Former Commission on Elections (Comelec)Chairman Benjamin Abalos Sr. ended his 14-year political hiatus as he filed his certificate of candidacy (COC) on Wednesday to run as Mandaluyong City mayor in the May 2022 polls with daughter-in-law, incumbent Mayor Carmelita “Menchie” Abalos as his running mate.
“I am returning to politics to fulfill my last promise to my late wife Cora,” said Abalos after filing his COC together with Menchie at the local Commission on Elections office in Mandaluyong, formalizing their election bid.
According to the Abalos tandem, the comeback of their family patriarch to the political arena and the decision of the lady mayor to run as vice mayor is to fulfill the promise they made to the family’s matriarch, Corazon Abalos, who died last January after contracting Covid-19. Corazon, died of severe sepsis secondary to pneumonia due to Covid-19 on January 26.
“I have made the last promise to my wife to spend the remaining years of my life to serve the Mandaleños once again, in honor of her. My passion to serve the Mandaleños doesn’t stop even if I was out of the political sphere for the past 14 years. With all the experiences I had when I was a mayor and a member of the Cabinet and my personal experience during this pandemic, I know that I can usher the city to its healing, recovery, and the shift towards new normal—creating the perfect balance to protect the public health and revive the economy,” Abalos said.
According to Mayor Abalos, though she is gunning for the vice mayoralty post, she will still be assisting the older Abalos in making sure that the city will transition to new normal as the Abalos patriarch assured their constituents that the programs and projects instituted and institutionalized by the incumbent mayor will still remain in place.
“Mandaleños will still have a tried and tested kind of leadership through my father-in-law as I take the backseat,” the incumbent mayor said adding, ‘The decision to remain in office, albeit in a more limited and supplementary capacity as a possible vice mayor, stems from a passion to serve that has been honed through years of continuous service.”
Both of them have their fair share of experiences in leading the “Tiger City” and make it more aggressive amid the transition to new normal.
The Abalos patriarch, who is a Covid-19 survivor himself, vowed that the Covid-19 response system initiated and institutionalized by his daughter-in-law would remain in place.
Among these are the MandaTrack and MandaVac, which remain accessible even to non-residents of Mandaluyong.
Pioneer of reforms
Being in the political arena since 1963, Abalos, was known as the pioneer of reforms in Mandaluyong, after he introduced Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) and public-private partnerships (PPPs) when he served as city mayor from June 30, 1988- June 30, 1998.
“From Joketown to Boom Town” is a catch phrase often used to describe the transformation of Mandaluyong City, as cited by Asiaweek Magazine. Further, the city came to be known as the “Tiger City of the Philippines” because of the remarkable business and economic progress credited to his son Metropolitan Manila Development Authority Chairman Benjamin “Benhur” Abalos Jr. brand of leadership when he served as city mayor.
He won awards for providing housing for the poor. Under his helm, the city purchased the Philippine National Railways (PNR) property, and allowed informal settlers to purchase the property payable for 20 years. Approximately 7,000 families benefited under this project. Massive investments poured in: SM Megamall, Shangri-La Malls and hotel, Asian Development Bank (ADB), among others.
The older Abalos, who is a lawyer, served as a Trial Court Judge wherein he gained the distinction of being named as an outstanding judge for 10 straight years.
The late President Corazon Aquino appointed him as officer-in-charge (OIC) of the then municipality of Mandaluyong. As OIC of the municipality, he ran and won as local chief executive of the city in the 1988 local elections, the first local elections under the 1987 Constitution.
He was reelected twice in the elections of 1992 and 1995. Under his leadership, Mandaluyong City was proclaimed a highly urbanized city of Metro Manila on February 9, 1994, pursuant to Republic Act 7675.
He also served as chairperson of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority during the administration of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from 2001 to 2002 and served as chairman of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from 2002 to 2007.
Outstanding nutrition program and child-friendly city
Menchie joined the political arena when she first ran and won for the mayoralty post in 2016, replacing her husband who had served as Mandaluyong congressman and long-time mayor of the city.
Her involvement in public service started since she was the first lady of the city. She was the Nutrition Action Officer of the city from 1998 up until Benhur finished his last term of office in June 2016.
In 2010, she was elected the first President of the Nutrition Action Officers Association of the Philippines. She also served as the Regional President of the Association of Nutrition Action Officers from 2012.
With her dedicated support to the City Nutrition Committee, the city obtained the Green Banner Award for three straight years (from 2010 to 2012) for its outstanding nutrition program management and implementation. The city also brought home the Consistent Regional Outstanding Winner in Nutrition Award (2013) given by the National Nutrition Council.
The city was awarded the Presidential Award for the Most Child- Friendly City of the Philippines in 2011 by the Council for the Welfare of Children while she headed the Mandaluyong City Local Council for the Protection of Children as Program Director.
In 2012, the city became a National Level Finalist and conferred the Seal of Child-Friendly Local Governance-Top Performing Local Government Unit in the National Capital Region in 2015.
In 2016, the city once again became a top National Level Finalist for the Most Child-Friendly City award and was conferred the Seal of Communities of Practice on Child Friendly Local Governance.
In July 2015, she is also very contributory in the city’s achievement of the Guinness World Records for the largest Zumba class in one location in July 2015.
With her daughter, Councilor Charisse, she continuously supports the endeavors of the Ciara Marie Foundation which has been a blessing to more than 700 ailing children at the special ward named the Ciara Marie Foundation Sepsis and Infectious Disease Ward in Mandaluyong City Medical Center whose hospital bills, laboratories and medicines have been covered by the foundation, among others.