Bingbong’s road to redemption

With 10 days to go before the May 13 elections, campaigning has reached fever pitch for Congressman Vincent “Bingbong” Crisologo and Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte who are fighting tooth and nail for Quezon City’s mayoralty post.

The mad scramble towards victory has been plagued with much ruthlessness, disinformation and outright lies. Along with the campaign to win the hearts and minds of QC voters are insidious efforts to poison their minds, mostly aimed at demolishing the battle-tested Bingbong who has gained momentum in his bid to end the political dominance of the Belmonte family.

When previous attempts to portray Joy as a “runaway winner” were met by results of a recent survey showing Bingbong had a slight edge over his closest rival, those peddling lies went hyper in trying to discredit the survey and the firm that conducted it.

The survey done last April 13 to 21 by the Issues and Advocacy Center (The Center) that polled some 1,200 respondents in all six districts of the city revealed 39.16% of them supported Bingbong, while 34.66% were for Joy, and 16% backed former Rep. Chuck Mathay. In the vice mayoralty race, the survey results showed Atty. Jopet Sison was leading with 42% to the 31% of Gian Sotto and 18% of Roderick Paulate.

“What many thought would be a run away victory for Belmonte is now turning into a nightmare as hordes of city residents are coming out in support of Crisologo… as a form of protest against what they claim as the failure of the city government to deliver even the most basic social services that has been left untended over the past several years,” according to Ed Malay, director of The Center and former PR and media adviser to former President Fidel Ramos.

Days after The Center released its survey findings, concocted stories published in two tabloids contained allegations which Malay said “have no basis in fact.” It claimed that in its previous surveys – in 1998, 2010, and 2016 – The Center had gotten it all wrong.  The truth, Malay explained, is that The Center did not do a survey in 1998; it correctly foresaw Noynoy Aquino’s win in 2010, and also that of President Duterte in 2016.

Another lie being peddled is that Bingbong ought to be disqualified by the Comelec because the pardon granted him by then President Marcos in 1980 was supposedly a “conditional” pardon that paved the way for his release from prison where he served 8 years after being charged and convicted of arson for the burning of two barangays in Ilocos Sur. Bingbong insists he has the documents to prove the presidential pardon is absolute and thus, makes him eligible to run for public office.

But detractors who refuse to believe that Bingbong is a changed man and has committed his life to the Lord continue to pounce on his past.

In an interview for a leading broadsheet, Bingbong narrated how his commitment to God came about while in prison where he desperately longed for freedom. “It was an answered prayer. I said then: I wish I would be released in 1981. If I am freed, I promised to serve the Lord. You know what? I was released five minutes before midnight of Dec. 31, 1980. So when I breathed the air of freedom outside Muntinlupa, it was already 1981. God fulfilled my wish,” he said. He then founded the Loved Flock Catholic Charismatic Community.

Those wary of him being an “ex-convict” may find solace and reassurance in his message: “This ex-convict came to know the Lord and learned how to face defeat, to lose friends, to suffer alone, to lose hope, to believe, to embrace faith and regain hope. Why would I be ashamed of that period in my life when I learned the true meaning of life?”

Indeed, he who has faced utter hopelessness can empathize with those who feel so hopeless. It isn’t surprising why many QC residents see Bingbong as approachable and compassionate, so unlike other politicians with a pretense to excellence but who keep their distance from constituents.