The camp of Liberal Party (LP) presidential candidate Manuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd did not express regret over losing an important ally to independent presidential candidate Sen. Grace Poe.
Iloilo Rep. Jerry Treñas expressed such sentiment in reference to former LP Negros Occidental provincial chairman and Negros Rep. Albee Benitez, who has thrown his support behind Poe and her running mate, Sen. Francis Escudero.
Benitez was joined by at least 47 other lawmakers and congressional candidates in the district and party-list ranks in backing the candidacy of Poe and Escudero—an announcement made in Negros Occidental, the home province of Roxas’ mother, Judy Araneta-Roxas.
Of the 48, only Benitez was a former member of the ruling LP headed by President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
The rest were allies of President Aquino from different political affiliations.
“I have nothing but respect for Congressman Albee based on our past working relationship, but I can tell you: His actions change nothing. The Visayan bloc is solid for the tandem of Mar Roxas and [running mate]Leni Robredo,” Treñas said in a statement.
“There is no reason for us to support anyone else, after seeing how daang matuwid [good governance], under President Aquino’s leadership, helped our constituents. Others can and have only promised progress, while Mar and Leni have done so much,” Treñas added.
Benitez’s group has pledged at least 10 million votes for Poe and Escudero.
Negros Occidental is the fourth-largest province in terms of voting population with at least two million registered voters.
Poe’s mother, actress Jesusa Sonora aka Susan Roces, also hails from Negros Occidental’s capital Bacolod City.
Treñas said Roxas and Robredo will bring their strengths and advocacies when they are elected into office by not only continuing the good governance platform but by improving, widening and expanding its scope.
“They are public servants, that’s why we stand by them,” he added.
Akbayan party-list congressman and LP-led administration spokesman Ibarra Gutierrez said Benitez leaving the LP does not mean that Roxas is losing ground.
“Congressman Albee filed his candidacy last October as an independent candidate. There is no mass defection here as previously claimed. The Visayan bloc is for Mar and Leni and our people are not jumping ship,” Gutierrez added.
Benitez, the fourth-richest member of the House of Representatives with P713.8 million net worth as of 2014, told reporters in December 2015 that he was leaving the LP because the party did not throw its support behind local candidates that Benitez is endorsing.