‘Inday Sarado’ | Inquirer Opinion
Editorial

‘Inday Sarado’

/ 12:28 AM July 04, 2011

In street terms, a thoroughly beaten man is called “bugbog sarado.” After last Friday, we might expect Filipinos to riff on this phrase, when talking of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte. The mayor, who is married to a Carpio but is more popularly known by the nickname Inday Sara, punched Sheriff Abe Andres four times after he refused to heed her request to defer a scheduled demolition order; images of the incident, caught on television, have since gone viral. “Inday Sarado,” the mayor who administers a thorough beating, is the talk of the entire country.

The following day, Duterte apologized for the assault, downplayed the incident as “not my best moment” and announced she was going on leave starting on July 7 to make way for an official investigation into her actions. These are all welcome steps, and show Duterte acknowledging something higher than a mayor’s duty or political popularity: namely, the rule of law. “I will face the consequences and will wait for the call of the investigators,” she said at a news conference.

These actions contrast with Duterte’s initial arrogance in defending her assault on the sheriff. It is important to return to what she first said on Friday, in particular what she said about the courts, not to belabor the point, but to indicate the true nature of her action.

On Friday, she said she did not care whether the courts would cite her in contempt for manhandling the sheriff when he was, in his own words, merely fulfilling the “ministerial duty” of enforcing a court order. “I don’t care,” she said, and then took direct aim at the courts. “Say goodbye to your budget. You asked for additional fund? My God, I am having difficulty with the budget. They will cite me for contempt? I will also cite them for contempt. Starting tomorrow, no more gasoline for them, no allowance, no job order!”

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On Saturday, Duterte tried to make amends for her sweeping statements. “It was incorrect and I hope they accept my apologies.”

But the verbal attack on the courts on Friday merely paralleled the physical attack on the sheriff; it was a local executive lashing out at other agents of government who did not see things her way.

To be sure, Duterte’s request for a two-hour stay was not unreasonable; when the demolition of contested property threatens to turn violent (indeed, one policeman had already been hurt by the time Duterte got to the scene in Barangay Soliman, in Agdao district), a temporary cooling of heads does not mock but rather serves the end of justice. Also, Duterte had other pressing concerns in mind, specifically the fate of city residents affected by the recent flash floods. “I was in the middle of 13,000 people who were badly in need of assistance and here you are doing this?” was her initial retort to the police-backed demolition team.

But when she assaulted the sheriff, she crossed the line.

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We are aware that her action has had its share of defenders. Even the Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, normally among the first in the country to cry foul in the face of human rights violations, chose to defend the punching mayor, basically on emotional grounds (she was, the group said, only showing concern). Now emotional reactions are powerfully attractive, but we should remember the dangers they pose to the body politic.

We should remember that the end, however pressing, never justifies the means. We should remember that the politics of intimidation, especially in a city marked forever by the haunting presence of the Davao Death Squad, can never be a substitute for the politics of dialogue and consensus. We should remember that thrilling to the sight of a people’s avenger inflicting physical punishment on those who stand in the way only awakens the fascist tendencies among many of us (that is one key lesson from martial law). Above all, we should remember that no one, least of all government officials, ought to take the law into their own hands.

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One more thing. In many online public forums, the idea is being floated that only the citizens of Davao City have the right to judge their mayor’s action. This is absurd; is the city a separate republic, or a distinct moral universe of its own? The supporters of Davao City’s status as one of the country’s leading cities must learn to judge it not by a unique set of standards, but by values common to all—flood victim and squatter, mayor and sheriff, alike.

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TAGS: Davao City, Davao Death Squad, demolition, Emergency incidents, flash flood, Inday Sara, Mayor Sara Duterte, Sheriff Abe Andres, squatter

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