‘Not my best moment,’ says Duterte of incident
DAVAO CITY—“It was not my best moment,” said Mayor Sara Duterte, as she announced that she was going on leave starting July 7 and was ready to face the consequences of her actions.
Photographs of the mayor, called Inday Sara, punching a court sheriff were splashed on newspaper front pages on Saturday. The feisty mayor threw four punches at Sheriff Abe Andres after he reportedly refused to heed her request for a two-hour stay of a demolition order in the city’s Agdao district.
In a press conference held at her office Saturday afternoon, Duterte, 32, described the incident as “an unfortunate event”
“I will face the consequences and will wait for the call of the investigators,” she said.
Thinking of others
She said she was taking a leave of absence based on the advice of her lawyers and her husband.
This move, she said, is “for anyone who wants to conduct an investigation.”
Asked if she regretted the incident, Duterte explained that she got incensed when violence flared at the demolition.
She said she was thinking not only of the welfare of the settlers but also of protecting the rights of the owner of the land, who had filed an urgent motion in court.
“I did not want it to happen,” Duterte said of the violent dispersal.
“If I were to describe my feelings at that time, they were of frustration,” she said.
Duterte also said she was apologizing to the judiciary for making a sweeping statement.
“It was incorrect and I hope they accept my apologies,” Duterte said.
Duterte said she has not yet discussed the incident with her father, a former Davao City mayor who is now the vice mayor.
“We don’t really talk to each other much,” she said, adding that she was “more afraid of her mother.”
Local journalists interviewed the elder Duterte earlier, who said in jest: “No comment. I may be next to be punched.”
It was not announced if her father would be taking over in her absence.
But with the criticism she is facing, Duterte said her family supports her.
At the same time, Duterte disowned a Facebook account in her name as “unauthorized.”
The account under her name had posts such as: “Wala akong pakialam sa public opinion (I don’t care about public opinion),” and “In the coming days when I need to explain, I will explain only to the people of Davao City because I am their mayor.”
In disowning the account, she said: “I was told to stop talking about the incident (by my lawyers).”
Probe to continue
In Manila, it was announced that the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) will continue its investigation of Duterte’s physical assault on a court sheriff on Friday despite the victim’s reported disinterest in pursuing a case.
In a news briefing over state-run dzRB radio by Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte brushed aside insinuations that Duterte’s reported alliance with the Aquino administration would affect the integrity of the investigation.
“Based on what I know, (the DILG probe) will still continue because the criminal charges that will be filed by the sheriff are different from the administrative charges under the DILG,” Valte said.
Valte withheld further comment on the matter, saying the administrative case would eventually reach the Office of the President.
“The DILG has already initiated an investigation and, as such, we would observe the process and… we do not wish to give an impression that it might be prejudged or biased,” she added.
Duterte, a lawyer, could also be subject to disciplinary action by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP).
IBP national president Roan Libarios yesterday said he was encouraging Andres to file a disciplinary complaint against Duterte to “test the limits of the exercise of her power as a public official, who happens to be a lawyer.”
On Friday, Andres said he would not file any complaint against Duterte yet and would wait for the consensus of court sheriffs, as well as for the advice of the Sheriffs Confederation of the Philippines.
She has her backers
But Duterte also has her defenders.
Commission on Human Rights Regional Director Alberto Sipaco Jr. said in a radio interview: “We should look at it in a broader humanitarian context. The mayor had been out distributing food to victims of the recent flooding in the city when she was confronted by this development. She could not afford to lose more lives if a riot happened in Agdao. People always come to her for help.”
Lawyer Carlos Isagani Zarate, secretary general of the lawyers’ group Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao, said that while civil society should not condone the use of violence by local executives in resolving conflicts, we should not overlook its social dimension,” Zarate said.
“It was a rare show of concern,” said the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan. With reports from Allan Nawal, Germelina Lacorte, Jeffrey Tupas and Dennis Santos, Inquirer Mindanao; and Norman Bordadora, Nikko Dizon and Kristine Felisse Mangunay.
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