This was Mayor Evelio Leonardia’s curt reply to a question on whether Bacolod City is behind other local governments in terms of economic development.
“The thing speaks for itself,” Leonardia, apparently translating the Latin saying to English when asked by veteran broadcaster Daniel Lecciones, who interviewed the mayor on his “Bombo Reports Sunday Edition” program.
Alluding to baseless claims hurled by critics, Leonardia was, at first, reluctant to respond to politically-motivated non-issues peddled by the camp of former Rep. Albee Benitez of Victorias City, who, together with his supporters, had been doing the rounds of the different puroks and barangays promising economic prosperity should they win the 2022 polls.
“I’d like to avoid answering questions like these but I am sometimes obliged to because it is political season,” he candidly told the program host.
“(But) let me ask you how Bacolod looked like in 2004 compared to 2019 before the COVID-19 came? And how is Bacolod today even in the face of the health crisis?” The mayor asked.
A picture paints a thousand words, Lecciones snapped back. “Yes, the picture is quite clear, mayor,” the broadcaster continued.
Without going through the details, Leonardia said that 17 years ago, when he returned as Bacolod mayor, big ticket investments by corporate giants started building malls in the city, while real property developers began locating their businesses in Bacolod during the same period.
Economic progress was apparent that in 2019, a year before the global COVID crisis was declared in early 2020, more than 25,000 businesses were registered in the city, he said, adding that it clearly indicated investors’ confidence.
Bacolod was not spared amid the global crisis but the blessings did not stop coming in as new investments reached over the P2 billion mark, he pointed out in an earlier interview, thanking the SMDC for the continued construction of the estimated 7,000 units at Smile Residences and the Park Inn Hotel by Radisson, the Megaworld townships and the new investments infused by transport giant Yanson Group of Bus Companies which were listed as among the city’s current top investors.
Bacolod, too, was named the Most Business-Friendly LGU outside of Metro Manila for 2021 by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the biggest and most prestigious business organization in the country.
The Department of Interior and Local Government also awarded the city recently with the Seal of Good Local Governance and the Best Performing LGU Award in Western Visayas, while the Department of Trade and Industry honored Bacolod as the Most Competitive City in the whole Visayas region, all under the mayorship of Leonardia.
It was the second time that Bacolod actually won the PCCI accolade as the Most Business-Friendly City. In 2007, also when Leonardia was mayor, brought home the same award. The LGU was a national finalist the last five years before the second award came.
“So, which development do we continue? Bacolod’s growth that started in 2004 (when he won again as Bacolod mayor) or the 2004 growth in the north? As I said the thing speaks for itself (ipsa loquitor). Compare what you now see in Bacolod as against what you see in Victorias (City). Try to compare what you see. You be the better judge,” Leonardia told Lecciones.
Benitez, a resident of Victorias City, served as Third District congressman for nine years. His brother, Rep. Francisco Benitez, replaced him, while his son, Javi, a fledgling actor in TV soaps and an inexperienced political wanna-be, is running for Victorias City mayor against incumbent Vice Mayor Didi Jover.
Several of his relatives are running either as party-list congressional nominee, vice mayor or as councilors in Victorias City and Bacolod City.
GP CALLS FOR CONTINUITY
Grupo Progreso, Leonardia’s political organization, is calling for continuity, he said.
“They (rival camp) also have the hand signal flashing the letter “C” which they claim stands for change. Our supporters are also using letter “C” that roots for continuity,” Leonardia said.
They say they are for change but their candidates do not represent change. They are referred to by another name, he pointed out.
“Recycled you mean?” the Bombo anchorman retorted, to which Leonardia agreed.
“Well, you said it yourself. That is the most common word used to describe their slate. Recycled,” the mayor said.
In fact, Leonardia continued, change in the Ilonggo dialect means “sinsilyo” (loose change).
Benitez, a self-confessed billionaire who operates online gambling businesses such as e-Sabong and other e-Games, only paid P525 to City Hall for his cedula.*