BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN
Former Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo Benitez declared yesterday that he is running for mayor of Bacolod City, in next year’s elections.
“I have seen enough, I have heard enough. The clamor of the people is undeniable and this is why I am officially running for mayor of Bacolod City in 2022,” Benitez made the declaration after he attended a hearing of the Comelec Election Registration Board, in response to a petition filed against him by three Bacolod residents, questioning his residency in Brgy. Mandalagan, Bacolod.
Benitez, who presently serves as consultant of the Negros Occidental provincial government, said he is responding to the clamor of Bacolodnons, who are looking for something, that he cannot neglect.
“As a public servant, I think it is incumbent for me to answer that clamor,” Benitez said.
Aside from the residency issue, Benitez was also questioned for paying P500 for his community tax certificate, an amount far too small for the P1 billion net worth and the P1.2 billion in assets he had declared, as contained in the complaint filed against him, opposing his application for transfer of his voter’s registration to Bacolod from Victorias City.
Jona Abao and Hector Yula, accompanied by their counsel, Jesi Lanete, in a press conference yesterday, claimed that they are residing near the Benitez’s claimed residence in Brgy. Mandalagan, Bacolod City, for several decades.
Both insisted that they have not seen Benitez and his family at the Bantug family old house.
Abao said Benitez is a resident of Brgy. 1, Victorias City, with properties in Metro Manila.
Lanete said he believes that the statements of the Bantug neighbors will be given weight by the ERB, as it proves that Benitez did not establish his domicile in the area.
Unfazed by the allegations against him, Benitez maintained that he has complied with all the needed requirements and backed up by evidences that his residence is in Bacolod City.
After 2019, Benitez said he did not run for any position, but only served as a consultant of the province of Negros Occidental, with an office in Bacolod City.
“As you can see, I have started my journey in Bacolod City,” he added.
Benitez said the ERB gave them three days to answer the additional position papers submitted by the oppositors. After that, the ERB will make a decision, he added.
In running for mayor, Benitez said his primary objective is to bring change by addressing corruption and poor governance, and to give Bacolod a direction, at par with neighboring areas.
“This is not personal. This is something beyond us,” Benitez recalled telling incumbent Mayor Evelio Leonardia when they had met.
“I wish him good luck,” Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson said, in response to the declaration of Benitez that he is running for mayor of Bacolod in the May 2022 elections.
Albee has very good intention for Bacolod City, Lacson said, adding that the former solon knows the challenges he has to face in the next year elections. “We also know him as a person with very high competency, and very diligent in his work,” he added.*