Presidential snub

It is standard operating procedure and security protocol for the presidential guards to take over the security operations from local government units whenever Philippine president makes out of town public appearance.

It is usually the Malacañang protocol officer who makes arrangements in advance along with the designated detail head of the Presidential Security Guard (PSG).

Aquino arrived on Saturday in General Santos City but broke presidential protocol when he – or whoever was on top of his visit – deliberately snubbed Mayor Ronnel Rivera.

Not only was Rivera kept in the dark.

The whole city was denied the courtesy of being informed even.

The president, according to sources, stayed overnight Saturday at the posh Greenleaf Hotel in the busy central business district in the city for a personal visit to a former member of the PSG who was to be buried today, October 4, in Sto. Nino in South Cotabato – some 75 kilometers away.

While his visit was personal, the president owe it to the people of General Santos to be informed of his presence.

This blog got its information of the presidential arrival Thursday and made hurried efforts to confirm it from city hall sources, including a text message sent to the city mayor himself.

Gensan Mayor Ronnel Rivera said nobody coordinated with him or his office until he left Friday afternoon for Cebu City.PHOTO BY EDWIN ESPEJO
Gensan Mayor Ronnel Rivera said nobody coordinated with him or his office until he left Friday afternoon for Cebu City.PHOTO BY EDWIN ESPEJO

On Friday, Mayor Rivera sent this text message: “No idea about Pnoy.  Wala man coordination sa ofis.” By noon, Rivera had already left for Cebu for a scheduled visit to his family.

On the same day, the a source from Koronadal said MARO and the Philippine Information Office reportedly requested for a news blackout of the presidential arrival as it was a private visit.

Friday evening, two presidential helicopters slipped into the city under cover of darkness.

On Saturday, all major roads and city streets were swarming with policemen and military personnel with armored personnel carriers and tanks deployed along the national highway from General Santo City going to South Cotabato.

Still no word from Malacanang to city hall.

By afternoon, the while stretch of San Miguel Street, a 200-meter four-lane avenue that separated SM and Greenlea Hotel was close to vehicular traffic as the president had already checked in.

Still no presidential word for city hall prompting a source to send the following text message:

“The whole stretch of San Miguel was closed without SP reso(lution) or CMO’s advise.  Grabe talaga si Pnoy!  Sa sobrang tuwid ng daan di man lang marunong lumingon kahit simpleng respeto lang.”

Greenleaf Hotel was reportedly fully booked for the day and vehicles of hotel guests had to be parked at the parking bay of SM Gensan City Mall.

Inside the hotel were “a lot of AIM people roaming around.”

AIM is Achievers with Integrity Movement, a local political party founded by former city mayor Adelbert Antonino.

Malacanang point person for Mindanao is Secretary Luwalhati Antonino who is also head of Mindanao Development Authority.

Luwalhati is wife of former General Santos City Mayor Adelbert Antonino.

They are parents of Darlene Antonino-Custodio who lost her 2013 re-election bid to the incumbent Mayor Rivera.

The Antoninos were the erstwhile undisputed political kingpins of General Santos City.

But for the first time since 1987, not a single Antonino is holding an elective post after Darlene lost her re-election bid to Rivera by a margin of over 12,000 votes.

Luwalhati earlier announced AIM’s candidates for the 2016 local elections.  Again no Antonino will be vying for an elective post next year.

Adelbert is now reportedly sickly and has turned over the rein of their businesses to Darlene who is said to be disinterested in seeking another run for city mayor.

Luwalhati and Adelbert are reportedly estranged with rumors Adelbert had sired a son from another woman in Panay Island.

Eliza has resigned from Roxas and is now into franchising of uppity restaurants.

Was the president still smarting from the 2013 debacle of Darlene who lost despite 2 hurried visit to feverishly pitch for her re-lection two weeks before the last local election?

He even made a swipe of Rivera and his slate for using yellow as party color.  As if it is Aquino’s birth right to use.

Aquino conveniently forgot that the Antoninos were staunch allies of deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos.  Adelbert even ran under Kilusang Bagong Lipunan (KBL) in the 1984 Batasan elections but lost in his political election bid.  He ran again as KBL candidate in the 1987 restored Philippine Congress and won.  That win began the 26-year reign of the Antoninos in General Santos City.

In 2009, before Aquino declared his candidacy for president, the Antoninos – particularly Darlene and her mother Luwalhati – were bent on campaigning for Mar Roxas.

After all, Eliza Antonino – younger sister of Darlene – worked for several years as senior aide to Roxas.

As fate would have it, Roxas gave way to Aquino.  Now, it is Aquino’s turn to pay back a friend.

Roxas himself has taken a similar attitude towards city hall.  While many local government units received locally assembled patrol cars, none were given to the city while he was DILG chief.

Roxas is now the anointed and declared presidential candidate of the ruling party

On August 25, he arrived in the city to hand out awards some local government officials in the region.  He, too, snubbed Rivera who texted a day before his arrival the following: “No idea kung naa siya. (No idea if he will be around)”

The Rivera family owns the RD Group of Companies with RD Fishing as their flagship business.  RD Fishing is the country’s 2nd largest tuna fishing firm and also the city’s biggest fishing company.

The RD Group employs close to 10,000 employees from at least 52 diversified business firms that include a bank and a lending company, pawnshop, drugstore, livestock and poultry, real estate, packaging, resorts and hotel, aqua and marine culture, shipyard in addition to several fishing-related businesses.

The Riveras also run and operate diversified fishing companies in Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and Solomon Islands.

The Riveras and the Antoninos are former close allies with Rodrigo Rivera Sr – father of the city mayor – and Adelbert Antonino, together with fishing magnate Marfenio Tan, hooking up to put up the local TV franchise of ABS-CBN in the late 1980s.

The partnership simply folded up when ABS-CBN bought them out but Adelbert reportedly failed to liquidate the joint venture.

Relationship between the Riveras and the Antoninos soured when, in 2001, the former’s eldest son Ryan Rivera ran and contested the congressional seat left vacant by Luwalhati Antonino.  Ryan lost to Darlene who went on to serve 3 consecutive 3-year terms until 2010.

In 2010, Darlene won as city mayor.

Ronnel Rivera made several attempts to join AIM as a candidate for city councilor but was not accommodated.

He instead ran as independent and emerged No. 1 city councilor that year.

It was an ominous sign for the Antoninos.

The end of their political reign in the city finally came in 2013.

Rivera is a close friend and local party mate of Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao who is allied with Vice President Jejomar Binay.  So the political drifts of the Riveras and the Antoninos are staying true to their courses.

Between 2013 and Saturday, Aquino has not visited the city despite the many opportunities and invitation to come over for big conventions, celebrations and festivals like the 75th Founding Anniversary of the city last year.

How can one president miss that milestone of a celebration for Mindanao’s fastest growing city?

Now, will anybody still wonder why the presidential snub?