Pacquiao, Custodio in another crossfire over slain supporter

Pacquiao, without directly naming incumbent Rep. Darlene Antonino-Custodio (Nationalist People’s Coalition), said his political rival could be behind the slaying as a “political gimmick.”

Custodio did not comment on the statement of Pacquiao, running under President Arroyo’s Kampi, but said she will extend financial assistance to the family left by the victim.

Hilario Sidon, a long-time political supporter of the Antonino family, was shot dead on Wednesday night in Tupi town. This was the lone violent incident in the province that police said could be related to politics.

“We are looking into many angles but we are not discounting politics,” Inspector Rogelio Abran, Tupi police chief, said.

But Reelectionist South Cotabato Gov. Daisy Avance Fuentes (NPC) defended Custodio, however, and castigated Pacquiao for accusing his political rival of staging a political drama.

“It’s a very insensitive statement even now that he’s not a public official. How about if he becomes one?” Fuentes said.

The governor said the statement made by Pacquiao on local television was “irresponsible in that police are still investigating the incident”.

Fuentes turned the table on Pacquiao, accusing the boxer of trying to buy the loyalty of their supporters in amounts of P5,000 to P20,000.

“Our supporters have been approached by his camp for such an amount in exchange for their allegiance,” she said.

The camp of Pacquiao denied the allegations.

The incident came as rival candidates stood their ground in a close fight in the two congressional districts of South Cotabato.

Pacquiao and Custodio would slug it out in the first district, which covers the towns of Tupi, Polomolok and Tampakan and General Santos City.

Former three-term governor and congressman Hilario de Pedro III has challenged incumbent Rep. Arthur Pingoy, Jr. for the second district, which covers the towns of Tantangan, Banga, Surallah, Norala, Sto. Nino, T’boli and Lake Sebu and this city.

Gov. Fuentes may not need to campaign hard to overcome her opponents who re virtually unknown. Her running mate, Vice Gov. Eliordo Ogena, was running unopposed.

In Koronadal City, reelectionist Mayor Fernando Miguel of KAMPI was up against last term Vice Mayor Jose Ledda, Jr.

In the vice mayoral race, it would be a fight among former mayor Vicente de Jesus, Edwin Abris, Rebecca Bona and Phinney Araquil.

Lawyer Lilian Radam, South Cotabato Commission on Elections director, said they expected election day across the province to be “generally peaceful and orderly.”

“The province has an essential history of peaceful elections,” she said, appealing to the public to be more vigilant to avoid cheating and maintain a credible election.