DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 24 March) — Vice Presidential candidate Walden Bello is “unconcerned and unbothered” that the City Council here declared him ‘persona non grata,’ and vowed to return to this city.
“I shall return to Davao!,” he declared.
The City Council here unanimously passed a resolution on Tuesday condemning Bello’s “malicious tirades” and said the Professor and former Akbayan party-list representative is “not welcome to enter the borders, and the entire territorial jurisdiction of Davao City.”
The resolution flaunted 118 awards the city received from 2016 to 2021 to respond to Bello’s claims the city needs cleaning up.
The resolution was sponsored by Councilor Danilo Dayanghirang, chair of the Committee on Finance, Ways and Means and Appropriation, who is running for representative of the 2nd congressional district under Hugpong ng Tawong Lungsod (HTL), the local party of President Rodrigo Duterte.
“I am unconcerned and unbothered by the decision of local Davao elites to declare me as persona non grata,” Bello said, adding he considers “ordinary people in Davao to be far more important than those privileged few who have sold their souls to the Dutertes.”
He said his conversations with workers, farmers, professionals in Davao City last week “have revealed an immense dissatisfaction with the corruption and hypocrisy of the city’s dynasty,” Bello added.
Bello has been challenging Mayor Sara Duterte to show up during debates with other vice-presidential candidates so the people will know her views on various issues.
The mayor was a no-show at the Comelec-organized “PiliPinas Debates 2022: The Turning Point” last Sunday. She was also a no-show in the CNN Vice Presidential Debate last month.
“I reiterate: if the coward Mayor Sara is confident about her track record, she should show up to debate me. She should stop sending lackeys like Tupas and the City Council to try to wash her dirty laundry.”
Bello was referring to Jefry Tupas, City Information Office chief whom the mayor fired in November after she was “involved in a drug raid” according to the mayor’s statement. Tupas filed on March 7 a complaint for cyberlibel against Bello, for allegedly besmirching her reputation. Tupas demanded “not less than 10 million pesos” in moral damages.
In Resolution 03407-22, the legislative body called Bello’s statement malicious and said he “discredited the efforts” of the city government and the Dabawenyos.
It claimed Bello’s statements would debilitate Davao City’s economic recovery efforts and affect tourism and investment.
The Vice Presidential debate tackled four issues, one of them corruption. On this particular issue, Bello said he would “focus on cleaning up Davao” and cited the coastal road project which he claimed costs one million pesos per meter, the public utility bus system which he alleged “defrauded so many people” and “Davao as the drug center of the south under the control of a member of the Duterte family.”
The last allegation triggered a response from the mayor’s regional party, Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HnP) which tagged Bello as a “narcopolitician in a way that he withheld information crucial in the government’s anti-drug campaign” and that it had “already requested for an investigation into the extent of Mr. Bello’s knowledge and involvement in the illegal drug trade in Davao City.”
Bello dismissed as “ridiculous” the HnP’s reference to him as a narcopolitician. He said he has “never even been rumored to be involved in the drug trade – unlike certain members of the Duterte family.”
“Maybe Sara Duterte’s party is confusing me for Polong Duterte?” Bello asked. Mayor Duterte’s elder brother Paolo, and her husband Manases Carpio, were called to a Senate hearing in 2017 for alleged involvement in the 6.4 billion peso shabu shipment from China. Paolo was then Vice Mayor. Both denied the allegations.
In May 2018, the Office of the Ombudsman dismissed the complaints against Duterte and Carpio on the 6.4 billion peso shabu shipment “for lack of basis.”
Bello has repeatedly challenged Duterte to appear before her opponents and called her absence in the debates cowardice.
Duterte and presidential candidate Ferdinand Marcos, Jr. have been absent from several public debates set up by different organizers, most recently PiliPinas Debates 2022. (Yas D. Ocampo / MindaNews)