Why Davao is ‘hao-siao’
The political science scholar Segundo Romero calls it a “political capital that rests on an illusion of invincibility, infallibility and omnipotence.” That very well captures the essence not only of the presidency of Rodrigo Duterte, but also of his Davao City mayorship.
Because a large part of the Duterte public performance is merely illusory, Mr. Duterte pretends to be in control. Such illusion was glossed over in the 2016 presidential elections; 16 million voters saw the invincibility, infallibility and omnipotence, but not the illusion. Consider that the following incidents never made it to the discourse of that election campaign:
In March 2014, the Davao City Police Office’s Investigation Division and Management Bureau seized P180,000 worth of methamphetamine hydrochloride or “shabu” from a “big-time drug pusher,” as newspaper reports described the named suspect.
Then, as if by serendipity because it happened on that same month, 51 blocks of cocaine worth P500 million were discovered in a container yard in Buhisan, Tibungco, Davao City. Shipyard personnel were about to load bananas in a container van when the van’s ceiling collapsed.
One year later, in March 2015, P2.7 million worth of weapons and shabu were seized in a raid conducted by the Eastern Mindanao police Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) at Barangay 23-C Mini Forest, Davao City. The shabu was quantified at 300 grams.
In the interim, Mr. Duterte marketed himself as the venom-spewing warrior against illegal drugs, which he had declared as the country’s No. 1 menace. In that packaging, Davao City was often the locality of his narrative as Exhibit A: modern and orderly, crime-free, drug-free.
Less than a year into his presidency, on the quiet evening of May 16, 2017, the Chinese vessel Guang Ping placidly sailed through Manila Bay and unloaded its cargo at the Manila International Container Port. Among others, the cargo contained what is now the celebrated P6.4-billion shabu shipment that passed through the green express lane (not subjected to X-ray) of the Bureau of Customs.
The fixer’s testimony said the shipment was facilitated by a so-called Davao Group that included Duterte family members. Sen. Panfilo Lacson identified the Davao Group as “the No. 2 among five big players in the Bureau of Customs which have been facilitating the release of 390 to 490 containers per day or 1,950 to 2,450 containers weekly.” The high-profile Senate investigations clearly limited the damage against the family members by refusing to dig deeper into their
That would have been the closest possibility to blemishing evidence that the Dutertes were not law-abiding leaders, but politicians who ruled merely by coercive bossism.
Only this year, on June 5, PDEA Director General Aaron Aquino stated in a television news report that “we could be making arrests in Manila and Clark, but drugs may be entering Davao and Cebu,” after the seizure of P74.8 million worth of shabu in Clark, Pampanga.
Last week, on Aug. 15, the PDEA in Davao Region announced the proliferation of party drugs called ecstasy, also called ChemRom (chemical romance), in Davao City. These “designer drugs” have been used in sexual abuse cases, because they render the victim unconscious.
Next day, on Aug. 16, 2018, the Philippine National Police Directorate for Investigation and Detective Management announced that Davao City recorded the highest number of rape cases in the second quarter of 2018. It had topped the list with 42 rape cases for April-June 2018.
Davao City’s political tradition was a large lacuna in the national discourse leading to the Duterte presidency. It may surprise many today that, as early as 1956, the city’s political leadership was reported to have had ties with gambling dens. Rampant smuggling in the Davao port, in cahoots with local politicos, was serially reported from 1963 to 1966. Brigandage was flourishing.
The tradition was merely sustained. Davao City is the most “shabulized” city in the Philippines. It is a bogus Exhibit A. With practically nothing to stand on, Mr. Duterte’s drug war must be deemed “hao-siao” as well.
Your daily dose of fearless views
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.