Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

Marcos vows support for Negros Occidental programs despite loss in province

Inday Espina-Varona
Marcos vows support for Negros Occidental programs despite loss in province

FRIENDS. Incoming first lady Liza Araneta-Marcos (left), in a light moment with Bacolod City mayor-elect Albee Benitez during a thanksgiving party hosted by political allies in Negros Occidental on June 17, 2022.

Albee Benitez's Facebook page

Negrense Liza Araneta-Marcos, incoming first lady, is feted by Negros Occidental supporters of president-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

BACOLOD CITY, Philippines – President-elect Ferdinand Marcos Jr., through his Negrense wife Liza Araneta-Marcos, has pledged to back local government programs in Negros Occidental, a province that went for opposition candidate and outgoing Vice President Leni Robredo in the May 2022 elections.

Bacolod mayor-elect Albee Benitez on Saturday, June 18, posted on his Facebook page photos from a Friday, June 17 “thanksgiving dinner,” where incoming first lady Araneta-Marcos represented the president-elect.

Benitez said Araneta-Marcos, a Negrense, also promised to push his housing program and the creation of the Negros Island Region, which outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte scrapped early in his term, citing lack of budget.

Benitez, who backed Marcos’ candidacy as local head of the PDP-Laban, did not give much details in his post. 

But he later told Digicast Negros, a digital news platform that he partly owns, that Marcos himself has vowed to back local projects.

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Discussing housing, Benitez noted that he had drafted the measure creating a Department of Housing. The mayor-elect is the son of the late Conrado “Jolly” Benitez, who served as deputy of former first lady Imelda Marcos in the Ministry of Housing Settlements.

Benitez had flown to Manila early in June to meet with the president-elect.

He was asked then by reporters about the possibility of a Cabinet post offer. Benitez replied that he would not abandon the huge mandate handed him by voters of Negros Occidental’s independently-administered capital city.

Reelected Himamaylan Mayor Raymund Tongson, head of Marcos’ campaign in Western Visayas, also shared photos of the dinner, adding that the Yanson family – the billionaire owners of one of Southeast Asia’s largest transport groups – hosted the event.

Former Murcia mayor Sonny Coscolluela, Marcos’ spokesperson in Negros Occidental, told the broadcast talkshow program Teresa’s Time over FMR 91 that Araneta-Marcos was accompanied by son Vincent.

He said the party venue was at the Yansons’ sprawling farm in Talisay, just north of this city.

Coscolluela expressed confidence that the province, whose reelected Governor Eugenio Jose “Bong” Lacson backed Robredo, would find friendly ears in Malacañang because 29 of 32 mayors campaigned for Marcos.

Marcos eked out a surprise win in this traditionally opposition city, with 10,000 votes over Robredo.

He still lost in the province, but with a much improved showing compared to the 2016 vice presidental polls. The president-elect received 603,523 votes in 2022 to Robredo’s 639,672. In the 2016 race, Robredo got 614,440 votes, while Marcos only received 119,149 in Negros Occidental.

Reelected Vice Governor Jeffrey Ferrer, a key Marcos whip in the province, on May 11 said Marcos’ campaign manager Benhur Abalos passed on the winning candidate’s words of gratitude, saying he was very happy with the outcome of the Negros Occidental vote.

Marcos vows support for Negros Occidental programs despite loss in province