Custodio, Acharon file reelection bids: Money war looms?

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews/5 October)–Mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio and South Cotabato First District Rep. Pedro Acharon Jr. formally filed their reelection bids on Friday, shaping up what could be the most expensive election race ever here.

Custodio and Acharon are running under the ruling Liberal Party (LP) and the Achievers with Integrity Movement, a local party founded by Custodio’s father, former city mayor Adelbert Antonino.

Clad in khaki slacks and white T-shirt, Custodio and her partymates came in full force accompanied by her mother Luwalhati Antonino and Dr. Rose Acharon, wife of the congressman, at the city Commission on Elections (Comelec) office here.

The re-electionist mayor has never been defeated in an election since coming in as a 27-year old candidate for congresswoman in 2001.

Custodio’s rival, Councilor Ronel Rivera, a son of a fishing tycoon here, filed his COC on Thursday.

Prior to their filing of Certificates Candidacy (COC), there was reportedly a plan for Custodio and Acharon to swap positions “but was cancelled at the last minute.”

Acharon, who served as city mayor for three straight terms before switching places with Custodio in the 2010 elections, admitted that their party had intensive discussions in the last several days on whether to proceed with another switch for the 2013 midterm national and local elections.
He will be up against Rogelio ‘Roel’ Pacquiao, brother of boxing icon and Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao.

Both Acharon and Custodio come from political clans.  Acharon’s father Pedro Sr. and brother Antonio also served as mayors of the city.

The two are also facing their most serious challenge so far with Rivera and the Pacquiaos reportedly willing to match their resources.

Rep. Pacquiao was reported to have spent at least P120 million in his 2007 failed bid to unseat the then congresswoman Custodio.  Pacquiao also reportedly spent at least US$6.6 million or P336 million (at the time the exchange rate was P51 to a dollar) for his 2010 victory in Sarangani.

On the other hand, the Antoninos belong to the old rich families in the country who built their fortunes on logging in Mindanao.  The Antoninos also own prime real estate property in Metro Manila and Davao City.

Under the old election rules, candidates are only allowed to spend P5 per registered voter.

In 2010, the city only has a little more than 181,000 registered voters.

Acharon filed his COC at the Comelec provincial office in nearby Koronadal City, where he was joined by the LP-Nationalist People’s Coalition’s (NPC) provincial slate led by Second District Rep. Daisy Avance-Fuentes.

Fuentes is running for governor, a post she held for three terms until 2010.

Her party fielded incumbent board member Ernesto Catedral for vice governor and former Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority deputy administrator Ferdinand Hernandez as candidate for South Cotabato’s second congressional district seat.

Included in the LP-NPC provincial board slate are incumbent board member and former Armed Forces Western Mindanao Command chief retired Major Gen. Agustin Demaala as well as former National Commission on Culture and the Arts Commissioner Noel Garovillo.

Incumbent South Cotabato Gov. Arthur Pingoy, who is seeking reelection, also filed his COC on Friday afternoon under Vice President Jejomar Binay’s United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).

The UNA slate includes senior board member Cecile Diel as candidate for vice governor and incumbent Vice Gov. Elmo Tolosa, who is seeking South Cotabato’s second congressional district seat. (Allen V. Estabillo and Edwin G. Espejo/MindaNews)