Monday August 20, 2018

Ubaldo: Albee for senator?

ACTIONS speak louder than words. Those who have observed the reactions of Negros Occidental Vice Governor Eugenio Jose "Bong" Lacson when he was asked about the possibility of a unified provincial ticket in next year's midterm election were one in saying that the province's top legislator is absolutely agreeable to the proposal.

Why wouldn't he support it? If realized, his ascension as Capitol's chief executive will become almost certain.

The same observation could be said of former Congressman Jeffrey Ferrer's gestures when the question was thrown to him.

Aside from clarifying that the news claiming that he is eyeing the governorship did not come from him, Ferrer said the United Negros Alliance (UNegA) is open to exploratory talks with Love Negros on unification.

With both Ferrer and Lacson indicating their approval to the idea, the only factor that may either stall or pave the way for political unity to be "reborn" in the province is the final say of Third District Congressman Alfredo Abelardo "Albee" Benitez, who heads Love Negros. But why everyone has to wait for his decision?

Well, on top of being the richest public official in Negros, Benitez is the most influential political leader in the province under the current administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Sources said the solon could easily get a cabinet post should he decide to forego his senatorial plan. People close to the congressman even claimed that there is a standing offer for him to lead the soon-to-be-created Department of Human Settlement.

With his resources and connections, aside from his high sense of humility, Benitez is being recognized as the unassuming political kingmaker of Negros.

Should he choose to seek the gubernatorial post, no one will dare challenge him. Not that he is unbeatable, but it's all because of his "hard to match" election machinery and firepower.

Observers said that a faceoff with Benitez on a one-on-one election is tantamount to political suicide. That's how formidable Benitez is. Silent as a dormant volcano and meek as a sheep but when he opens his mouth, everybody listens and when he casts a decision, everyone respects it even if they don't agree with it.

Politically, Benitez is known as a very protective leader. Not one of his allies had complained against him due to lack of support, especially in the aspect of campaign finances during past elections.

So, why should he settle for a local post when he can easily get a slot in the administration's senatorial slate? The reason is simple, his senatorial chances are slim, according to people tracking the results of national surveys. But either big or slim, there's a chance for the congressmen to be elected as senator. The opportunity for him to become a national political figure is already there and it's up to Benitez whether to grab it or let it pass.

If the proposed coalition comes into fruition, he can bank on the solid support of the Negrenses, which will definitely increase his winning chances. But he has to fast track the unification so he can solidify his organization as soon as possible. The time to act is now and he must act swiftly.

Several Negenses had tried but failed to win a Senate seat during the post-Martial Law era and Benitez could be the game changer.

The likes of former Solicitor General Frank Chavez and Kabankalan-born Alex Lacson were victims of political divisiveness in Negros. Benitez can take lessons from the sad experiences of these two brilliant lawyers who were junked by their provincemates due to muddled local politics.