Cebu, Philippines – Exactly a week after the Bogo City melee, Congressman-elect Benhur Salimbangon returned in triumph and offered reconciliation with his political foes, the Martinezes, after a thanksgiving mass held at the Shrine of San Vicente Ferrer on Monday.
“To Junie, Tining and Clavel I extend my hand for reconciliation. I come here to serve,” he said.
About 1,500 supporters, mostly wearing red, Salimbangon’s campaign color, attended the mass officiated by six priests.
In an interview after the mass, Salimbangon said the election was over and it was time for everybody to move on and start serving the public.
“There is nothing personal here. We should all work together and move on,” he said.
But Tining’s father, Bogo City Mayor Celestino Jr., said it was premature to call for a reconciliation.
“How can we say that we are not pushing through with our options (before the Supreme Court and the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal) when we know we have been unfairly treated by their illegal maneuvers? We are not hypocrites. When the Martinezes we say something, we mean it. Until such time that the SC and the HRET can put an end to all these, reconciliation is not proper,” he said.
The elder Martinez insisted that his son won the race.
He questioned the plan of Salimbangon to hold thanksgiving masses in all of the district’s municipalities and cities. Bogo City was Salimbangon’s second stop. He had the first mass in Medellin.
“Celebrating here and there – it’s like there is this guilt feeling within them and they are justifying it by making the people believe they won the election. It’s more of mind conditioning,” he said.
Junie denied reports that the Martinezes objected to the holding of the thanksgiving mass in their bailiwick.
“That’s an unfair story. We never did that and we do not go to that level. That is incredible,” he said.
Salimbangon earlier told Cebu Daily News that the thanksgiving mass almost did not materialize because of opposition from the other camps.
Junie said the fact that the thanksgiving mass pushed through didn’t mean they have conceded defeat.
“It did not mean that we have accepted that Benhur won,” he said.
In his speech to churchgoers, Salimbangon said that on the last day of the canvassing he prayed in one of the churches in Makati and asked the Virgin Mary to put an end to the canvassing, which had dragged on for more than a month.
“I told Mother Mary that I would not mind losing (the race) kay taas na kaayo ang akong pag-antos (I have agonized for so long),” he said. On his way out of the church, he took a folded piece of paper that contained a Bible message. His message was “patience is a virtue.”