Duterte and Davao

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Sunday, March 29, 2015


DAVAO CITY – A few days in this progressive urban center in Mindanao is not enough to absorb and judge if what is happening here is good for the rest of the country. Yes, I saw several good things but not enough to convince me about Mayor Digong Duterte becoming the next president of the Philippines.

A long time ago, Davao City was known as a hotbed of Leftist urban insurgents that turned one big district into what they called ‘Nicaragdao.’ When President Cory Aquino unsheathed the “sword of war,” Davao became known for anti-communist vigilantes like Alsa Masa. Then the criminal syndicates came.

Apparently, Mayor Duterte’s strong arm solution to crime earned him the support of a large sector in Davao. This is the message of government officials and some entrepreneurs we met. I sensed this from feedbacks of veteran journalists in Davao. I saw this even in
the grudging acknowledgement of two cab drivers who were very critical of several Duterte policies.

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I am referring to the city’s reputation for having adopted the vigilante method in addressing crime.

“May warning naman,” said one official. Davao residents listen to Mayor Duterte’s 30-minute television program every weekend. That’s where the mayor reportedly air warnings to identified criminals. Most leave after being warned, said a resident who swore most folks there are avid listeners.

Our tour guides, however, tell us that Davao City is simply one that implements city ordinances strictly. Thus, our delegation of journalists and bloggers on a familiarization tour sponsored by AirAsia Philippines became conscious of policies like the strict anti-smoking ordinance and the curfew on drinking alcoholic drinks.

With the positioning of Davao city as safe and secure in attracting tourists and investors, the DOT also brought us to the Public Safety and Security Command Center where we watched the use of CCTV cameras not only for traffic management but also in anti-crime operations. Having partnered with IBM a few years ago, Davao city has the most advanced CCTV system in the country.

With the sense of safety and security today, residents are now going out more often for dinner that led to the proliferation of restaurants for instance, said one Davao editor. Well, our group had a taste of the high end “The White House” and nightlife dining destinations Jack’s Ridge and Matina Town Center.

Apparently, local entrepreneurs like Nichole Vanessa Layno of BluGre Coffee are happy with the local business atmosphere. Allow me to mention the coffee shop’s unique Durian coffee that even non-Durian eaters like me enjoyed.

Of course, Durian is not just what attracts people to Davao. Among others, the AirAsia tour brought us to the Eden mountain resort, a visit of the center for Philippine eagles, and snorkelling at a taklobo farm. Tourism officials are proud of Davao’s increasing tourist arrivals.

Still, I think not all are satisfied with nightlife that ends early. Unlike Cebu City, one’s last order of liquor must be at 12 midnight and one must finish the drink at 1 a.m. Of course, one could continue the drinking spree by going to Samal Island, said two taxi drivers even as they lamented the lack of nightlife in Davao city. I was on a taxi at around 10 p.m. last Friday and the streets looked deserted, a scene unthinkable in Cebu city.

***

The Christian world goes into a week of prayer and reflection of the life and passion of Christ. I hope the reflective atmosphere strengthens the desire for peace in contrast to the calls for war that we experienced after the Mamasapano tragedy.

I found it ironic that the general atmosphere for peace and prayer when Pope Francis visited the Philippines easily turned into frenzy for revenge in a few days. Perhaps, the Holy Week would set the right tone for discussing peace.

Of course, peace is something that goes with building trust and justice to make it lasting. Building trust means each party and the respective constituents should show they can be trusted. Apparently, many don’t trust the MILF. But then, while P-Noy’s peace panel is talking with the MILF, he orders a stealth commando operation near the rebel camp.

Lasting peace is also economically sustainable. But can we trust corrupt officials on both sides to carry out a sustainable economic program? I view the coming Bangsamoro Basic Law debates at the Senate and the Lower House with these filters in mind.

(@anol_cebu in Twitter)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 30, 2015.

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