Antonino denies he’s eyeing governorship to challenge Umali

By Jason de Asis


JAEN, Nueva Ecija, November 28, 2010–Outgoing fourth district Rep. Rodolfo Antonino yesterday denied he is eyeing the Capitol in 2013 to challenge the reelection bid of Nueva Ecija Gov. Aurelio Umali amidst reports that his partymates from the Bagong Lakas ng Nueva Ecija are set to bolt the party founded by the late Joson patriarch to join the governor’s Unang Sigaw Partido ng Pagbabago.


Antonino told newsmen that he has not made up his mind on what he would do when his term expires in 2013. “I have no plans of seeking any political position yet and talks of me running for governor are just speculations at this point,” he said.


Antonino issued the statements even as reports are swirling around that he is setting his sights on running for governor in 2013 to challenge Umali.


Umali said if Antonino decides to run for governor, the lawmaker would make a formidable opponent.


Antonino broke the stranglehold of the Lorenzos and Villareals in the district – which they ruled since 1992 – by defeating the then incumbent – Raul Villareal in the 2004 congressional polls. He got reelected in 2007 and again last May by beating scions of the two clans.


Earlier, Quezon Mayor Mariano Cristino Joson said if none among the Josons will run for governor in 2013, then he and his allies at Balane will support Umali’s reelection bid instead of backing Antonino. Balane is the pet party founded in the 80s by the late former six-term governor Eduardo Joson Sr.


Joson, a former vice governor, lost to Umali in the 2007 gubernatorial elections, ending the fabled clan’s half-century reign at the Capitol.


Joson has not hidden his dislike for Antonino who is a close ally of his elder brother, former four-time governor Tomas Joson III. The mayor has close ties with Antonino’s bitter political rival and townmate, former Antonio Prospero Esquivel.


Antonino and Esquivel were the principal figures in the bloody April 26, 2007 shootout in Jaen that left four people dead and 17 others, including two of Esquivel’s sons wounded.


The incident prompted the Commission on Elections to place the province under its control. Antonino won his reelection bid while Esquivel lost.


Last May, the two squared off in a four-way congressional fight with Antonino again emerging victorious.


Antonino is also reported to be contemplating on running for senator to follow in the footsteps of his parents Gaudencio and Magnolia Antonino who both became senators in the late 60s.


At the same time, Antonino has voiced his concern over the role he will play at the Balane following reports that Esquivel appeared in one of its recent meetings. “The actuations of the party at this point, especially the presence of Esquivel in one of the meetings makes me at a loss on how I will put myself in Balane,” he said. (Jason de Asis)