Vic N. Sumalinog

HOW long will the local dominant political family in Davao City – the Dutertes – remain to be perceived as beyond defeat?

     This question is being raised as observers are now one in saying that the politically dominant family in the city seem to have gained even stronger hold of the local government after the patriarch, former long-time mayor of the city Rodrigo R. Duterte, became President of the republic and is seen to have an even stronger control of not just Davao’s local governance but the entire country as well.

     This hold apparently became observable after the first and second term of the then mayor in his first 3-term incumbency starting in the year 1988. We then saw strong politicians running against Duterte in the persons of Dodong Almendras, and three years after, the late congressman Prospero Nograles. Then when Duterte the father completed his only 3-year term in Congress he saw himself facing his erstwhile city administrator Benjamin de Guzman who was mayor at that time  and running for reelection during that local polls.

     Almendras, Nograles and De Guzman failed in their bid. Clearly their defeat in the polls by Duterte was indicative of the development of Duterte’s growing influence and savvy in local politics. After De Guzman, the elections that followed were either dominated by the Duterte patriarch or his daughter Sara. We could not remember any of the succeeding local elections where well-meaning political family ran to oppose any of the Dutertes. Yes, there were names who dared file their certificate of candidacy for mayor of the city. But beyond the act of filing and getting some initial media coverage for what seemed to be their extra-ordinary courage, nothing significant came out during the entire campaign period. In other words, the counting of ballots and the recording of votes for the candidates for mayor were merely ceremonial in nature and were just a matter of compliance of what is required by the election law.

     The 2022 local elections however, may be different. Why, because one man with a revered family name in local politics and a scion of a former mayor who started it all for the Davao City that it is now, is standing up to challenge a Duterte family member and maybe hoping to prove that after all, the dominance of the ruling clan can still be shaken.

     But the challenger, Ruy Elias Lopez, a lawyer, may not have any inkling at all that his fighting chance in the forthcoming polls can be boosted with the execution of a strategy of the ruling family to move incumbent Mayor Sara to a much higher national position.  They have her substituted by brother Vice Mayor Baste, for the position of Mayor of the city. We do not know whether it was a miscalculation on the part of the dominant Duterte family and her party, or simply a thought that the youngest son of the President need not have the years of political experience to run for mayor of a highly urbanized city like Davao.

     Perhaps too, the Mayor and her advisers may have thought that there is nothing left of the Lopezes in the consciousness of the Davaoenos who are now mostly in their younger years and have no idea of how the city was during the incumbency of Ruy Elias Lopez’s father. They do not even memorize a line of the city’s theme song “Tayo’y Dabawenyo,” a Lopez legacy to the people of Davao.

     Yes, had Sara remained the candidate for mayor of Davao City moving in closer to her number of votes would have been a very tall order for the former congressman of the third district of the city.

     But a whiff of luck appears to have come on Lopez’s mayoral journey when the substitution scheme unfolded. Many believe that between Mayor Inday and Baste, the latter is relatively weaker and could be vulnerable along the way. 

     However, the fact that Baste is a Duterte and his family is synonymous to something etched in stone. He is still part of a granite wall that needs all the innovative means to topple.

     Maybe this is where Ruy Elias Lopez needs to realign whatever strategy he has prepared when he thought of squaring it off with Inday Sara, given his level of resources to run a city-wide campaign.



Source: Mindanao Times (