Darlene blames brownouts for upset loss

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 15 May) – Incumbent Mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio has blamed the prolonged brownouts here in the past months and the public’s “unfounded” perception that the city government has done nothing to address the crisis as among the reasons behind her failed reelection bid in the May 13 elections.

The mayor acknowledged that her popularity and those of her party mates in the administration-backed Liberal Party-Achiever’s with Integrity Movement (LP-AIM) had nosedived when the daily rotational brownouts in the area reached seven hours in March.

She said her critics and some residents misjudged her over the outages.

Stalwarts of rival camp People’s Champ Movement-United Nationalist Alliance (PCM-UNA) highlighted the issue on the brownouts and the power crisis in their campaign.

“I think it was really the issue of the brownouts (that cost my reelection),” the mayor said in an interview over TV Patrol Socsksargen.

On Tuesday, the city board of canvassers (CBOC) proclaimed Custodio’s challenger, top councilor Ronnel Rivera of the PCM-UNA, as the duly elected mayor.

Rivera garnered 93,535 votes while Custodio only received 79,053 based on the final and official count released by the CBOC.

Rivera’s running mate, incumbent Vice Mayor Shirlyn Banas-Nograles, won by landslide over LP-AIM vice mayoral bet Eduardo Leyson III.

In the city council race, only five LP-AIM incumbent councilors are returning for another three-year term ­– Elizabeth Bagonoc, Richard Atendido, Vivencio Dinopol, Marius Oco and Eduardo Leyson IV.

The five other LP-AIM incumbent councilors – Nepthale Natividad, Dante Vicente, Margareth Santos, Remos de Claro and Virginia Llido – lost their seats to PCM-UNA stalwarts.

Aside from issue on the brownouts, the mayor said their party’s chances took a big hit with the endorsement by bloc-voting Inglesia Ni Cristo of the candidacies of Rivera, Nograles and seven PCM-UNA city council bets.

The religious sect, which had fully backed the LP-AIM in the 2010 elections, only endorsed five members of the latter’s city council slate.

Custodio said they also gathered some evidences that their rival party turned to vote-buying schemes during the homestretch of the campaign.

“That is quite known among the people,” she said, without further elaborating.

But overall, the mayor said she has accepted the results of the elections and vowed to move on.

She said their group had not seen any problem with regards to the canvassing of votes from the city’s 298 clustered precincts.

“The people voted for their chosen candidates for whatever reason and that was the result,” the mayor said.

Custodio complimented Rivera for his win and challenged the latter to work on his promised changes to the city and unite the city’s constituents.

“I would like to congratulate mayor-elect Ronnel Rivera. The people have spoken and they have elected you on the basis of change. The election has gone past and politics is over. The city will not move forward if we’re not united. The city is bigger than both of us,” she said.

The mayor added that she will focus on taking care of her family when her term finally ends on June 30.