Gensan politics:  Antoninos throw in the towel  

GENERAL SANTOS CITY – An election loss removed from position of power and influence in the city, the once politically formindable Anonino family is, for the first time since 1987 – a period of 29 years – not fielding any member for any elective post in the local elections here next year.

Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) secretary general Lualhati Antonino on Tuesday confirmed that it is Councilor Richard Atendido who will carry the torch of the Achievement with Integrity Movement (AIM) as its mayoral candidate.

General Santos City Mayor Ronnel Rivera.
General Santos City Mayor Ronnel Rivera.

The anointment of Atendido as AIM standard bearer was decided early July but was announced only today, August 4.

Antonino, herself former congresswoman who represented the 1st Congressional District of South Cotabato, said Atendido is well qualified for the position.

She also said lawyer Loreto Acharon, younger brother of Rep. Pedro Acharon Jr, will be the party’s bet for vice mayor.

In 2013, her daughter Darlene Antonino-Custodio lost a re-election bid to Mayor Ronnel Rivera by a margin of just over 12,000 votes.

The Antoninos also lost control of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan in the following barangay elections when Councilor Rogelio ‘Roel’ Pacquiao was elected president of the Association of Barangay Chairmen (ABC).

Councilor Pacquiao is the younger brother of Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao who, in 2007, lost to then Rep. Darlene Custodio in the congressional race in the first district of South Cotabato.

Rep. Pacquiao later transferred residence to Sarangani where he won in the lone congresional district of the province.

In 2013, he and Rivera formed a formidable alliance against the Antoninos to capture the city hall leadership under the People’s Champ Movement (PCM).

PCM now controls 9 of the 14 seats in the city council.

What doubly was a bitter defeat for the Antoninos is that despite the full backing of President Benigno Aquino III, who twice visited the city to pitch for Darlene during the campaign period, she still lost to Rivera.

Lualhati did not explain why the Antoninos are no longer running for any elective post in the city.

Darlene reportedly expressed her desire to retire from politics and concentrate on raising her children while patriarch Adelbert Antonino is reportedly preoccupied with their family business.

The Antoninos are originally from Nueva Ecija but built their fortune on their logging business in Mindanao.

Both parents of Adelbert served as senators of the Philippines.

Their party mate and longtime ally Rep. Pedro Acharon Jr is still eligible to run for a third term.

Lualhati, a close ally of President Aquino, is believed to help in the campaign presidential campaign of Interior Secretary Mar Roxas for whom another daughter Liza works as staff.

Rivera was not immediately available for comment.  He was still on official leave as of this writing.

But Councilor Franklin Gacal Jr, a stalwart of PCM, said the Rivera-Atendido fight will be a mismatch.

Rivera is scion of the wealthiest family in General Santos who has diversified business interests anchored on its fishing business – the RD Fishing.

The Riveras own close to 50 corporations with interest in banking and finance, real estate, agriculture, manufacturing, aquaculture and many more.

Its fishing operations are now largely foreign based.

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