Last of three parts
DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 17 May) — The May 9, 2022 election in Davao City was the first after 12 years where the Duterte Dynasty faced challengers who are highly qualified but cannot match their nearly four-decade old political machinery.
Lawyer Ruy Elias Lopez, three-term representative of the third congressional district from 1998 to 2007, filed his certificate of candidacy (COC) for mayor against three-term mayor Sara Duterte on the last hour on the last day of filing on October 8, 2021. Maria Victoria “Mags” Maglana, a much sought-after facilitator and consultant on governance, peace and development, filed her COC shortly before 2 p.m. for Representative of the 1st congressional district against reelectionist Paolo Duterte.
Both ran as independent candidates.
Lopez said he ran for mayor to give Davao City a choice. Not challenging the Dutertes, he said, is “not good for democracy.”
Maglana told reporters after filing her COC that she did so in the hope that the May 2022 elections would end the then 35-year governance playbook in the city under the leadership of long-time mayor and since 2016, President, Rodrigo Roa Duterte. She challenged residents to “explore other and better futures,” with a “shared vision and a commitment to make way for what is possible, rather than just stick with what we have gotten used to.”
Duterte’s three children with Elizabeth Zimmerman, had filed their COCs before Lopez and Maglana did: Sara for mayor, Sebastian for vice mayor and Paolo for a second term as 1st district Representative.
“Nakita ko kasi walang lumalaban sa kanila so that means kawawa naman itong Davao City. Sara for mayor, Baste for vice mayor, Pulong for congressman. Sila-sila na lang, para bang palit-palitan lang sila. Okay, ikaw three terms ka. Parang ganyan ganyan lang sila. Tapos wala namang lumalaban sa kanila. Lahat ng politiko dito sa Davao puro man magaling lang magsipsip, wala mang abilidad na iba so sabi ko there must be change here in Davao. Mali ito eh. For me, mali in the sense na dapat may choice din ang tao.”
He was facing Sara, who would be running for a third consecutive term from 2016 but actually her fourth, to add the first term from 2010 to 2013.
His last attempt in an electoral contest was in 2010 when he managed to convince then House Speaker Prospero Nograles to run for mayor. Nograles agreed if he would run to regain his 3rd district seat in Congress. Both lost.
Sebastian and Paolo Duterte were proclaimed winners on May 11, Sebastian receiving 600,000 votes against Lopez’ 70,000 and Paolo getting 212,000 votes against Maglana’s 14,000.
Win or lose
Lopez said he weighed his chances in the 2022 polls. He was aware of the Duterte machinery, he knew Sara was an incumbent running for a third consecutive term aside from serving a previous term. He was running as an independent candidate, with no line-up and no resources.
But he also imagined what his father, lawyer Elias Lopez, a Bagobo who served as councilor, vice mayor, mayor and representative of the 3rd congressional district, would have done if confronted with the situation. He said his father would have told him “manalo ka man o matalo ka, ang importante ipinaglaban mo yung mga taga Davao. That’s the more important thing, it’s not the winning or losing. The important thing is you stand up and ipinaglaban mo yung mga taga Davao.”
He said many people were happy that he ran. A number of them told him “you’re very brave.”
When Sara dropped her bid for mayor in favor of the vice presidency and Sebastian substituted for her, Lopez felt he had a better chance because Sebastian was no third termer like Sara; he was, like him, running for mayor for the first time; and he was a lawyer fighting against a sitting vice mayor who is known to the public as a surfer.
Win or lose, he said days before May 9, he was confident that the 2022 election has changed the political landscape of Davao City.
“Definitely, because now may choice na ang tao. Probably ang dynasty ng Duterte makikita nila na wait, hindi pala lahat sa kanila.. na there are people na don’t agree with them and don’t like what they are doing,” he said.
The new DDS: Davao’s Dynasty Slayers
Although a minority, Dabawenyos who want an end to the Duterte political dynasty and were campaigning for Vice President Leni Robredo and Senator Francis Pangilinan, had earlier asserted through their Facebook page that “Dili tanang Dabawenyo DDS” (Not all Dabawenyos are DDS), referring to the Duterte Diehard Supporters.
From “Davao Death Squad” to “Duterte Diehard Supporters,” DDS has taken on a new meaning here in the 2022 polls: “Davao’s Dynasty Slayers.”
The slayers are not just Maglana and Lopez who dared run against the well-entrenched Duterte Dynasty.
They include the indefatigable youth volunteers, students from different universities in the city who dared go to the interiors of the city to do house-to-house campaign for their candidates at the national and local level.
Senior citizens who lived through the horrors of martial law, have never forgotten and will never forget, also did their part in pushing for Robredo-Pangilinan at the national level and Lopez and Maglana at the local level.
Depending on their physical circumstances, some of the elderly used telephones or cell phones or their e-mails to campaign, did some limited house-to-house efforts within their neighborhood, or like the Birondo sisters, Belo and Jett, joined Maglana as she went house-to-house in the neighborhood of their childhood, distributing leaflets on the side.
In a forum on “Dismantling Dynasties: The Battle for a New Brand of Politics,” organized by the Ateneo de Manila University’s Department of Political Science in February, Maglana recalled that she was once asked if she were DDS (Diehard Duterte Supporters).
“I replied it depends on what that acronym stands for. As I am not a diehard supporter of any family name beginning with the letter D, then I am not that kind of DDS,” she said.
“But there’s another DDS that has been around for some time now, working silently but tirelessly. These are Davao’s Dynasty Slayers, who understand that dynasties harm our capacity to effectively select good leaders during elections and discipline them when they are already in office,” said Maglana.
