LETTERS FROM DAVAO
By Jun Ledesma
THE 2022 elections are fast approaching but unlike in previous years, the mood is damp and lacks the usual hoopla and excitement that characterized the presidential election in the past. I do not think that the pandemic has anything to do with it at all. Within the year, the country will be swamped with all kinds of vaccines and if things won’t go wrong the country shall have achieved the universal target of 75% herd immunity. Let’s take it from the US experience. The Covid-19 infections were at an alarming rate but the Americans were throwing away precautions as the campaign for President was in full swing. We Pinoys are no different, in fact, an election derby is a much-awaited event it could pass as a favorite pastime.
While no politicians in the running ever believed they will lose (unless cheated) the usual election fever has not started to simmer. Is it because the Pulse Asia survey showed that Davao City Mayor is a runaway winner? Or no one is interested to take on the job of the President in the midst of the pandemic?
Remember the last time Pulse Asia made a survey to ascertain whether Duterte still has the people’s trust and approval with all the tirades coming from the opposition? He got a 91% rating, something which leaders all over the globe devoutly wish. Since I am from Davao in the deep down south, I texted Sen. Imee Marcos from the northernmost and asked what she thinks of the rating the man from the boondocks (to borrow the word of Jim Paredes in describing Duterte). Her crisp repartee: “91% approval exempts PRRD from the usual lame-duck last years. He will determine 2022."
Could this public perception of Duterte be the reason why we do not feel the election fever yet? Let’s look at the latest survey of Pulse Asia on who will likely be the people’s choice to replace Duterte. Davao City Mayor Inday Sara Duterte is on the apogee. Her score is almost twice as much as the first runner up. VP Leni Robredo, the declared presidential bet of the Liberal Party was No. 6 in the list of 11.
And yet now and again the President disapproves of Inday Sara vying for the presidency. “Maawa ako sa anak ko. The presidency is not a job for a woman', he was often quoted. Even former House Speaker Pantaleon “Bebot” Alvarez, the one who was jettisoned from his post after picking up a fight with the President’s daughter, started with what he termed as “voters education rally”. One of the criteria for a presidentiable he lectured, is, in his own lingo: “Dapat may bayag”. The next day he lost a number of his political allies.
But look at Davao City Mayor Inday Sara up close. She is in the middle of the battle against coronavirus which is her top health priority. The city is the center of commerce and industry in Mindanao and the busiest port for southern entry and exit. She has just launched a bus system for Davao City which involves the fielding of not less than 1,000 units of fully air-conditioned passenger buses. This will be the first of its kind in the country. These will replace the jeepneys. She is neither hobbled by the pandemic nor the critics.
What other Davao City mayors, including her father, have not done in the past she is doing the way she wanted to. Two years ago she gently asked the power and telecom firms to lay down their cables underground. She wants those ugly cable cobwebs out of the city major thoroughfares. This resulted in terrible inconvenience but her constituents understand what it takes to achieve development targets. The Davao City Water District too is about to accomplish a ₱12.5-billion bulk water project that will deliver 300-million liters of potable water daily to the city’s growing population. This resource is in addition to the present volume of water that comes from the city aquifers. The alternate source will allow the aquifers to be recharged. There are diggings all over the city on account of all these development projects not to mention the widening of farm-to-market roads but Dabawenyos endure knowing the benefits of these all.
So, how can those who know Inday Sara not want her to succeed her father? Under her term, the economic growth of Davao City was at 9% (pre-pandemic figure). The revenues of the city allowed her to construct concrete roads that connect the hinterland barangays to the main arteries thereby reducing the cost of transport of farmers produce and increasing their incomes.
It was not her fault that she emerged to be the top contender in the survey. She was not even aware that a survey was being undertaken. Of course, she ought to express her gratitude for those who backed her. It is part of her virtues. But critics, including a fact-checker, thinks she hankers for the Presidency.
Well, it pays to have a father who is President of the country for now this coastal city, three times bigger than Metro Manila and six times bigger than Metro Cebu will finally have a coastal boulevard and a train system that will be shared with several towns and cities of Davao del Norte and Davao del Sur. The Alpha in the family, as her father cautioned former House Speaker Alvarez, Mayor Inday is known to many political pundits in Davao as an “iron lady”. Come to think of it, she toppled two Speakers in the Lower House: Bebot Alvarez, who made the mistake of suspecting her to be opposition for having organized the Hugpong Ng Pagbabago, a regional party which actually supports the President’s programs, and, the late Speaker Prospero “ Boy” Nograles whom she trounced in the mayoral elections in 2010.
Inday Sara Duterte for President? Why not? But the lady is busy and had repeatedly declined the prospects which others are drolling for. But why find fault in Inday Sara if people want her to run for President.
About the Columnist
Mr. Jun Ledesma is a community journalist who writes from Davao City and comments from the perspective of a Mindanaoan.