By Ben R. Rosario
Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabel Climaco-Salazar yesterday thanked Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo “Albee” Benitez for the acts of chivalry he showed when both of them, together with a number of government officials, fell into the murky waters in a government housing project in Zamboanga City last Thursday.
Climaco-Salazar said Benitez declined an offer to pull him out from the dirty creek in Sitio Hongkong, Barangay Rio Hondo and instead asked rescuers to get to the mayor first.
“In that moment after we fell, I wanted Cong. Albee to be led up first but he gave way to me,” the Zamboanga City mayor said.
Video footages of the incident showed that Benitez also grabbed Climaco’s hand in a bid to prevent her from falling from the collapsing bridge. However, Benitez also lost his balance and thus joined joining the plunge to the murky water.
“He held my hand trying to help and we both ended helping Cong. Celso,” Climaco-Salazar recalled, referring to Zamboanga City Rep. Celso Lobregat.
The three officials suffered scratches after the fall that took place as they conducted an inspection tour of State-funded housing projects for the hundreds of Zamboanga residents who were displaced following an attack by the Moro National Liberation Front under former ARMM Gov. Nur Misuari in 2013.
Benitez, chairman of the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development, led the inspection of the housing and relocation site facilities as part of a congressional inquiry into reported irregularities in the construction of the houses by contractors of the National Housing Authority.
Climaco and Lobregat lauded the House panel for showing its concern on the plight of their constituents who were forced to deal with the apparent corruption in the development of relocation projects for people rendered homeless by man-made and natural disasters.
Benitez said the accident left little doubt that the government housing and community project in Zamboanga City were built with substandard materials.
The senior administration congressman said officials of the NHA and the contractors awarded the rich housing contracts will be summoned to the Lower House to explain their side.
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