GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 7 October) – A radio reporter-turned owner of a rising media network and several other businesses filed his certificate of candidacy (COC) for mayor here on Thursday.
Elmer Catulpos, founder and chief executive officer of the homegrown Brigada Group of Companies, formally joined the mayoral race as the standard-bearer of local party Achievement with Integrity Movement (AIM), completing a highly anticipated three-way fight in the May 2022 elections.
The party’s complete slate attended a mass at the house of former mayor Adelbert and wife South Cotabato representative Lualhati Antonino along the national highway, which serves as their campaign headquarters, before trooping to the Commission on Elections here around 8:30 a.m. to file their COCs.
The Antoninos, who founded AIM in the 90s and remained influential in the local political scene, endorsed Catulpos’ mayoralty bid early this year “for embodying the party’s brand of integrity in public service.”
“I offer myself and the use of my experiences for the progress of the city. It’s up to the people to judge us come election time,” Catulpos told reporters after filing his COC.
Carrying the battlecry “Barug (stand up) GenSan,” he said his priority will be to usher the city’s recovery from the economic slump brought about by the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.
To enable the local economy to “bounce back,” he said the city should give more focus on the health and wellness aspects.
This includes providing enough support to local hospitals and medical front-liners, and ensuring the availability of basic health services to the people such as free medicine and Covid-19 testing, he said.
Catulpos, currently the president of General Santos City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Inc., said the expansion of the vaccination against COVID-19 will also be a top priority to allow the city’s economy to move forward even amidst the pandemic.
AIM, which controlled the city hall from the late 90s until the 2013 elections, fielded businessman Jay Omila for the city’s lone congressional district and former city councilor, lawyer Arturo Cloma for vice mayor.
Omila lost to outgoing mayor Ronnel Rivera, who is also running for congressman, in the 2019 elections.
The party’s city council slate is led by media personalities lawyer Kan Balleque and Dyll Bartolaba, radio and television anchors of the Brigada News FM and TV here.
The other aspirants are former city councilors Virginia Llido and Minardo Avila, Dr. Ben Pagarigan, Bebe-i Gonzales, Dino Barrientos, George Anas, Mike Tanzo, Alfredo Santander, Abel Sosobrado, and Jay Berame.
Reports earlier came out that former city mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio could make a comeback in the 2022 polls and Catulpos said he is willing to give way if it materializes before Nov. 15, the deadline for the substitution of candidates.
Custodio is still reportedly in the United States and has not yet made any decision on the matter.
“But I am ready for this battle. I am ready to serve our people,” he said in a separate press conference.
Two other major political parties here – the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino or PDP Laban and the People’s Champ Movement (PCM) – also fielded complete slates for the May 2022 elections.
South Cotabato first district Rep. Shirlyn Banas-Nograles filed her COC for mayor on Oct. 4 under the PDP Laban while presidential aspirant and Senator Emmanuel Pacquiao’s sister-in-law Lorelie launched her bid for the same post on Oct. 6.
The 45-year-old Catulpos started as a reporter of Bombo Radyo GenSan in the late 90s and transferred to two other local radio stations before publishing his own tabloid called Brigada in 2005 with a capital of only PHP1,000.
His small venture went on to become the mammoth Brigada Mass Media Corporation, which operates a television station here, several cable TV channels, a network of newspapers in Mindanao, and 40 FM radio stations in parts of the country.
The Brigada Group also operates a security agency, health products line, events venue and resort, a chain of pharmacies, among others. (MindaNews with a report from Richelyn Gubalani)