MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/13 December) – Opponents of the coal-fired power plant project of Aboitiz Power Corp. have big reasons to be dismayed over the decision of the majority of the Davao City council overturning Mayor Sara Duterte’s veto of an ordinance that favors the company. They must have thought they were on the brink of total victory when the mayor thumbed down the project calling it inimical to the people’s health and the environment.
The opposition lost the battle at the city council. And they’re thinking perhaps that their lot is the same as that of the mayor, who professes concern for the general welfare by vetoing the pro-Aboitiz ordinance. They could be right in their presumption.
But the bigger picture is far from ideal if one looks beyond the issue of whether the city should allow the construction of a coal-fired power plant despite the risks it poses. What has probably escaped from public attention is that regardless of the outcome there’s no way for the Dutertes to lose in the political sense; they have all the bases covered.
Here’s why: The mayor has endeared herself to the environment groups and other sectors opposed to the project. On the other hand, her father, Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, apparently wanted to assure the investors that he can still turn things around with a malleable city council. Son Paolo, who sits as president of the Association of Barangay Councils, played it safe by opting to abstain from voting on the motion to override the veto.
However, the elder Duterte, ever the cunning politician, was absent when the council decided on the fate of the veto. His absence made him technically not part of the decision that may have put the last nail on the coffin of the opposition to the coal-fired power plant. He let the pro-Aboitiz councilors take the blows, including those coming from the mayor. He knew she wouldn’t give the lawmakers a taste of what she did to that hapless court sheriff a few months back.
Indeed, the vice mayor has been insulated from criticisms that greeted the twenty-one councilors after they overruled the veto with undue haste. On hindsight, it could be because right from the start he has made it clear that he is in favor of the plant.
Knowing the vice mayor’s obstinacy when it comes to policy matters, the opposition to the project had pinned their hopes on the individual consciences of the councilors. Apparently, however, their noise, protests and warnings on the ill-effects of coal-fired power plants were muted by the promise of a merry Christmas to the councilors from an invisible corporate lobby.
Observers may find it interesting, if not amusing, that the Dutertes are finding themselves at opposite poles of the issue. I find it frustrating that regardless of how it finally ends they can still have the best of both worlds. (MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. H. Marcos C. Mordeno can be reached at [email protected])