BY CHRYSEE G. SAMILLANO
Candidates of Grupo Progreso led by Bacolod Mayor Evelio Leonardia filed their certificates of candidacy at the Commission on Elections-Bacolod Satellite Office after a 1 p.m. mass at the Bacolod San Sebastian Cathedral yesterday.
Leonardia introduced the members of his team during a press conference at Acacia Hotel yesterday morning, composed of incumbent Vice Mayor El Cid Familiaran, incumbent Councilors Cindy Rojas, Archie Baribar, Carlos Jose Lopez, Renecito Novero, Israel Salanga and Dindo Ramos.
The team is also composed of new aspirants for councilor namely, businessman and former Ceneco president Ed Guillem, Barangay 18 Kagawad Jonathan Diaz, broadcaster Marlon Solidum, Baciwa director Dr. Chris Sorongon, IT professional Cashmere Montalvo and City Administrator Em Ang, who is a registered nurse.
Leonardia said “GP is a team that we can call a perfect combination. It is a combination of experience, competence, track record, youth, and gender-sensitivity.”
Diaz was former Barangay Captain of Barangay 19, while Montalvo is the daughter of the late Bacolod Mayor Jose “Digoy” Montalvo, who was considered the father of the now world renowned MassKara Festival.
Rojas said they have a very dynamic and very diverse slate representing different sectors. It’s a formidable line-up composed of six incumbents, a returning councilor and five new aspirants. All of them are running under the Nationalista Party (NP) except for Solidum who is running under the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) and Baribar who is running under Promdi.
Leonardia was officially designated as chairman of the NP for Bacolod City.
Lopez said they have chosen a good combination. “We have a doctor, which is what we really need now, and others who have experience in public service.”
Leonardia said “This is the group that will weather the pandemic and put us back on track. Please give your trust and confidence to GP because we promise you, we will not fail. We will even bring Bacolod to greater heights as soon as we are over this pandemic.”
They have the track record to prove that what they have done before, they will be able to do again after this pandemic, the mayor added.
Meanwhile, Leonardia said they still consider Bacolod Rep. Greg Gasataya technically part of Grupo Progreso and that he did not say he is going to leave. So, they are not fielding a candidate to run against him.
“But where the issue of the support for the mayor is concerned, Gasataya told them that he will stay neutral and we have accepted that on the promise that he will stay neutral until election day. They expect him not to endorse anybody,” he said.
Gasataya reiterated that he is running as a neutral candidate for congressman of GP since Leonardia and his challenger, former Neg. Occ. 3rd District, congressman Albee Benitez; were both his godfathers during his wedding and both are a significant part of his political and personal journey.
He said Leonardia has earlier stated that they consider him part of GP, while Benitez has assured that he will support his candidacy regardless of his political position.
On the other hand, Leonardia said they have no official candidate for president or vice president since they are still waiting for developments, especially so that they have officially transferred to the Nationalista Party (NP). But he had series of talks with Davao Mayor Sara Duterte and they do not know yet her position. She has been helpful to Bacolod City in many, many ways.
He has also talked to Senator Manny Pacquiao and explained to him his circumstances.” I am happy that he is a gentleman as ever and is very humble and cordial. So, I wish him all the best because this is about politics and I told him that I am looking forward that when the political dust has settled, our friendship must go on,” he said.
This is only political circumstances at play. But he still admires Pacquiao and value their friendship, Leonardia added.*