In Duterte’s last term, Davao folk want some things done

Jul. 12, 2007

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By Marilou M. Aguirre and Cheryll D. Fiel
Davao Today

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has served for six consecutive years as mayor. During that time, he cultivated a persona that is both respected and feared by the people of Davao. But achieving that is not half as important as using it as political capital to attain goodwill, which, after all, is the one thing a leader such as Duterte needs in order to govern effectively. And no one doubts that Duterte has tons of it.

Which is why the next three years — his last term because the Philippine Constitution only allows a mayor to hold the office for nine consecutive years, or the equivalent of three terms — will prove crucial in how he and his administration will fullfill certain promises — promises that Davaoenos are keenly aware of. Much of the goodwill that Duterte enjoys comes from these sectors.

As with most leaders in the final years of their rule, Duterte is expected to be mindful of his legacy. And the public expects their much-beloved mayor to leave one that is not confined to the stereotypes of him — tough-talking, brutally frank, uncompromising, to name a few.

Mayor Rodrigo Duterte at his inaugural. ( photo by Marilou M. Aguirre)

Residents interviewed by said they want Duterte to be more than his image. They want him to address and find solutions for what they think are the important issues or problems besetting the city.

In his inauguration in 2004, Duterte lined up specific projects that he promised to implement before his term ends. These include the Urban Drainage and Flood Control Project (UDFC), the Sensorized Traffic Signalization Project (STS), the Shelter and Urban Land Reform Program (SULR), and the Farm to Market/Alternate Roads Project (FMAR).

Under the SULR Program, City Hall aimed to accelerate its urban land-reform program by acquiring and developing suitable lands as relocation sites for the homeless. Duterte said that no less than 100 million pesos will be allocated for this program. And, according to him, if he had to take and develop by force idle lands suitable for housing, he would certainly do so.

Three years after that promise, housing remains a problem in Davao City.

“A lot of people are still occupying private and even government-owned lots,” said councilor Jimmy Dureza. “There must be a program for relocating these communities and housing units must be provided so these people can live decently,” he told

Editha “Inday” Duterte, spokesperson of the Anakpawis partylist group in Southern Mindanao who is not related to the mayor, shared Dureza’s view. “Even though the Shelter Code exists, the city’s housing program remains hanging in the balance,” she said, referring to a law passed last month by the City Council that was supposed to deal with the lack of housing. “The government must genuinely help those who don’t have the capacity to buy their own house,” she said.

Alfred Depala, the spokesman of the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) in Davao City, believes that the program was the least priority among the major projects during Duterte’s second term. To unnderscore this point, Depala cited the continuing demolition of urban-poor communities and what he called “development projects that could displace many people.”

In the past year, communities in Bankerohan and Agdao, for example, were demolished, Depala said. Many would hope that within three years and beyond, poor communities would be spared from demolition, especially if there is no concrete relocation and housing programs, he said.

“But the people do not just need a housing program,” Depala said. “What’s more important is that it must be integrated with livelihood, roads and utilities, such as electricity and water.” He said government’s funds must be rechanneled to prioritize the provision of basic social services to the people of Davao.

This was seconded by Wilfredo Lacatan, 49, a teacher from Lapu-lapu Elementary School in Buhangin. He said livelihood projects must be provided to poor communities.

Councilor Emmanuel Galicia, as well as Dureza, urged Duterte to prioritize poverty and housing on his last term. “I hope, by next year, these will be solved,” Galicia said. Dureza said livelihood assistance program for the people must be pursued. Dureza and Galicia are Duterte allies who ended their terms at the City Council last month.

Workers’ Protection

Ma. Theresa Bunal, 35, sells juice and snack foods at her small stall outside the City Council building. She has been doing that for about six years now and her frequent customers are mostly employees from the local government. As such, she has cultivated friendships with many of them. Several of them are non-regular employees in government whose salaries are always delayed.

“I hope the government can give their salaries on time,” Bunal said. “If not, they would be buried deep in debt.”

Most of the time, nonregular government employees are paid late. Because of this, they are compelled to borrow money, usually at a usurious 20-percent interest, or what is known as “5-6.”

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