Either one or the other camp is already posturing and positioning for the 2016 elections or both have not really gotten over the hangover of the 2013 elections.
But the tension Tuesday morning at the General Santos City Hall has all the hallmark of politics rearing its ugly head this early.
With determination written all over his face, Mayor Ronnel Rivera prevented former city councilor Jose Mariano Constantino Gonzales from taking his post as city treasurer, citing a pending case his administration has filed before the Court of Appeals.
The city mayor issued memorandum Monday, May 5, warning against entering into any transaction with Gonzales in his capacity as city treasurer after the latter also issued a memorandum to all city treasurer office employees that he is already assuming his post.
Gonzales started to report at the city hall on April 24.
A turnover was slated for Tuesday, May 6, but did not push through after Mayor Rivera called for a close-door conference with all department heads of city hall.
Acting city treasurer Rodilon Lacap, a career officer at the treasurer’s office, refused a request for an interview.
The city mayor said in his memorandum addressed to all department heads and city hall employees that he will “not in any way honor or recognize Atty Gonzalez’ assumption and discharge of the functions of the said office.”
He said he will only recognize an appointee other than Gonzales.
Other side of political fence
Gonzales is a member of the Achievers with Integrity Movement, a local party founded by former representative and city mayor Adelbert Antonino, father of another ex-city mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio who lost to Rivera in the 2013 mayoral elections.
Rivera however said as city mayor, he is entitled to recommend his choice of city treasurer.
He is believed to be supporting the bid of Lacap to become the city treasurer who was twice by-passed – once during the administration of Pedro Acharon Jr who is now member of the House of Representative and again during Custodio’s term.
Antonino-Custodio was personally endorsed by President Bengino Aquino III with the president twice visiting the city to push for her win.
Rivera earlier questioned the appointment of Gonzales to the vacant city treasurer position invoking his right to recommend qualified candidates to the post.
Gonzales was among those who applied for the post in June 2012 and was in the list of candidates submitted by former Mayor Darlene Antonino-Custodio to the Department of Finance.
He was appointed city treasurer in June last year but his appointment was rejected by the Civil Service Commission-NCR the following month citing his lack of at least 5 years of experience in accounting or treasury service.
Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima filed a motion for reconsideration but was again denied by the Civil Service Commission on February 12, 2014, sustaining the decision of CSC-NCR.
On March 11 and on his own, however, Gonzales filed a motion for reconsideration and submitted his stint as city administrator as part of requirement to qualify for the job.
On April 1, 2014, the CSC reversed its earlier ruling rejecting the application of Gonzales.
Rivera however filed a case before the Court of Appeals questioning his appointment.
Prior to his application for the job, Gonzales was a 3-term city councilor (2001-2010) and served as city administrator under Antonino-Custodio.
Custodio is believed to be eyeing a comeback at city hall in 2016.
When interviewed by Rappler, Gonzales said he is bent on taking over his post.
“I have a mandate. If the mayor will not recognize me, so be it,” he said.
But he also warned that it will affect the operations of the city treasurer’s office. He did not elaborate.
Asked if politics is behind the blocking to his assumption of office, he said it could be the case.
But when pressed why he is insisting on getting the post even if the city mayor has openly opposed his appointment, Gonzales said it is a job he applied for.
Rivera however sees the hands of the Antoninos in the appointment of Gonzales.
The city mayor admitted that he personally met Gonzales.
“I have nothing against him as a person. He is a fellow Rotarian. But I cannot work with him without putting into jeopardy my vision of local governance,” he said in an interview.
Gonzales is a lawyer-certified accountant but spent most of his career serving as public official.
But Rivera asked for understanding from residents in the city.
“They have been in power since 1987. It is time to give other the chance,” he said.
Rivera is in his first year as city mayor.
He ran as an independent and won as city councilor in 2010, topping the race for the 12-slot city council seats.
His family owns the RD Group of Companies, one of the country’s emerging homegrown conglomerates with tuna fishing operations as its core business.
The Riveras own one of the country’s largest and most modern tuna fishing fleets.
The Antoninos, on the other hand, belongs to the old Philippine political clans with couples Gaudencio and Magnolia Antonino having served as senators.
Gaudencio and Magnolia are the parents of Adelbert Antonino, a known political kingpin in Socsksargen.