LETTERS FROM DAVAO

By Jun Ledesma

HUGPONG ng Pagbabago ruled over in the just concluded elections. But what else will one expect? Except in the mayoral race where former congressman Ruy Elias Lopez challenged Sebastian “Baste” Duterte, While social activist Magz Maglana tested a bid for a congressional seat against incumbent Rep. Paolo “Polong” Duterte, everything else was bland and uneventful.

Both Lopez and Maglana have the name but hardly do they have a perceptible political organization. They faced a formidable HnP chaired by Davao City Mayor Inday Sara Duterte. In fact, everybody who wants to be somebody in elective government posts gravitated toward the regional party. And because there is hardly an organized political opposition in this southern capital the HnP members slug it out among themselves agreeing to a pact: “may the best man …and woman win”. 

There is no truth that only a Duterte is heir to a post vacated by a Duterte. City councilors whose three terms had lapsed had their sons and daughters run and handily won. 

There are extremely lucky ones too. The Vice-mayor elect, Melchor Quitain Jr., son of the legal officer and speechwriter of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte (yes, he has one) ran unopposed. The other is re-electionist House Deputy Speaker and District 3 Rep. Sid Ungab. 

The demise of opposition in Davao City can be a cause of concern. While the leadership and integrity of the Duterte are held high it can lead to ennui in the government bureaucracy. And it can be infectious. Mayor Inday Sara’s landmark project, the underground laying of power and communications cables, was so slow nobody seemed to mind the diggings done on the main city roads that have become breeding grounds for mosquitoes and kangkong plantations. The langour also invites abuse. When the City Council invited DPWH, PLDT, and the power company to a council probe over the unconscionable delay of the project, the response was lackadaisical. Good thing there are still members of the City Council, like Pilar Braga, who had the guts to haul them before the legislative body and force them to action. 

Braga barely made it in the last polls. This time we hope that under the leadership of Baste, the City Council will initiate a probe into why the city traffic lights stopped operating. Again, for a number of months, nobody seemed to mind.

The opposition before was led by the late House Speaker Prospero  Nograles. He had attempted to diminish the popularity of Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and of Inday Sara but to no avail.  He created monstrous issues like extrajudicial killings and attributed these to non-existent Davao death squads. “Nogie” filed a number of alleged corruption issues before the Ombudsman but not one prospered. He wanted to be mayor but he lost even to Sara in her first foray to be Mayor of Davao City. 

Fast forward, in a supreme irony, Nogie’s son Karlo was later appointed as Cabinet Secretary and Presidential Spokesman. Thus, whatever is left in a fragmented opposition in Davao City had been totally expunged.

And so here we are. 

Inday Sara will take her oath as Vice President of the Philippines on June 19. That’s the birthday of our National Hero Jose Rizal. The venue will be in Davao City. President-elect Bongbong Marcos has nominated her as Department Secretary for Education and she has accepted the challenge. 

In the meantime, friends and admirers of PRRD, who have not seen him for almost six years are looking forward to meeting and hobnobbing with private citizen Duterte again. True, he comes home to Davao quite frequently in the course of his presidency, but we hoi polloi never had the chance of meeting him. He is virtually incommunicado in his old bungalow (where once Japan Prime Minister Shinzo Abe visited) with layers of presidential security guards one has to pass through it is simply impossible to get to President Duterte.

PSG will still be detailed to him and as usual, will still be on their toes. He just made a pledge that he will continue running after drug syndicates. This, and maybe act as an adviser to his youngest son and now Mayor Baste.

About the Columnist

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Mr. Jun Ledesma is a community journalist who writes from Davao City and comments from the perspective of a Mindanaoan.