DAVAO CITY—An incensed Mayor Sara Duterte punched not once, but four times, a court sheriff for insisting on demolishing houses inside a contested property in Barangay Soliman in Davao’s Agdao district on Friday.
Sheriff Abe Andres was initially hit in the left eye and was explaining to Duterte that he was just implementing a court order when the mayor threw two more punches that landed on his face.
Duterte had rushed to the area when informed that a demolition team was tearing down the shanties where 217 families were living, surrounded by angry residents armed with improvised sling-propelled darts, other bladed weapons and hard objects.
At the initial stage of the confrontation between the residents and police-backed demolition team, a policeman was hit by a dart on the buttocks.
Minda Saison, vice chair of the United Settlers Association, said they were being forced out of the lot, which was being claimed by a Jaime Uy of the Davao Enterprise Corp.
Saison said that on June 23, they received a court order asking them to vacate the area. The next day, their lawyer tried to file a motion of appeal but it was not until Friday that he was able to do it in Cagayan de Oro City, she said.
Saison said they asked the demolition team to wait for the results of the motion but they were ignored.
As of late afternoon, there was still no word from the lawyer.
“The people will defend our rights. We will not allow them to just demolish our properties while we are still waiting for the court’s decision over our petition for the issuance of a temporary restraining order,” she said.
As the demolition team was advancing and the residents started to put up a fight, Duterte arrived and interceded.
Apparently exhausted from the flash flood that devastated the Talomo district, Duterte told the demolition team she did not want bloodshed.
“I was in the middle of 13,000 people who are badly in need of assistance and here you are doing this?” she said.
Duterte told them that as early as Thursday, she already asked the court to delay the demolition of the shanties because she knew it would be bloody as residents were ready to fight back.
On Friday, she asked the demolition team anew to stay the execution of the court order for two more hours but Andres refused.
“Is that difficult to do when I have successfully done it and I am a woman?” she said.
It was at this juncture that she asked for Andres.
“Where is he? Where is the sheriff?” Duterte asked.
A visibly scared Andres approached Duterte, who immediately flung her fist.
Andres, who appeared shocked, tried to explain he was just implementing an order issued by Judge Emmanuel Carpio of the Regional Trial Court’s Branch 16.
But she threw three more punches that all landed on Andres’ face.
The sheriff was immediately rushed to a hospital after the incident.
Duterte, a lawyer by profession, admitted she was angered by the sheriff’s insistence on serving the notice of eviction when she was only asking for a two-hour reprieve until the residents’ lawyers got a ruling from the Court of Appeals.
“I was only asking for two hours. Two hours. Why can’t you give that to us? Why do you insist on serving the notice? Do you think the residents will just allow you to demolish their houses without them giving out a fight?” she said.
Duterte said she convinced the residents to be relocated after the incident.
Andres has not issued any statement on the incident yet.