SOUTHERN COMFORT: Who will UNA endorse in General Santos City?

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/25 October) — This has been a poser that is lingering in the minds of the opposition group here which is up against the administration of incumbent Mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio.  Custodio heads the Achievers with Integrity Movement (AIM) which is allied with the ruling LP-NP-NPC-LDP coalition.

Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao’s People’s Champ Movement (PCM) is fielding a full slate against AIM to include his brother Rogelio (Roel) who is running for congressman in the First District of South Cotabato-General Santos.

PCM is identified with the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) that groups together the PDP-Laban of Vice President Jejomar Binay, Partido ng Masang Pilipino of former president Joseph Estrada and other opposition groups.

On paper, it would have been a no brainer.

But history runs deep between AIM founder and former General Santos City Mayor Adelbert Antonino and Estrada who were allies and close friends during the latter’s presidency. Antonino stuck with Estrada even when the latter was ousted in EDSA II.

Estrada has consistently topped the presidential race in General Santos.  He won over Aquino in South Cotabato, Sarangani and General Santos City.

Adellbert is the father of Darlene.  His wife is currently the chair of Mindanao Development Authority, a post that carries a cabinet rank.  Adelbert’s other daughter Liza, is a longtime staffer of Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) secretary Mar Roxas.  Essentially, Darlene is assured of support from both camps of the Philippine political spectrum.

Pacquiao, on the other hand, supported Manuel Villar in the 2010 elections. Villar lagged behind President Benigno Aquino III and Estrada, who came in a strong second.

Darlene is now supporting the candidacy of Villar’s wife Cynthia who is running for senator after serving three terms in the House of Representatives.

In the world of shifting alliances and allegiances that is Philippine politics, one’s enemies today can he allies tomorrow.

This time-tested rule is nowhere truer than in the case of Pacquiao and Binay who traded barbs in the 2007 elections when the eight-division world boxing champion supported Lito Lapid who ran against the vice president for Makati mayor.

Pacquiao and the Antoninos have bad political blood between them.

Pacquiao has not forgotten the humiliation he got when he ran and lost against then re-electionist Darlene Antonino-Custodio for congressman in the first district of South Cotabato.

Pacquiao looked elsewhere in 2010 and ran in Sarangani where he won for the lone district of the province.

Pacquiao and friend Ronel Rivera are joining forces to try to unseat the Antoninos who have held uncontested sway over local politics in Gensan since 1998.  Rivera is running for mayor in the city.

The Antoninos have not lost an election in General Santos since losing the mayoralty race to Rosalita Nuñez in 1995.

Could it be that Estrada will endorse Darlene and Rep. Pedro Acharon Jr. (who is seeking re-election as congressman) and Binay supporting Rivera and Pacquiao?  Or will the Pacquiaos be left to fend for themselves in the city?

Pacquiao of course holds the advantage of running unopposed in Sarangani and could just focus his time and resources to ensure victories for brother Roel and friend Ronel.

But whose hands will UNA really hoist when the campaign period starts next year? (Edwin G. Espejo writes for