General Santos City

Former General Santos mayor tells why she didn’t stage a comeback

Rommel Rebollido
Former General Santos mayor tells why she didn’t stage a comeback

In this 2008 photo, the then-South Cotabato representative Darlene Antonino-Custodio welcomes boxing icon Manny Pacquiao after his ring victory.

Rommel Rebollido / Rappler

(1st UPDATE) Former mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio, also known as the politician who gave Manny Pacquiao his first political defeat, says she was unhappy about what politics has become in the country

The General Santos City politician who made Filipino boxing icon Senator Manny Pacquiao taste his first defeat in politics in 2007 ended talks about her highly anticipated comeback in local politics.

Former mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio told Rappler on Tuesday, November 16, that she was unhappy about what politics has become in the country.

Politics, she said, has become personality-based, something she did not want to be a part of.

“Party politics has been erased and shifted to personality politics. For this reason, the substitution of candidates has become the best way to introduce a candidate to the voters,” said Custodio.

Until Monday, November 15, talk had it that she was planning on running for mayor as a substitute for General Santos Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Elmer Catulpos who was initially thought of as a placeholder.

Catulpos said he would have stepped aside for “Ma’am Darlene.”

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Catulpos filed his certificate of candidacy for mayor in October under the Achievement with Integrity Movement (AIM), the longest-running political party in General Santos that was founded by Darlene’s parents, former mayor Adelbert and Luwalhati Antonino, a former congresswoman.

In a statement on Monday, November 15, Custodio told those prodding her to run for mayor: “Nais ko pong ipaabot sa inyo na hindi po ako tatakbo ngayong 2022 elections. Ang desisyon ko pong ito ay hindi dahil sa sarili ko kundi para po sa ikabubuti ng General Santos.”

(I would like to let you know that I am not running for public office in the 2022 elections. My decision is not for myself but for the good of General Santos.)

None of the Antoninos are seeking public office in the 2022 elections, and Darlene herself has kept off local politics since her 2013 defeat to her challenger and then-Pacquiao ally Mayor Ronnel Rivera.

Custodio was viciously attacked on social media when she sought reelection that year to the point that she was dragged into a sex video scandal that turned out to be a hoax.

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Political observers attributed her loss to the viciousness of the social media attacks and the hoax.

“Such dirty and unruly campaign tactics hurt the former mayor so much she stayed away from politics after that,” said local political commentator Ernie Gabonada. 

Custodio served as South Cotabato representative and House deputy minority leader in the 13th Congress. 

At the height of his boxing fame, Pacquiao challenged Custodio’s reelection bid during the South Cotabato congressional race in 2007 but ended up being sent to the local political canvass by the petite congresswoman.

Custodio then ran for General Santos City mayor in 2010, and won but lost the seat three years later to Rivera.

“After decades of ruling the elections in South Cotabato and General Santos, the Antoninos have now passed the torch to a new breed of highly-capable political leaders,” said Gabonada. –Rappler.com

Rommel Rebollido is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship