Bacolod City

Bacolod mayor apologizes to Ivana Alawi amid noise over Tokyo encounter 

Erwin Delilan

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Bacolod mayor apologizes to Ivana Alawi amid noise over Tokyo encounter 
An encounter between Mayor Albee Benitez and Ivana Alawi, captured in a viral video and photos at a Japanese airport, sparks imaginations far and wide

Amid the flurry of speculation and whispers, the picturesque city of Bacolod found itself at the heart of a sensational tale starring Mayor Alfredo Abelardo “Albee” Benitez and the popular YouTuber turned model-actress, Ivana Alawi.

Talk ignited like wildfire following an encounter between the two, captured in a viral video and photos at a Japanese airport, sparking imaginations far and wide.

The controversy holds the potential to damage Benitez’s political standing, given his governance of a city that’s largely conservative and Catholic, placing high importance on traditional family values rooted in religion.

On Monday, February 12, Benitez publicly apologized to Alawi over speculations that they were having an affair.

“Speculations involving Ms. Ivana Alawi are untrue and only serve to put malice into what was clearly a chance encounter,” said Benitez, a former member of the House of Representatives and among the richest congressmen then.

“I apologize to Ms. Alawi and her family who have been unfairly dragged into issues concerning my private life. There is no truth to the rumors spreading, and I am setting the record straight to avoid further hurt and damage to them,” part of Benitez’s statement read.

Benitez clarified that the video footage showing him and Alawi standing close to each other in Tokyo was misinterpreted.

“The video does not accurately explain why I was in Tokyo,” he said. “I went there on a business trip as stated in my official travel order.”

He also explained that his professional interactions with various celebrities stem from his role as a film and TV program producer, which is inherent to the nature of his business.

Alawi also released a statement over the weekend, denying any romantic links with the billionaire politician to protect her mother from online backlash.

In a Facebook post, she categorically denied that Benitez was her boyfriend.

“Hindi po ako ang nasasabing girlfriend ni Mayor Albee Benitez (I am not the one being said to be the girlfriend of Mayor Albee Benitez),” she said.

Alawi said she was seeing “someone who makes me happy,” clarifying that her boyfriend is a respectable businessman and not a politician, hoping to dispel any further rumors.

Benitez appealed to the public to respect his and other people’s privacy, adding his dedication to safeguarding the interests of Bacolod and its people amid distractions.

Before being linked to Alawi, Benitez and his wife Dominique “Nikki” Lopez found themselves amid speculations about a supposed marriage annulment.

Benitez dodged questions about the alleged annulment, further fueling speculations about him and his wife in Bacolod and Negros Occidental.

However, he was quoted in an online showbiz news portal two weekends earlier as saying that there was no problem if he was going out on a date because he and his wife “have not been a couple for several years. In fact, we have gotten dissolution in court several years back.”

The report prompted Nikki to respond, asserting that she and Benitez have been living under one roof for 31 years, maintaining their family’s unity.

Their son, Victorias City Mayor Javier Miguel “Javi” Benitez, added fuel to the fire with a cryptic post on Facebook, expressing shock over his father’s pronouncement.

“We’re as shocked as everyone because this wasn’t spoken about in private, but Mom, I want you to know that I thank you and love you for all that you have done for our family. We know how much you have sacrificed for me and Bettina. I am eternally grateful,” Javi said.

Following Benitez’s and Alawi’s denials, Javi posted another cryptic message on Facebook: “Less talk, less mistake. No talk, no mistake.” – Rappler.com

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