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Grupo Progreso: Performance vs. promises

Grupo Progreso candidates led by incumbent Mayor Evelio Leonardia join hands during their opening salvo at the Bacolod City Public Plaza Saturday.*

Riding high on a solid performance that catapulted Bacolod into a multi-awarded local government unit in the country, re-electionist Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia of Grupo Progreso opened his bid for a third and final term come the May 9, 2022 elections.

Leonardia is actually poised to book a record-setting feat that will make him the longest serving city mayor for 18 years of Bacolod, a highly urbanized city of over 618,000 people, that saw its fastest growth ever in 2019 with over 25,000 registered businesses before the declaration of the global COVID-19 pandemic by the World Health Organization.

Before a mammoth crowd at the Bacolod Public Plaza estimated by authorities to between 45,000 to 50,000 red-shirt supporters, fellow GP candidates extolled Leonardia, proclaimed as the Man of the Year and Most Outstanding Leader of Southeast Asia, for his successful management of the COVID-19 that earned Bacolod a recognition from the Department of Health for being the best managed LGU in handling the health crisis and for having the highest number of fully-vaccinated population for Western Visayas.

Emerging triumphant against the health crisis, Leonardia led Bacolod into the “new normal” as the national Inter-Agency Task Force declared the city among 38 other LGUs out of more than 2,000 local government units under Alert Level 1, the lowest alert level status.

The GP opening salvo revolved around the themes of “tumandok (native) versus pangayaw (invader)”, “performance versus promises” and “continuity versus change”.

Major radio networks aired live the opening salvo rally of the ruling political group.

Loyal GP supporters turned the plaza grounds and the city streets into a sea of red warriors and stayed until past 10:30 p.m. Saturday listening to the battery of speakers and presentation of Leonardia’s platform of government.

Without any showbiz personalities or top rock stars from Manila as juxtaposed to the rival camp, which paid pop rock icon Bamboo and other bands just to assure themselves of a decent crowd, the GP production team stuck to the concept of showcasing “tumandok” talents to stay consistent with the GP campaign theme.

The front and back of the plaza teemed with supporters from 61 barangays, donning anything red.

Come-backing Councilor Em Ang referred to them as “kulto” of the Mayor as every time Leonardia takes centerstage they kept chanting his name.

Playfully, the mayor challenged them “are you ready to fight?”, prompting them to cheer him on with a loud reply, “Fight! fight! fight!”

Supporters assembled from three starting points – Galo-Gatuslao, where supporters were led by congressional bet Dan Atayde; Rizal Street with Leonardia and Evangelical Church with Vice Mayor El Cid Familiaran–as early as 1 p.m.

The GP followers didn’t mind staying even after more than 9 hours.

IF IT AIN’T BROKE, DON’T FIX IT

Leonardia, in his speech, took potshots at his rival, former Third District Cong. Albee Benitez, whose roots are from Victorias City, whom he called “pangayaw” (invader).

He exhorted Bacolodnons to oppose any attempt by “invaders” to take over Bacolod because “we know how to run and manage our affairs”.

He warned the “tumandoks” that should the rivals succeed, the biggest losers will be the Bacolodnons as they will lose their jobs that will be given to out-of-town residents, who transferred their voters’ registration in Bacolod last year in time for the May 9 polls.

“Let us oppose any attempt by the pangayaw to take over Bacolod,” he reiterated.

Echoing the saying, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, Leonardia further blasted his opponent by purportedly championing “change” as his campaign promise.

What change? asked Leonardia, apparently referring to Benitez’s slate, half of which are GP deserters who transferred to his camp after making a deal with the Asenso standard bearer.

Familiaran himself confirmed that he, too, was offered a deal as early as last year but declined, explaining that he saw no reason to betray Leonardia, GP and the people of Bacolod.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” the mayor repeated, emphasizing that it is best to leave something alone that already works instead of changing the system that already runs efficiently.

“Ipadayon ang serbisyo kag Progreso,” Leonardia declared before the cheering crowd.

He asked anew: “Are you ready to fight, fight, fight? Will you deliver a landslide 15-0 victory for Grupo Progreso?”

With a resounding “yes” from the crowd, Leonardia introduced his wife, Elsa, and daughter, Kara, and one by one called on his complete slate for Councilor, Familiaran and Atayde.

EL CID BARES OFFER

Speaking before a huge crowd estimated by police to be between 45,000 to 50,000 red-shirt Grupo Progreso supporters who trooped to the Bacolod Public Plaza for the GP opening salvo, Familiaran confirmed that he too, as early as last year and long before the filing of the Certificate of Candidacy, was offered by the camp of former Third District Rep. Albee Benitez to run under Team Asenso.

“But I declined the offer. I have no reason to betray Mayor Bing. I have no reason to betray Grupo Progreso. I will never betray the people of Bacolod,” the soft-spoken Familiaran disclosed.

The crowd wildly cheered Familiaran, who is seeking his final term as presiding officer of the GP-dominated Sangguniang Panlungsod.

He said he was emboldened to share his story Saturday because of the love and support by Bacolodnons to him and Mayor Leonardia and the entire GP slate as shown by the big turnout of Friday’s caravan that stretched over 7 kilometers and the thick crowd that patiently waited for them to pass through along major roads and barangays enroute to the Pope John Paul II Tower at the Bacolod Reclamation Area.

Traffic authorities said the GP motorcade was historic being the longest ever in Bacolod as the tail and head of the caravan met.

Moving with his story on the many challenges he encountered during the pandemic when six of his staff turned out COVID-19 positive with one almost critically ill, another round of challenge set in as the election season set in

I was offered by the other side, Familiaran, also known as a man of few words, continued.

“I asked myself if there’s any compelling reason nga mag-traidor ako. I found none.  I’m not a traitor. It’s not in my character to betray Mayor Bing Leonardia. I will not betray all of you,” the apparently emotional Familiaran, himself a multi-awarded vice mayor, confided before GP supporters.*

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