and white” compared to the “black and white” document laid out by GP to the public before the start of the official campaign that defines the current administration’s targets for 2022 to 2025, he added.Benitez’s camp has yet to comment on these issues raised by that of Leonardia. (SunStar Bacolod/With PR)