CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY—Accident, suicide or drama?
The news about outgoing Rep. Jose Benjamin “Benjo” Benaldo’s suicide attempt in his office at the Batasan complex on Thursday night piqued the interest of residents of this city that they turned to social media sites to get the latest updates and offer their two cents’ worth.
Messages ranged from the supportive and sympathetic to the malicious and macabre.
“Get well soon Cong. Benaldo. Our prayers for your soonest recovery,” read a post on the Bangon Kagay-an Inc. page. Other netizens who were not as sympathetic wrote messages such as “Depression” and “Left by the Brazilian,” referring to Brazilian model-actress Daiana Menezes, Benaldo’s wife of seven months.
Other comments were: “Drama or suicide?” “Cannot accept his defeat.” “If he wanted to kill himself, he should have shot himself in the head. Perhaps he wants to be an actor?”
Others poked fun at Benaldo’s photo giving Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. a thumbs-up sign, assuring the latter that he is OK. “This is the only [attempted] suicide where the victim gives a thumbs-up.”
But former journalist Dolly Ilogon took up the cudgels for Benaldo, saying it is “so sad how some people can be so mean and heartless.”
“The Benaldo family is suffering in silence. Instead of criticism, let us all offer some prayers. After all, they, like us, are also pure Kagay-anons,” Ilogon said.
Cagayan de Oro City Vice Mayor Caesar Ian Acenas said no one should speculate on why Benaldo had attempted to commit suicide.
No foul play
The Quezon City Police District (QCPD) has ruled out the possibility of foul play in the shooting incident in the office of Benaldo at Room 512 at the South Wing Building of the Batasan complex.
Based on witnesses’ accounts, the outgoing solon was alone in his office when he was discovered bloodied but alive, said Senior Supt. Richard Albano.
“There was no one else inside the office at the time of the incident. Before you could get to his office, one would have to pass through his staff members,” the official said in a press conference yesterday.
As to the nagging question of whether the incident was an accident or a suicide, the QCPD said it preferred to respect the privacy of the family.
Albano said it would be the congressman who could clear things up.
“He was the only one inside the room so only he can say what really happened,” the official said, adding that investigators did not find any suicide note inside the room.
A source described Benaldo’s office as “already bare” since the lawmaker was already packing up his things and preparing to leave his office.
For the past three days, Benaldo would often ask to be left alone.
Albano said the 9mm cal. SIG Sauer pistol that was recovered in Benaldo’s room was registered to the congressman.
There had been rumors that Benaldo and Menezes were having serious marital problems, which could have driven the lawmaker to try to commit suicide.
City Councilor Dante Pajo said that during the PaDayon Pilipino campaign, Benaldo was visibly protective of Menezes.
“They were a new couple, they must have been going through an adjustment period,” Pajo said.
During the campaign, Benaldo would tell his constituents how he met Menezes days after Tropical Storm “Sendong.” A year later—in November 2012—the two married in Las Vegas.
But just weeks ago, Menezes posted photos of herself on Instagram showing an arm bleeding from cuts and wounds, with the remark, “I can’t take this anymore.”
Pajo said that should not be interpreted as domestic violence because “Benjo is so in love with Daiana.”
Before meeting Menezes, the lawmaker was regularly seen with several women, including a Russian blonde who was dubbed “mysterious lady” by locals, following his separation from his first wife, the now US-based Gladioly Longson.
Former City Councilor Ian Mark Nacaya said rumors about the couple’s rocky marriage were unfounded.
“It’s not about his wife. But whatever reason he had, only he knew it,” Nacaya said.
‘A strong man’
City Councilor President Elipe said he knew Benaldo to be “a strong man.”
“He had weathered some very personal problems before, and the suicide attempt was a shocking development,” Elipe said.
Elipe added that Benaldo was not the suicidal type. “He is very lively, always smiling,” he said.
Mayor Vicente Emano, who mentored Benaldo on politics, agreed with Elipe’s statement.
“A very strong person, a nice fellow,” Emano described the lawmaker.
Nacaya said that in one way or another, Benaldo’s suicide attempt was a grand statement about the state of politics in the city and in the country.
He said that based on reports, Benaldo left bundles of P1,000 bills and a note saying “cremate for political reforms.”
Benaldo started his political career as councilor in 1998, joining Emano’s PDP-Laban party.
As a councilor, Benaldo campaigned against the rising cost of electricity, with Cagayan de Oro Electric Power and Light Co. as his favorite whipping boy.
After losing in his initial congressional bid in 2007, Benaldo ran again in the first district congressional race in 2010. He eventually became assistant House majority floor leader.
During the campaign for the 2013 midterm elections, Benaldo always drew attention to his work in Congress as the voice from Mindanao.
“A voice from Cagayan de Oro rang in the house of Congress,” he had said.
People who knew Benaldo well describes him as a metrosexual—a neologism that refers to a man who is meticulous about his looks.
Benaldo was always seen in public wearing signature clothes and is one of the well-dressed congressmen in the 15th Congress.
He had been criticized by political observers for living an “Imeldific lifestyle.”
In his three years in Congress, Benaldo had authored 14 bills and coauthored 38 others.
He was a member of the following committees: energy, rules, government reorganization, higher and technical education, human rights, information and communication technology, justice, overseas workers affairs and ways and means. With a report from Julie M. Aurelio in Manila
First posted 7:08 pm | Friday, June 28th, 2013