“If DDS stands for Davao’s Dynasty Slayers, then I am that kind of DDS and I am proud to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those who are standing for inclusive democracy,” she added.
Maglana noted that dynasties rely on the false familiarity created by name repetition, among others. “For me the alternative to false familiarity is building authentic relationships between political leaders and their constituents. For relationships to be real, political leaders and their constituents have to know each other, the former … by having an intimate understanding of the composition nature needs, challenges, capacities, and aspirations of their constituents, the latter, by demanding accountability and expecting transparency and performance from their leaders.”
“A relationship that only kicks in during the election campaign and periodic occasions when gift-giving is expected, is not an authentic relationship,” she said.
“Because I aim to be a real representative with a real mandate, I commit to regularly sitting down with, talking with, listening to, and reporting to the people of the first congressional district of Davao City,” she added.
In her community sorties, Maglana learned many were unaware that there were three candidates challenging the reelection bid of Paolo.
In her mobile miting de avance on May 6 and 7, she asked residents “kinsa man ang muabanse?” (who will advance).
“Dapat klaro kanato nga ang dapat muabanse ang katawhan” (It should be clear to us, she said, that it should be the people).
In the Ateneo de Manila forum, Dr. Julio Teehankee, Professor of Political Science and International Studies at the Dela Salle University, narrated that in his study of political dynasties in Congress, “one thing’s for sure, self-perpetration is evident … because they have the incumbency advantage.”
Once you’re elected to a position and you stay there long enough, “power begets power,” Teehankee noted.
“There is a greater opportunity that you will be succeeded by your relative because you are the one who preserves your power… This is the result of the incumbency advantage, once you’ve stayed long enough in a particular position you get to have the benefit of the resources available to an incumbent,” he said.
The Duterte patriarch ruled as mayor from 1988 to 2016, interrupted only by one term as representative of the 1st district (1998 to 2001), and as vice mayor (2010 to 2013). Beginning 2007, he was joined by Sara as vice mayor and Paolo as barangay chair and a year later, at the City Council as chair of the Association of Barangay Captains.
For 15 years — from 2007 to 2022 – the Dutertes ruled as mayor and vice mayor, and by 2019 expanded further its clout by fielding a representative to Congress (Paolo). It was also in the year 2019 when Sebastian entered the political arena.
Rise and Fall
But Teehankee stressed that by the law of nature, “there will always be a rise and fall” of dynasties. A dynasty can be toppled by another dynasty, as was the case of Crisologo and Singson; a dynasty can be toppled by a non-dynasty like Kaka Bag-ao of Dinagat who won the gubernatorial post in 2019 but lost in the 2022 polls.
A dynasty can also be defeated through inter-familial competition, such as the Binays in Makati or Jinggoy Estrada and JV Ejercito who both lost in the 2019 polls but won in 2022.
Teehankee said the country will never see the end of the problem of dynasties “unless we address the systemic and structural roots.”
He said he hopes the anti-dynasty provision in the 1987 Constitution will be legislated by Congress even as he asks: how do you expect a house full of political clans and dynasties to pass an anti-dynasty law? It’s just like asking Dracula to guard the blood bank.”
Last month, an election survey conducted by the Ateneo de Davao University, presented a perception statement whose framing surprised many because instead of asking the respondents to agree or disagree that the anti-dynasty provision be implemented, the survey asked respondents if they agree or disagree that “the anti-dynasty provision in the 1986 (sic) Constitution should be abolished.”
More than half of the respondents — 51.5% agreed, out of which 27.7% strongly agreed that the Constitutional provision be “abolished.”
The ADDU Blue Vote survey apparently referred to the 1987 Constitution’s Article II, Section 26: “The State shall guarantee equal access to opportunities for public service, and prohibit political dynasties as may be defined by law.”
While Lopez campaigned by means of “pulong-pulong” or “tapok-tapok,” Maglana, a student leader and activist in college, was accompanied in her daily house-to-house, person-to-person campaign in the first district’s 54 barangays, by youth volunteers enthusiastically sharing her vision.
One of Maglana’s youth volunteers is the daughter of a leader of Paolo Duterte. A number of them have parents who were pushing for Marcos-Duterte at the national level and Duterte and Duterte at the local level.
Grieving over their first electoral defeat, the volunteers, mostly first-time voters, comforted each other and vowed to “padayon” (continue) to work for a Davao City that they can be proud to pass on to the next generation.
For Dr. Jean Lindo, third party nominee of Gabriela, “administrations come and go. People continue to assert their rights and their rightful place, especially that not much change has been done to address survival issues of those people in the margins.”
“Election is not the only arena of discourse and debate,” she said.
Bai Anayatin of the Mindanao Coalition of Development NGOs said she would “like to be hopeful and say the political landscape has changed, but it’s a sad reality that the dynasty in Davao is deeply entrenched to the point that most residents no longer care or see viable options.”
A staunch supporter of Maglana and her vision for a better Davao, Anayatin said her candidate had a strong chance of winning “but our opponents have the homecourt advantage.”
“Still, in this campaign with and for Mags, I’m sure there will be more dynasty slayers by 2025. Mags’s campaign is a trailblazer for ordinary active citizens who wish to serve a public office. Our message of hope and fight for excellence in public service was loud and clear. Mags has broken the glass ceiling. We were heard. In 2025, I’m sure there will be others who will also take courage and further widen the path to the Davao we deserve.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)