From the Editor-in-Chief: Albee for Senator? (Why Not?)

on Fri, 10/13/2017 by Pert Toga

“It’s about time. If Albee does not run for the Senate now, when will he decide? If not in this 2019 polls, when? If not Albee,, who?” These were just some of the instant reactions from several Albee supporters and political pundits as the possibility of his senatorial draft for the Senate was declared during the mass oath-taking of thousands who joined the political exodus to the administration camp recently at the Victorias Coliseum in that Northern Negros Occidental city.

When speaker Pantaleon Alvarez jumped the gun on Pres. Rodrigo Duterte by virtually proclaiming Negrense Congressman Albee Benitez as having been included among the top contenders for the PDP-Laban senatorial slate in the 2019 mid-term elections, most Negrenses were apparently amazed but happy and optimistic.

Not a few welcomed the unexpected and sudden expression of open support by the party in power in favor of Albee whose constituency had been silently praying and hoping that this time, Negros Occ. will finally have its very own favorite son to sit as a senator, what with the big influence and political clout of the administration bandwagon, granting that the President dramatically recovers from a recent slump in his trust rating and to maintain his upward trend in popularity until his six-year term comes to a booming conclusion especially sometime in 2019 or earlier.

Albee, who apparently could hardly hold his emotions and surprise, but can only exhude his elation by being humble enough to say that there are still many things to take into consideration, and he has yet to make a nationwide consultation to “feel the real pulse of the Filipino electorate.”

Truly, it’s not just popularity, money or political endorsements that could make a candidate win. What’s more important, to our mind, is a nationwide political machinery, well-oiled and efficiently-managed by professionals with unquestioned integrity and loyalty. But over and above all else, the candidate’s winnability, mass appeal, sterling acceptability, qualifications, credibility and sincerity can do wonders for an achiever like Albee Benitez.

If one possesses all these qualities in abundance, he will boost his self-confidence and further enhance his chances, especially with his eloquence and charisma as a convincing public speaker, sincere and down-to-earth in his approaches to ease the plight of the less fortunate.

For generations, Negros Occidental had not been blessed with the rare opportunity to elect even one senator, unlike some other provinces like Cebu, Iloilo and even those with relatively smaller number of registered voters. Why is this so? Lack of qualified leaders? Crab mentality? Lack of unity? The ever-widening gap between the very rich and the poor? Name it, we have it, and so what happens? True-blooded Negrenses could hardly even reach first base in national elections.

Gone were the days when we were lucky enough to have some of our big names who made it to the senate, much more the vice presidency or the presidency for that matter. Not even during the hey-days of the once influential “Sugar Bloc” when rich and highly-respected sugar barons lorded it over the country’s political electoral processes and economic dominance.

Those were the days when Negros Occ. had been ably represented in the upper chamber like the late Senator Pedro “Perico” C. Hernaez, often refined to as “father of Bacolod City” having principally sponsored the bill that granted the city charter of Bacolod City in 1938; the late Senator Enrique B. Magalona of the former town of Saravia which was later named in his honor by no less than his son, Luis Magalona, one of the longest-serving mayor of the said town, now EB Magalona; the late Senator Jose C. Locsin of Silay City; the late Senator Ramon Torres of Bago City; not to forget the late former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Gil Montilla of Isabela, Negros Occidental.

After these distinguished gentlemen, I can no longer recall any other Negrense who rose to national prominence in governance except for the late Island Governor Alfredo “Peding” Montelibano, Sr. who was tapped by former Presidents as economic czar, heading top positions like Interior Secretary and chairman of the National Economic Council, among others and the late former Ambassador Roberto Salas Benedicto who was one of the closest and most influential figures during the Martial Law era, having headed the Philippine Sugar Commission (PHILSUCOM), the National Sugar Trading Authority (NASUTRA) several banking institutions and the Philippine National Bank (PNB), during the unlamented 20-year-term of the dictatorship under the late Pres. Ferdinand Edralin Marcos.

Several distinguished Negrenses have attempted to vie for national positions but unfortunately did not succeed, many of them could not even land in the winning column even in their native province, Negros Occ. despite their winning capability and qualifications. One of them was the late Jose Yulo of Bago City who aspired for the presidency but lost to Carlos P. Garcia, a Boholano who defeated Yulo even in his home ground, Negros Occ. The late City Councilor Wilson Gamboa Sr., who rose to prominence to become Defense Undersecretary for munitions and DAR secretary sometime during the Cory Aquino presidency also failed to clinch a senate seat despite the political clout of his group, the Grand Alliance for Democracy (GAD) led by then Defense Secretary Juan Ponce Enrile. Sad but until recently, decades after the one-man rule and earlier, Negrenses hoping for at least one senatorial wannabe to even reach first base in the national polls. Many political analysts have pointed to the crab mentality as among the causes of these misfortunes. True or not, the facts and realities point to the continued frustration among Negrense voters who are always hoping against hope that at least one Negrense aspirant for the Senate can make it at last. Is Albee Benitez the answer to their prayers? That of course depends upon Albee himself and the sincerity of his supporters and political backers in the high echelon of the political firmament, and above all, the entire Filipino electorate come 2019. It’s still a decisive two years to go and many intervening factors and crucial events are expected to happen affecting the ever-changing and volatile political crisis confronting the nation.

Will it bring about favorable atmosphere towards realization of the Negrense dream? Or will it lead to another standstill and further frustrations for Negrenses whose fond wishes for unity will remain a bad dream and worse, a political nightmare of unprecedented magnitude? Let’s wait and see what the political scenario will turn out to be in the next two years.*