Neophyte, independent bet pulls off major surprise in GenSan polls

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/13 May) – Outgoing South Cotabato (1st District) Rep. Darlene-Antonino-Custodio locked in her bid for the mayoral seat here following her proclamation by the city’s Board of Canvassers (BOC) late Wednesday but her big win was dwarfed by the emergence of an independent candidate and political neophyte as topnotcher in the city council race.

Ronnel Rivera, son of fishing magnate Rodrigo Rivera Sr., was elected the number one city councilor here after he garnered 106,617 votes, the highest received by any candidate in the city in Monday’s elections.

The figure was based on the final and official count released by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) following the concluding session of the city’s BOC, which officially adjourned around 10 p.m. Wednesday.

Rivera’s win, considered as record-breaking in the city’s political history, surprised even his own camp since he practically mounted his campaign alone, although he was later carried as guest candidate by the PDP-Laban and the Lakas-Kampi-CMD slates here.

He was among the local candidates endorsed a week before the May 10 polls by the bloc-voting Iglesia Ni Cristo flock here.

“This is a big surprise for me and I’m very much humbled with this overwhelming support from the people. I can’t thank them enough,” he told reporters.

Rivera, who earlier took a break from his job as vice president of the family-owned RD Group of Companies and head of the RD Foundation to focus on his city council bid, said his win manifests that the city’s electorate has matured over the years.

He said it shows that local residents will never back down from a candidate, even a party-less politician like himself, who would present themselves to the public and offer to serve them sincerely.

“This is a challenge for me to serve the people even beyond what I can offer and I will work harder to make sure that I will not fail them,” Rivera said.

Rivera said his camp is still busy cleaning up their campaign posters from the city’s streets but he vowed to later pay a visit to the city’s 26 barangays to thank his supporters and consult residents on various concerns involving the local government.

He also plans to start preparing for his city council duties soon by making a review of various local ordinances that have not been implemented and look at other possible measures that needs to be introduced in the city.

Meantime, the city’s BOC proclaimed Custodio, who ran under the Achievers with Integrity Movement-Liberal Party (AIM-LP) coalition, as the newly-elected city mayor after receiving 82,985 votes in its final tally.

Her closest rival, outgoing Vice Mayor Florentina Congson of the People’s Champ Movement-Nacionalista Party (PCM-NP) slate, only mustered 29,068 votes.

In the vice mayoral race, Custodio’s running mate Jose Orlando Acharon managed to get 66,189 votes but he failed to catch up with frontrunner Shirlyn Banas-Nograles’ 67,655 votes.

The other winners in the 12-man city council were AIM-LP stalwarts Elizabeth Bagonoc, Vivencio Dinopol, Richard Atendido, Nepthale Natividad, Eddie Leyson, Dante Vicente, Virginia Llido, John Oco, Margareth Santos, Remus de Claro and lone Lakas-Kampi-CMD bet Dominador Lagare III. (Allen V. Estabillo / MindaNews)