DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/01 July) – Apparently incensed by the refusal of her request to delay the demolition of houses owned by informal settlers in a barangay here, Mayor Sara Duterte hit a court sheriff with a couple of punches in full view of residents and reporters.
Prior to it, a police officer and three others persons had been injured after the demolition this morning at Purok Soliman in Barangay Tomas Monteverde Sr. resulted in a scuffle when some residents offered resistance.
The violence prompted Duterte to punch court sheriff Abe Andres who was trying to enforce the demolition order on informal settlers in a 2,000-square meter land.
TV cameras were able to get footage of Duterte hitting Andres who just turned his back and tried to cover his face as the mayor’s aides tried to stop her.
Duterte admitted that she was unable to control her temper because the sheriff turned down her request to give her two hours before enforcing the demolition because she was still in Barangay Matina attending to the concerns of the flood victims.
“I have earlier requested the court that we will enforce the demolition order together because the residents will not follow any orders from the court except from the mayor,” she told reporters.
For humanitarian reasons, Duterte said she requested for the two-hour extension, or until 11a.m., so that she could still hold a dialogue with the residents before enforcing the demolition order. She added no violence could have ensued had the sheriff listened to her.
She, however, clarified that she did not order a stop to the demolition that would affect 220 families, but only wanted to have it enforced peacefully.
In an interview with GMA News Davao, Andres said he had no plans of filing a formal complaint against the mayor.
At 9a.m., the demolition team which was reportedly hired by the Davao Enterprises Corporation, and Andres arrived along with members of the City Disturbance Management of the police’s Davao City Public Safety Company.
Barangay Councilor Edgardo Robledo said that when the court sheriff ordered the demolition team to start dismantling the houses the residents barricaded the main entrance of the village.
Police Supt. Dionisio Abude, DCPSC chief, told MindaNews that they could not exactly determine who started the violence.
The police, who were armed with shields and truncheons, dismantled the barricade and led the demolition team as the residents fought back, Abude said.
“Then stones and bottles, some filled with urines, were hurled against the police and demolition team,” he said.
Inspector Peter John Muring, team leader of the anti-riot police, was hit by an “Indian pana” (sling dart) in the leg and was rushed to the hospital.
Abude could not yet identify who shot Muring.
Three other unidentified persons were also injured. Two of them were hit by stones in the head while the other one was injured during the melee.
The residents alleged that the demolition team was composed of some gang members from the Quezon Boulevard area.
A member of the demolition team told MindaNews that the landowner promised to pay them P300 each for the job.
Duterte also scolded the police for failing to control the situation. “Look at the demolition team, it seems they are not here to demolish, they are here for a riot,” she said in front of the police officers.
Tension eased when the mayor arrived at 10a.m. and held a dialogue with the residents, barangay officials and the police.
Under a scorching sun, Duterte convened the barangays officials with city councilors Tomas Monteverde Jr. and Al Ryan Alejandre in the middle of the street, which was closed to traffic from 9a.m. until the mayor left at 3:30p.m.
By 12 noon, two fire trucks arrived supposedly to be used against resisting residents. But Duterte refused to use them as she was still talking to the lawyers and wanted to resolve the row peacefully.
The mayor assured the residents that the city government already had a relocation site for them.
She explained to the residents that they had already lost the legal battle and the court had issued an order to demolish their houses.
She asked the residents to voluntarily submit their names to facilitate their relocation and voluntarily demolish their houses.
“So that you can still use some parts of your houses, you voluntarily demolish your houses and we will help you move to the relocation site in barangay Tugbok or Tibungco,” she told the crowd.
At 4pm, some residents started demolishing their houses.
Ignacio dela Peña, 71, said he would voluntarily demolish his house and move to the relocation site.
“I have no choice, we have lost the case and the mayor has assured us of our relocation site,” said dela Peña, who had lived in Purok Soliman since 1956. (Keith Bacongco and Ruby Thursday More/MindaNews)