[MINDANAO 2022] Davao City: From COVID-19 surge to “remarkable economic rebound” 

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 01 January) -– The City of Davao greeted 2022 with a surge of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases due to Omicron, the fastest-spreading variant of the SARS-COV2, but bid 2022 goodbye with a “remarkable economic rebound,” reclaiming its position as one of the country’s regional economic powerhouses.

Maria Lourdes Lim, regional director of National Economic Development Authority (NEDA)-Davao, said the local economy of Davao City was estimated at P454.7 billion in 2021, accounting for 51.6% of the gross regional domestic product of Davao region.

Davao region comprises the provinces of Davao de Oro, Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, Davao Occidental and Davao Oriental and the cities of Davao, Panabo, Tagum, Samal, Digos and Mati. 

“This reaffirms that Davao City is the metropolitan center that serves as hub of resources and center of commerce and services in Davao Region,” she said.

Among the growth drivers include construction, manufacturing, and trade sectors, which had been severely affected at the height of the COVID-19 lockdowns in 2020 and 2021.

Davao City’s landscape id fast changing with the construction of more high rise buildings along JP Laurel Avenue..MindaNews file photo by CAROLYN O ARGUILLAS

However, not only economic developments highlighted the year 2022. Equally notable were the issues in politics, environment, and  impunity.

Politics

In politics, former Mayor Sara Duterte took her oath as  the country’s 15th Vice President last June 19 in this city where she started her political career.  

Among the VIPs who attended her tightly secured inauguration were then President-elect Ferdinand Marcos, Jr., former Presidents Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Rodrigo Duterte, her father and other members of her family, then Senator-elect Imee Marcos and other VIPs, including celebrities, powerful politicians and business tycoons.

The Duterte brothers, Sebastian and Paolo, took their oaths separately a week after their sister had been sworn in by Supreme Court Associate Justice Ramon Paul Hernando.

Vice President-elect Sara Duterte takes her oath of office administered by Supreme court Justice Ramon Paul Hernando in Davao City on 19 June 2022. Sara Duterte is accompanied by her mother, Elizabeth Zimmerman, and father, Rodrigo Duterte, who will step down as President on June 30, on the same day his daughter will assume the post as the country’s 15th Vice President. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

On June 27, first-time Mayor Sebastian “Baste” Duterte, the youngest son of former President Duterte and Elizabeth Zimmerman, took his oath at the City Council of Davao.

Administering the oathtaking of re-elected 1st District representative Paolo in an intimate ceremony on June 28 was then outgoing President Duterte. Paolo was a no-show during the inauguration of Vice President Sara and the mass oath-taking of reelected representatives and local officials of Davao.

The Dutertes and their allies remain the dominant force in the political scene of Davao after winning key positions in the local executive and legislative departments.

The Duterte family has ruled Davao City for more than three decades. Before he was elected president in 2016, former President Duterte served as mayor from 1988 to 1998, representative of the first district from 1998 to 2001, mayor from 2001 to 2010, vice mayor to his daughter-mayor from 2010 to 2013, and mayor from 2013 to 16 with son Paolo as vice mayor.

Davao City Mayor-elect Sebastian Duterte takes his oath before Court of Appeals Associate Justice Loida Posadas-Kahulugan at the Sangguniang Panlungsod in Davao City on Monday, 27 June 2022. The 34-year-old Sebastian, the youngest son of President Rodrigo Duterte with Elizabeth Zimmerman, will be the third Duterte to serve as mayor of Davao City in the last 34 years, after his father, the outgoing President of the Philippines and Sara, the incoming Vice President. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

Meanwhile, VP Sara served as vice mayor from 2007 to 2010, mayor from 2010 until 2013, was elected mayor in 2016 when her father ran for President, and was reelected in 2019 with youngest brother Sebastian as the vice mayor. Paolo, the President’s eldest son, was councilor from 2008 to 2013, vice mayor from 2013 to 2018, and elected representative of the First District in 2019.

On the night after his six-year term ended, former President returned from Manila to Davao and addressed his supporters at “Salamat Tatay Digong, A Homecoming Concert” at NCCC Mall VP, his first public appearance as a private citizen.

The 77-year-old former President told the crowd he would catch up on lost sleep after stepping down as the country’s leader.

Mayor Sebastian’s term was off to a challenging start as the Vice President Sara had foreseen.

The lack of public transportation, worsening traffic condition, flooding, killings, water supply interruptions, solid waste problem, and inflation marked the mayor’s first few months in office but the mayor addressed the public’s growing dissatisfaction by asking them to give him more time to learn the ropes.

Lack of public transportation, flooding

Looking back to the year that was, locals complained of lack of public transportation and urged government to expedite the highly anticipated High Priority Bus System (HPBS).

Flooding in the central business district and other parts of the city after a torrential rain worsened the transportation woes.

WTE

The mayor’s administration was also bent on pursuing the waste-to-energy (WTE) project to address the solid waste problem. The Sangguniang Panlungsod (City Council) of Davao City, asked President Marcos Jr. for a “counterpart fund” worth P3.5 billion for the construction of the country’s first WTE facility in the city.

But environmental advocates opposed the plan, explaining it poses risks to the health of the locals and environment with carcinogenic emissions of highly toxic substances dioxin and furan into the air.

