DAVAO CITY—Davao City’s first woman mayor and the youngest to have been elected to the post finally took her oath of office Monday morning, switching role with her father, the incoming vice mayor, and ushering in another era of the Duterte’s unquestioned rule in the city.
Vowing to be “useful and to serve the country at all times,” mayor-elect Sara Duterte, the vice mayor in the last three years, now assumes the post that her father Rodrigo Duterte, the outgoing city mayor, had held for over 20 years.
With father and daughter at the legislative and executive branch of government, the Dutertes will practically lord it over the city at least in another three years.
Sara won over House Speaker Prospero Nograles, her father’s long time political rival, in an overwhelming lead of 200,000 votes in the last elections. Nograles earlier filed a protest at the Commission on Elections in Manila questioning the results, alleging a “conspiracy” of local poll officials with Duterte.
In her inaugural speech, the young Duterte admitted wanting to be a pediatrician instead of a politician. “I never wanted to be a politician but today I speak before you as city mayor,” she said.
“Life is not about insisting on what we want, it’s about accepting and aligning with our higher purpose,” said the former law graduate of San Beda College, who used to shun her father’s political life until 2007 when she ran for vice mayor and won in tandem with her father.
“I sincerely want to serve our city, I hope I can make a difference,” Sara told the media minutes after she was sworn in to office. Duterte’s political group Hugpong sa Tawong Lungsod enjoyed an overwhelming victory in the last elections, their numbers dominating the 27-seat City Council.
The older Duterte had earned the ire of human rights groups for his “tacit” approval—implied in his public statements—of the extrajudicial killings of alleged drug pushers and criminals in the city.
In a 2009 report, “You can Die Anytime,” the international group Human Rights Watch gathered testimonies from witnesses and relatives which pointed to a close link with the police among those believed to have carried out the killings. The testimonies also showed that some of the victims were merely “mistaken identities.”
The Commission on Human Rights did a series of public inquiry on the extrajudicial killings in Davao city last year.
In a live interview with online magazine Bulatlat.com , outgoing Human Rights Commissioner Leila De Lima said that the issue about the Davao Death Squad is one of those which “affected” her most during her stint as Human Rights Commissioner because of the “negative public reaction” of people in the area. “It was not just a reaction but also resistance to the investigation that CHR was conducting,” De Lima said. “Most people, I could see and I could feel, welcome the kind of stance exhibited by the mayor. It affected me because I wanted to do something right but we are not getting the right public support.”
Sara said not all killings in Davao City are “extrajudicial” in nature, and that the police have been having a hard time segregating one from the other. (Germelina Lacorte/davaotoday.com)