Duterte Finds Davao Elections a Real Ho-hum

Apr. 26, 2007

But feisty mayor, who is facing no real threat to his position in next months elections, takes pains to justify his decision to field his initially reluctant daughter as his running mate.

Like Father, Like Daughter. Mayor Rodrigo Duterte and his daughter Sara at a campaign rally this week. The mayor says Sara is the only one who can beat potential challengers to his throne. (davaotoday.com photo by Barry Ohaylan)

By Marilou M. Aguirre

DAVAO CITY “Murag walay eleksyon nga naay eleksyon. Murag naay eleksyon nga walay eleksyon. (It doesnt feel like we have an election in an election season.)

This was how Mayor Rodrigo Duterte described the upcoming elections during a rally this week in Piapi, Boulevard, a neighborhood in the city’s first district.

Seemingly confident with his partys victory on May 14, the tough-talking mayor said that this election is not challenging mainly because he and his party have no strong opponent.. This is not to mock our opponents, but this election is definitely not hot, he told his audience, composed mostly of Moros, in Visayan. However, he warned them, if voters are not careful in writing down the names of their bets, he might have a problem with his namesake, Rodrigo Sulamin, who is running against him.

Candidates who dared to challenge Duterte in the mayoralty race are running independent. Duterte, on the other hand, has the full backing of his political groups the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) and Hugpong. His opponents are virtual nobodies in Davao politics.

Because they have no strong opponents, Duterte said he and the candidates under his slate could afford not to campaign or hold political rallies in the city’s different barangays. The city has three congressional districts. The first district, based on the Commission on Election figures, has 54 barangays (villages) with 300,529 total voters.

“But I told my daughter Sara that we have to face the people, because they are the ones paying our services,” Duterte said.

Run, Sara, Run

Sara, 28, a lawyer, is Duterte’s running mate. She will run against an independent candidate, medical doctor Jeff Ho, for the vice-mayoralty seat. Months ago, Duterte announced that he was fielding Sara because he was afraid that City Hall might end up in the hands of a traditional politician. With Sara being groomed to replace him, the mayor said he was assured of continuity of his plans and programs for the city.

Bored? Mayor Rodrigo Duterte addressing a crowd during a political rally this week. Despite the colorful and lively ambience, the mayor says he’s bored with the elections. (davaotoday.com photo by Barry Ohaylan)

But the Duterte tandem raised the question on political dynasty.

“I have prepared myself for any position when I decided to run, Sara told the crowd. I was prepared to run as mayor, vice mayor, congresswoman and even as a councilor.”

But prior to that, she said, she did not immediately gave in to his father’s decision to make her run. “I had a hard time sleeping, thinking what others might say,” Sara said. She anticipated people to think that “gisolo na lang na nila ang posisyon” that the Dutertes have monopolized City Hall.

Thus, she asked her father to bring her along in his sorties to the communities and the hinterlands so she would have a feel of the city’s conditions. What made decide, she said, was her realization after they visited Tapak, a village in Paquibato, a hinterland district of Davao.

Sara recalled that she had talked with a humble and very simple young man there during one of their visits. The man was a public school teacher but Sara said that by the way he looked, she could not tell.

“The man could have opted to teach in the city where life is much comfortable. But he chose to stay, believing that his service is more needed there through educating the children,” Sara said.

Sara said the man inspired her to accept his father’s decision to make her his running mate.

For those who doubt her capacity, Sara said she is not a neophyte when it comes to working within the government. “After I passed the bar exam, I worked as a court attorney in the Supreme Court,” she said.

Her father, however, has another reason to tell.

Against De Guzman

Some three or four months ago, former Davao City mayor Benjamin De Guzman said that he would run for vice mayor and said that he and Duterte could work in tandem. De Guzman is running for congressman of the third district.

But Duterte said e could never allow this to happen. Duterte said that he supported De Guzman, a former ally, all the way until the latter became mayor. The relationship went downhill afterward. Their rift, of which Duterte has been vocal about, has deep roots.

“Binaboy niya ang pamilya ko (He disrespected my family), an irate Duterte said at the rally. Even the late broadcaster Jun Pala was not spared by the mayor’s anger because according to the mayor Pala, in defending de Guzman, also allegedly disrespected Duterte and his family. Pala was shot dead a few years ago, a crime that has been attributed to Duterte although no charges were ever filed against the mayor.

During the rally, the mayor enumerated the reasons for his strong disagreement with de Guzman. One of these is the 300 million-peso loan made by the local government under de Guzman’s administration to build the Artica Dome in Ma-a. The said coliseum was not finished and the government is still paying two million pesos a month for the interest alone of the said loan.

Duterte said it would be a disaster if de Guzman becomes his vice mayor. Thus, he said, he was determined to block such a possibility.

What pushed Duterte to field his daughter, he said, was the result of the surveys conducted by Sun.Star, a local paper, and UMBN, a local radio station. He said Sara’s victory was highly probable, based on the surveys. Though he recognized the capacity and the rich experiences of local legislators like councilors Nilo Abellera, Bonifacio Militar and Mabel Sunga allies who could be his running mate — Duterte was certain that only Sara could beat de Guzman. (Marilou M. Aguirre/davaotoday.com)

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