DAVAO CITY, Philippines—With a fistful of pride, he must have raised her well.
“Inday, don’t apologize,” Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte told his daughter, Mayor Sara Duterte, concerning last week’s televised incident where she repeatedly punched a court sheriff carrying out a demolition order at an illegal settlement here.
The younger Duterte, who on Saturday announced that she would go on leave on July 7 to face the consequences of her actions, is under investigation by the Department of the Interior and Local Government. A lawyer, the official could also face disciplinary action by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.
But on a local TV program on Sunday, her father declared: “I’m proud of you and I congratulate you.”
“Don’t worry about it, Inday,” he said. “I will let you run (for office) again so that you can do it again.”
A six-term city mayor before his daughter took his place in 2010, Rodrigo had drawn both praise and criticism for his peace and order drive that supposedly led to a drop in Davao’s crime rate since the late 1990s.
Time magazine dubbed him “The Punisher” in a 2002 article, while human rights groups, including Amnesty International, had assailed him for allegedly tolerating extrajudicial killings by the so-called Davao Death Squad.
He denied any hand in the killings and blamed gang wars for the deaths, which included those of known drug trade players and other crime suspects.
“If ever you’ll be dismissed, be proud of it because you were on the side of the poor,” Rodrigo said in a message to his daughter.
“If you’ll be disbarred, you celebrate and be happy in the thought that you were protecting the rights of the people,” he said.
On the program “Gikan sa Masa, Para sa Masa” (From the Masses, For the Masses), the vice mayor said he was speaking not as a father making excuses for his child but as a former mayor who had similar brushes with court officials.
He maintained that demolition teams—like the one that descended on Agdao district on Friday—must cooperate with the local government to prevent any violence.
The elder Duterte said the eviction order against the slum dwellers might be legal, but the implementing sheriff Abe Andres failed to make the proper coordination with the mayor.
In front of news cameras, the 32-year-old mayor then threw four punches at Andres after he reportedly refused to heed her request for a two-hour stay of the demolition order so she could talk first to the settlers.
The urban poor group Kadamay claimed that 10 residents were wounded, including a 12-year-old girl, in the violence that broke out at the site before the mayor arrived.
The shantytown is in Barangay Soliman, which also earned the chilling name “Nicaragdao” in the 1980s after urban hitmen from the communist New People’s Army purportedly turned it into their killing field. Later, the area became known as the heartland of the anticommunist militia group Alsa Masa.
“Once you implement a court order at all costs, even at the expense of (other people’s) lives, then you are treading on dangerous ground, on illegal ground,” the vice mayor stressed. “If you insist on carrying out eviction orders without considering that people might get killed, that’s insane.”
“If somebody got killed, what will happen? Is that still under the jurisdiction of the judge? No, that begins to be a concern of the local government,” he said.
“How can it be a direct assault on the judiciary when the mayor was only preventing a massacre from happening?” he said.
Vice Mayor Duterte also said the settlers had armed themselves with sharp objects to stop the demolition team, who in turn came with heavily armed escorts, including snipers.
He also had words for members of the judiciary: “You judges and sheriffs, look at your education. All demolitions in this country always end up in violent confrontations.”
“(The settlers’) only fault is that they are poor. You mean to say you use government resources to wage war on the poor?” he said. “Never mind the rich, they can always buy land.” Reports from Germelina Lacorte and Dennis Jay Santos, Inquirer Mindanao; Inquirer Research