Mayor Sara Duterte’s legacy: the best and the worst  

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 19 June) – Unlike her father whose main focus in his seven terms as Davao City mayor was on peace and order, outgoing mayor Sara Duterte in her three terms as mayor, has been credited for increased investments, the modernization of the transport system and an exponential rise in infrastructure development. 

She served as vice mayor from 2007 to 2010 and as mayor for three terms — from 2010 to 2013, 2016 to 2019 and 2019 until June 30 this year. 

Mindanawon filmmaker Jay Rosas said the mayor took the lead in pushing the frontier of development, particularly infrastructure, including the long-awaited bus modernization project or the High Priority Bus System (HBPS), which seeks to address the worsening traffic congestion.

Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte gets teary-eyed with the outpouring of greetings by city government employees who greeted her outside the City Hall of Davao hours after she withdrew her candidacy for mayor in the 2022 elections on Tuesday, 9 Nov 2021. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

Rosas said Duterte ushered in a new era of progressive development but her administration lacked the foresight in making it sustainable. 

He said the local government could have embraced a kind of development that is more sustainable, asking the Dabawenyos to steer clear of the notion of making the city as the “next Singapore” with more infrastructure.

He said Davao does not need more high-rise buildings just to prove that it is progressive. Each city, he stressed, “has its own uniqueness.”

According to Brosas, what could be considered as the mayor’s biggest failure is the chronic problem of flooding. He called on the City Planning and Development Office to step up to address this.

A man wades through the floodwaters near Bankerohan Market area in Davao City on Wednesday, November 10, 2021. The nearby Davao River rose beyond critical level, flooding the communities along its bank. MindaNews Photo

“I hear people who want Davao to be like Singapore. On social media, we can see them making the comparison and instigating the idea that we should be like those cities with big buildings and skyscrapers to be called progressive,” he said.

For Rosas, what he could remember of Duterte best was that punching of Sheriff Abe Andres over the demolition of shanties in Barangay Soliman in Agdao District in 2011 during her first term as mayor.

Favoring WTE 

Lawyer Mark Peñalver, executive director of Interface Development Inventions for Sustainability (IDIS), lauded Duterte’s support for the environmental protection and sustainability. 

He said a number of environmental policies were passed during her term, including, among others, “No to Single-Use Plastics ordinance,” ordinance regulating recreational activities in watershed areas, amended Comprehensive Land Use Plan expanding the coverage of Urban Ecological Enhancement Sub-Zones, amended bike ordinance, and Save Heritage Trees ordinance.

He said he appreciates the mayor’s throwing support behind their advocacies, particularly the call to stop the cutting of trees at Ateneo Davao High School in Matina, and the call to save Mts. Makabol-Alikoson conservation area, development of more parks and green spaces, and establishment of bike lanes.

“During her term as Mayor, our Bantay Bukid Volunteers are able to receive support for training and other monitoring needs. Lunhaw Awards was adopted and September of every year is declared as Lunhaw Month. The Davao City Climate Change Committee was also created,” he said.

Duterte’s worst is her position in favor of the Waste to Energy (WTE) project, he said. 

“We would like to congratulate her for her win and, hopefully, she will bring the environmental policies and interventions for sustainability that she did in Davao nationally and continue to champion environmental protection and sustainability. We hope she will also change her position with regard to WTE,” he said.

No mediation 

Writer Joan Mae Soco-Bantayan said Duterte, a lawyer, does her best to understand the things she does by looking at them from the legal point of view and admires the mayor for not tolerating red tape in City Hall.

“Her best, to me, it is amazing that when I talk with contractors, they say that Sara is not the kind of public official who tolerates red tape, like you can walk out of her office without worrying about cuts,” she said.

However, Bantayan said Duterte’s worst is being unable to mediate the conflicting sectors.

“Her worst, to me, is that it’s so clear how she takes sides, unlike her father who, in his years as mayor, tried his best to mediate the conflicting sectors, like labor. Sara has chosen labels without the context of poverty in the midst of conflict. I think that’s because she is privileged in her younger years, unlike her father who was raised on the grounds of Sta. Ana elementary school,” she said.

Best and Worst 

PJ DIzon, secretary-general of the Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) Southern Mindanao Region said what could be considered as Duterte’s legacy could be the establishment of a Davao City College that will support the less fortunate children who want to go to school.

He also lauded the passage of an ordinance establishing the Davao City Workers Protection and Development Office to guard workers against unfair labor practices of the corporations but added that its implementation must be closely monitored to ensure that its goals come to fruition.

Dizon added that what could be added to Duterte’s list of worst are the anti-poor projects such as Davao City Coastal Road Project, displacing several residents and depriving them of livelihood, and the HPBS project that Brosas considers tobe one of her best. Dizon said the HBPS is adversely affecting drivers, operators, and their families.

Dizon also criticized the city’s “militaristic style” of handling the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, demolition of poor communities, and harassment of progressive groups whose venue during peaceful rallies has been restricted by state security forces.

Own identity and legacy 

Lawrence Llemit, a Davao-based reporter covering City Hall, said Mayor Duterte is far different from her father. 

“After many years of covering her, you can see that she has a mind of her own, and she won’t let anyone, not even her father, influence her,” he said.

He added that the mayor speaks in a “calculated way” unlike her father who is very outspoken.

“You can see that Sara Duterte has her own identity and legacy. When you speak of Sara Duterte, as a Dabawenyo, she is more than just a daughter of Rodrigo Duterte,” he said.

Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte takes a short walk along San Pedro Street on Satrurday (18 June 2022) to thank the personnel and police officers involved in the preparations for her oath-taking as the country’s 15th Vice President on Sunday. MINDANEWS PHOTO

Dr. Michelle Schlosser, spokesperson for Davao City COVID-19 Task Force, said the creation of the local task force is a “legacy in itself” because it hastens the process of addressing problems during the pandemic.

“It’s very smart because not all LGUs have a COVID-19 Task Force. We do have IATF or DOH, but our good mayor created her own team to hasten the response to COVID-19 emergency. At the same time, she created executive orders that help contain the risk of transmission and infection in the city,” she said.

She added that the surge of COVID-19 cases here never reached a point where the city was no longer able to contain. 

“I have personally worked with the mayor. She is a very active member of COVID-19 task force. She is working and monitoring things on both macro and micro level,” she said. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)