By Raïssa Robles
An ABS-CBN-ANC TV video has surfaced, revealing a disturbing scene. After Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte punched the Sheriff during a violent squatter demolition, the Sheriff slunk away as fast as he could but Mayor Sara’s bodyguards hauled him back and pushed his head down while Mayor Sara pulled the Sheriff’s hair.
See below my series of screen captures from the ABS-CBN-ANC video. The hand on the upper left corner is Mayor Sara’s, while the hand below that is her bodyguard’s:
I was among those who had applauded Mayor Sara for punching the Sheriff thrice last Friday.
I said she was on the wrong side of the law but on the right side of right because she was preventing bloodshed during a demolition. I did not see then what ABS-CBN-ANC has now revealed about the subsequent hair-pulling. It was like something out of a spaghetti western movie.
Now I know why Mayor Sara was so brave. She had back-up.
I also heard just now what Mayor Sara’s father, Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, told reporters about the incident. He said he told his daughter not to apologize for what she did. Instead he advised her:
You celebrate, be happy, at least with the thought na nagprotect ka sa mga tao. [...you protected the people]
On national TV, Rodrigo Duterte also flashed the dirty finger and cursed all his daughters’ media critics. Duterte’s dirty finger was meant for his daughter’s critics. He then bragged that in his hands, the Sheriff would not have gotten a mere slap. What he would have done to the Sheriff, he left to the imagination.
The ABS-CBN-ANC report managed to capture Rodrigo Duterte’s menacing tone:
Ano? Mga columnist? Oh! (shows dirty finger) ta#@n*a (expletive), hindi lang sampal ang inabot noon. (Expletive), you wage a battle against your own people using policemen?
While it is culturally understandable for a father to defend his daughter, Duterte was speaking not just as a father but as the Vice Mayor and probably Acting City Mayor when he gave that press conference.
The rest of the country’s politicians are now watching what the judiciary and the executive department will do with Duterte’s daughter.
Here’s why we should be watching, too
Because if Mayor Sara is let off easy, other local government executives can use the same reasoning to commit a violent action – they are doing it for the people.
In my lengthy years of news coverage, I have interviewed elected and appointed officials who have used that reasoning to justify violence and illegal activities.
Hours after watching the punching incident I asked myself – what is the difference between what Mayor Sara did and what Kalinga Governor Jocel Baac and his armed escorts did to government radio broadcaster Jerome Tabanganay early last month?
Governor Baac barged into the government radio station in Tabuk City and allegedly hit the broadcaster on the mouth with a microphone.
The radio anchor was often attacking the governor for his “alleged involvement in jueteng (illegal gambling) and illegal logging operations in the province,” according to the state-owned Philippine News Agency.
Many local government executives have justified their receiving pay-offs from illegal gambling by saying that the money they collect goes back to the people anyway, when the latter ask them to pay burial and medical expenses and stand in as godfathers during weddings and baptisms.
What I’m afraid of happening is the following scenario: a mayor or governor summons a newspaper, radio or tv reporter to please stop attacking him on an issue because his actions are meant to benefit the people and the reporter is getting in the way of his pro-people program. The reporter persists. And the mayor or governor gets so angry that he is carried away by emotions or his bodyguards anticipate his wishes.
In his press conference, Mayor Duterte inadvertently unmasked the true face of warlordism. Can warlordism exist in a democracy? Are the Dutertes the kind of officials we need to bring progress to the country?