How to Bully Councilors and Get Away With It

Apr. 09, 2006

It is the duty of the City Council to stick its nose into anything that concerns the people. Councilors should not allow one arrogant colonel to redefine what democracy mandates them to do.

Commentary: HACKLES By Carlos H. CondeDAVAO CITY Task Force Davao was created in 2003, in the aftermath of the bombings in this city in April of that year, solely for this purpose: to fight terrorism. Since then, however, it has metamorphosed into something else.

Im not talking about the fact that the TFD, which is dominated by the military, has practically usurped the functions of the police, or that the ubiquitous presence of TFD troops has made the city look like a garrison. Im talking about something far more pernicious.

I remember TFDs chief, Colonel Eduardo del Rosario, castigating City Councilor Angela Librado one time for attending a rally against the Balikatan exercises. In his usual acerbic and smug tone, del Rosario strongly hinted that Librado was helping the Communists and that what she was doing — railing against US imperialism basically — was a betrayal of public trust.

It was the first hint, to me at least, that the Task Force Davao and del Rosario himself were going to insinuate themselves into the lives of Davaoenos much more deeply and much more insidiously than the act of stopping us in bus terminals or at checkpoints to see whether were terrorists.

True enough, that incident with Librado was the beginning of another war del Rosario has been waging since: against our city councilors. As if fighting terrorists, Islamic militants, and Communists were not enough preoccupations.

A few days ago, del Rosario was at it again, lambasting the City Council particularly the committees investigating the violence in the hinterlands of Paquibato district because, according to him, they were poking their noses in the wrong places. He said, in a nutshell, that the City Council has no business probing the crisis in Paquibato because it was a police matter.

I have always been offended by the fact that del Rosario and his ilk have the temerity to tell the public, including our public officials, what to do and think. This time, by trying to intimidate the City Council from doing its job, del Rosario went too far.

He has become not just the thought police. He has arrogated unto himself the role of a despotic king, commanding his subjects that they cannot do this, they cannot say that.

(And generals have the gall to complain that politicians should not politicize or intervene in the military? Whoever said that civilians are interfering in purely military affairs, in the context of what happened the past few months, is wrong. The military has been interfering heck, theyre the ones running the show! in our civilian affairs for ages.)

In any case, if there was any doubt on my mind that del Rosario has compromised the independence of the City Council and has intimidated some councilors, it vanished after I read davaotoday.coms report of the councils public hearing on the Paquibato crisis on April 5. In that hearing, not only was del Rosario given more than enough time to castigate the councilors — especially Councilor Nenita Orcullo, who earlier demanded that the military stopped arming the Lumads in the district — del Rosario made sure the intimidation was thorough: he and the 401st Brigade brought in dozens of battle-ready troops in military trucks and had the whole venue practically surrounded, complete with video and photo documentation.

What were councilors Bonifacio Militar and Jimmy Dureza, chairmen of the two committees who organized the public hearing, thinking when they allowed the military and the Task Force Davao to do that sort of thing? Didnt they know that the military is alleged to be behind the terror there? The committees went to Paquibato precisely to hear what the civilian residents had to say about the terror theyve been going through. But who in his right mind would honestly say what he knows or feels in that environment? (Dont even get me started on how the councilors, particularly Militar, ever the bully, conducted the hearing.)

And Orcullo? The Tagalogs have a word for what happened to her: tumiklop. Which makes you wonder: Did she get the wrong information when she wrote that resolution calling for the disbandment of the paramilitary groups in Paquibato, or did she develop a severe case of stage fright when she sat onstage that Wednesday with del Rosario? Whatever, she was disappointing.

It is the duty of the City Council to stick its nose into anything that concerns the people. Our councilors should not allow one arrogant colonel to redefine what democracy mandates them to do.

Having said that, I am not surprised really that del Rosario is doing what hes doing: its his job and its his nature. He would insinuate himself into anything as long as it advances his cause and as long as he can get away with it.

The real anomaly is when you, my dear councilors, allow him to hijack the City Council. The only thing thats worse than that is when you keep up the pretense that we are in a democracy.

(Carlos H. Conde is the editor of, an online publication. He also writes for The New York Times and the International Herald Tribune.)

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