Atty. Mark Peñalver, executive director of Interfacing Development Interventions for Sustainability, Inc. (IDIS), said the construction of a WTE was a wrong approach in dealing with the solid waste problem as it “would only encourage people to generate more waste to keep the facility running.”

Mangacop

Mayor Sebastian’s first week in office was marred with the killing of 19-year-old Amierkhan Mangacop in the hands of Marvin Rey Andrew R. Pepino, 31, non-uniformed personnel serving as a doctor at the Police Regional Office (PRO)-Davao last July 2, 2022.

The Mangacop family expressed disappointment over the resolution of the City Prosecutor’s Office, finding probable cause to indict Pepino for the crime of homicide, instead of murder.

Image from the Justice for Amier Mangacop Facebook page.

Findings of the examination conducted by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) on the exhumed remains of Mangacop showed the suspect “intended to inflict serious harm on the victim.”

NBI-Davao spokesperson Ely Leano said that based on the evidence obtained by the agency, the filing of a complaint for murder against Pepino was appropriate.

Pepino’s indictment for the lesser offense of homicide allowed him to post bail on July 21.

Fraternity

In September, eight members of a fraternity where the mayor is a member, were arrested after a violent hazing that resulted in the death of August Ceazar P. Saplot, a fourth year student of the University of Mindanao (UM) and caused serious injury to another.

Saplot was a pledge of the Alpha Kappa Rho (AKRHO) fraternity.

Saplot and his companion were senior students at UM’s College of Criminal Justice Education

Police said the hazing incident took place at Purok Santo Niño, Sison Village, Upper Mandug in Buhangin District.

The mayor belongs to another AKHRO chapter as he attended Ateneo de Davao University for college. Video clips of him seeking support from his fraternity brothers during election or attending AKRHO gatherings while chanting “Long Live Alpha Kappa Rho!” are available online.

Wanted by FBI: Pastor Quiboloy

In February 2022, Pastor Apollo C. Quiboloy, founder of Kingdom of Jesus Christ, The Name Above Every Name

(KOJC ) founder and two other church administrators were placed on a “wanted” list by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

The wanted posters of Quiboloy, Teresita Tolibas Dalandan, and Helen Panilag, were posted on the FBI’s website more than two months after a federal warrant of arrest was released on November 10, 2021.

They are wanted for their alleged participation in a labor trafficking scheme that brought church members to the US, via fraudulently obtained visas, and forced the members to solicit donations for a bogus charity, donations that actually were used to finance church operations and the lavish lifestyles of its leaders.

The charge also states that the church leader and other KOJC administrators “coerced pastorals into performing “night duty” under the “threat of physical and verbal abuse and eternal damnation by defendant Quiboloy and other KOJC administrators.”

The victims were allegedly told that performing ‘night duty’ was ‘God’s will’ and a privilege, as well as a “necessary demonstration of the pastoral commitment to give her body” to Quiboloy, the indictment said.

In December 2022, the US Department of Treasury included Quiboloy in the list of over 40 individuals from different countries whose assets have been blocked after being linked to corruption and human rights abuse.

The announcement was made in time for the Human Rights Day and International Anti-Corruption Day to “demonstrate the U.S. government’s focus on promoting respect for human rights and countering corruption.”

Atty. Michael Jay Green, general counsel of KOJC, in a virtual press conference said he was “stunned” by the recent move of the US government against Quiboloy who has been deprived of his right to be heard.

“It’s hard for me to believe that this is coming from the United States. They already convicted him. Presumption of innocence no longer exists,” he said.

Aldevinco

Dabawenyos were saddened by the decision of homegrown property developer Alcantrara and Sons Development and Investment Corporation (Alsons Dev) to tear down Aldevinco Shopping Center, a popular go-to destination for Mindanawon arts and crafts, to give way to another property development.

The 56-year old Aldevinco Shopping Center in Davao City, the go to place for Mindanao souvenirs closed its doors on December 31, 2021. MIndaNews file photo by BOBBY TIMONERA

The 56-year-old Aldevinco was a tourism landmark. Its tenants have been transferred to the Poblacion Market Central along Bangoy Street where Madrazo Fruit Stand once stood, about a block away from Aldevinco.

Davao-Samal bridge

On October 27, President Marcos and Vice President Duterte led the groundbreaking of the Samal Island-Davao City (SIDC) Connector project that is seen to bolster the economic potential of both cities upon its completion. 

President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (4th from left) and Vice President Sara Duterte (3rd from left) view a scale model of the the Samal Island – Davao City Connector during the groundbreaking ceremony for the proposed bridge in Davao City on October 27, 2022. With Marcos and Duterte are (from left to right) Special Assistant to the President Anton Lagdameo, Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Huang Xilian, Department of Public Works and Highways Secretary Manuel Bonoan, Davao City Mayor Sebastian Duterte, and Samal Island Mayor Al David Uy. MindaNews photo by MANMAN DEJETO

Once completed, the P19.3 billion bridge project could accommodate up to 25,000 vehicles daily and significantly reduce travel time between the two cities from 50 minutes to four and a half, according to Marcos.

However, the Rodriguez and Lucas families, who operate the Costa Marina Beach Resort and adjacent Paradise Island Park & Beach Resort in Barangay Caliclic, Babak District,have opposed the current alignment of the bridge because it will destroy the Paradise Reef, a “hidden treasure of Samal” considered by conservationists as an important gene bank of marine creatures.

The families, including environmental advocates, have appealed to the government to realign the bridge. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)