THE powerful Visayan political bloc may be headed for a split with one faction led by Negros Occidental Rep. Albee Benitez already raring to bolt the Liberal Party (LP) after a “falling out” with some party officials.
Sources told The Manila Times that Benitez, who leads the 44-member Visayan bloc in the House of Representatives, may opt to run for reelection as an independent.
Benitez, the fourth richest member of the House, is the LP chairman in Negros Occidental.
“It’s inevitable. Rep. Benitez felt insulted when the LP leadership pulled a fast one on local LP members when they endorsed the candidacy of Gov. Alfredo Marañon without consulting Benitez and other LP officials in Negros,” the sources said.
Marañon and Benitez have been tough political rivals since 2013.
The governor said there will be no merger with Love Negros, a local political bloc led by Benitez.
According to the sources of the Times, the situation in Negros is similar to what happened in La Union, where LP members were disappointed when Undersecretary Henry Bacurnay of the Office of the Executive Secretary was sidelined by Francisco Emmanuel Ortega 3rd for the gubernatorial race.
“Many LP members did not like this. Some people have been manipulating the selection process for local bets,” the sources said.
Without Benitez’s support, the entire LP ticket may not get the Negros vote and a large portion of the Visayas.
Benitez is yet to endorse Roxas and remains tight-lipped on who his group will support in the 2016 elections.
The influential lawmaker is one of only two Negros Occidental congressmen from LP, the other being 5th District Rep. Alejandro Mirasol.
Benitez has skipped a number of LP events attended by Roxas in the region, a sure sign that all is not well between the two leaders.
Negros Occidental has traditionally been a stronghold of the Nationalist Peoples Coalition (NPC) and its local affiliate, the United Negros Alliance (Unega).
Benitez has all the resources for political campaigns, the charismatic command of local politicians under him across the province and discreet influence in Congress through his vast connections.
The lawmaker was among those who helped bankroll the campaign of President Benigno Aquino 3rd in 2010.