BY GILBERT P. BAYORAN
Negros Occidental Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson said yesterday that he expects the mayoralty race in Bacolod City in the May elections to be a “super battle royal”, should former congressman-turned-provincial consultant Alfredo Benitez decide to challenge incumbent Mayor Evelio Leonardia.
Lacson likened it to the time of the late Mayor Romeo Guanzon and Mayor Alfredo Montelibano Jr. “That’s how close it’s gonna be,” he added.
Benitez, who filed yesterday his application for transfer of voter’s records, from Victorias City to Bacolod City, at the city Comelec office, said he would like to keep his options open, when asked if he will run for mayor of Bacolod.
“Keeping my option open is transferring my registration,” Benitez said, as he ruled out running as governor of Negros Occidental or congressman in the 3rd district of the province.
Leonardia earlier said he is not yet ready to entertain politics, stressing that his top priority is the health and safety of Bacolodnons, amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Lacson said they will respect and support whatever decision Benitez will make, either he will run as mayor, or as senator.
“Either way, we will be very happy to support him,” he added.
Vice Governor Jeffrey Ferrer and several mayors and board members of Negros Occidental, accompanied Benitez to the Bacolod City Comelec office, after attending a mass at the San Sebastian Cathedral. He said that the United Negros Alliance and Love Negros will support whatever decision Benitez will come up with.
Ferrer said all mayors of Negros Occidental will have a meeting today to discuss the recent developments.
Lacson said he and the mayors will explain why they will support Benitez, when he finally makes a decision for the 2022 elections.
Benitez, meanwhile, said he is wondering why so many tarpaulins were being displayed in key areas of Bacolod, urging him to run.
He said the clamor should be ignored, “Let’s wait for the succeeding steps to happen,” he added.
Board Member Andrew Montelibano said yesterday that he is calling for the revival of the local Paglaum Party, that was started by his uncle, to support Benitez, should he decide to run for mayor of Bacolod.
Cadiz City Mayor Salvador Escalante Jr., who is the UNegA secretary general, said that any position that Benitez will gun for is useful for Negros Occidental, including its capital city of Bacolod.
But Escalante admitted that Benitez will be wasting his resources if he will run for senator, stressing that he is unlikely to win a Senate seat.
He will be needed in Negros Occidental, Escalante added.
As to the possible running mate of Benitez, Escalante said he is not inclined to believe that Ferrer will go for it, despite the urgings of some individuals. But Ferrer said he will decide in two week’s time if he will also transfer his voter’s registration record, from La Carlota City to Bacolod City.*