2022 PH local races

Billionaire Albee Benitez files COC for Bacolod mayor with sleek virtual event

Inday Espina-Varona
Billionaire Albee Benitez files COC for Bacolod  mayor with sleek virtual event

MAYORAL ASPIRANT. Former Negros Occidental 3rd District Representative Albee Benitez (right), Bacolod mayoralty hopeful, with running mate Caesar Distrito.

Rappler.com

(1st UPDATE) The founder of publicly-listed Leisure and Resorts World Corporation had announced in April his intention to challenge Mayor Evelio Leonardia by filing a transfer of voter’s registration from Victorias City to Bacolod

Billionaire and former Negros Occidental 3rd District representative Alfredo Abelardo “Albee” Benitez filed his certificate of candidacy for Bacolod mayor through a lawyer on Tuesday, October 5.

Benitez, who owns media and entertainment companies including the digital news portal Digicast Negros, allowed city residents to witness the event with a livestream of both the actual filing and, later, a Mass and press conference at his residence.

A Zoom conference featured windows where the audience could shift between the press briefing and the “virtual  COC filing.” 

Members of his Asenso Bacolod slate filed their COCs through representatives who wore  face masks with the face of Benitez on one side and the @senso Bacolod logo of their slate on the other. 

At a press conference, Benitez said the group decided on Sunday night, October 3, how they would file their COCs. “It was unanimous, we decided on the virtual filing, in recognition of the situation now, our crisis of health. We don’t want people to go and show support at the expense of their safety,” Benitez said.

Benitez’s running mate is former council member Caesar Distrito, while his council slate includes former broadcaster and councilor Homer Bais, incumbent council Simple Distrito, the mother of Caesar, incumbent councilor Al Victor Espino, former councilor Celia Flor, businessman Vladi Gonzales, former provincial board member Patrick Lacson, incumbent councilor Bart Orola, former councilor and vice mayor Thaddy Sayson, Kalaw Puentevella, Pao Sy, Sonya Verdeflor and Jason Villarosa.

The founder of publicly-listed Leisure and Resorts World Corporation announced in April his intention to challenge Mayor Evelio “Bing” Leonardia by filing a transfer of voter’s registration from Victorias City, the center of his former congressional district, to Bacolod.

Benited filed his COC a day after a Bacolod court upheld the decision of the city Election Registration Board allowing him to transfer his voter’s residency from Victorias City to Bacolod City

In the next months, residents of the high-urbanized city saw something unique to the electoral race: a prospective candidate getting loud support from mayors across Negros Occidental. Bacolod is the provincial capital but has been administratively independent since 1984. 

On October 2, five politicians previously identified with Leonardia’s Grupo Progreso (GP) announced they had accepted Benitez’s offer to complete a 12-person council slate. 

The Commission on Elections has dismissed a challenge to Benitez’s change of residency. The petitioners have lodged the case with a municipal trial court in the city.

Political history

Benitez served as congressman from 2010 to 2019. His younger brother Jose Francisco “Kiko” Bantug Benitez succeeded him, running unopposed.

He has since served as the pro bono consultant for economics and investments of Negros Occcidental Governor Eugenio Jose Lacson.

The House of Representatives 2018 Statements of Assets Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALNs) of its members showed Benitez with a net worth of  P1,016,503,102, 1.15% higher than his 2017 net worth of P1,004,995,616.

He was named a prospective member of the PDP-Laban’s senatorial slate in 2019 but he backed out of the race.

Benitez’s businesses

Leisure and Resorts World Corporation (LRWC) is the Filipino partner of Galaxy Entertainment, a Macau-based casino company and one of two companies given the nod to construct casino-resort complexes on the world-famous Boracay Island in Western Visayas.

The $500-million integrated casino resort will rise on 23 hectares of land owned by LRWC.

Benitez is also in the media and entertainment business. Following the denial of ABS-CBN’s broadcast franchise, he brought several of the network’s stars to TV5 via a huge chunk of blocktime slots.

He is also one of the financial backers of Digicast Negros, an online news site where staff come mostly from ABS-CBN and the Visayas Daily Star, a newspaper outfit owned by Leonardia’s family. – Rappler.com