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Councilor who replaced Paolo Duterte says he’s not a Duterte puppet

/ 07:23 AM January 14, 2018

Bernard Al-ag, who replaced Paolo Duterte as Davao City vice mayor, insists he’s not just a shadow of President Duterte’s eldest child. —ARJOY M. CENIZA

DAVAO CITY — Newly-installed Vice Mayor Bernard Al-ag talked with media on Thursday at the city council session hall with a streamer featuring the face of Paolo Duterte in the background.

“Independence means we will work on our own,” he proclaimed.

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He sought to answer social media accusations that he, or the majority in the council, were just puppets of the Duterte family, who had ruled Davao City for more than two decades now.

Al-ag, a loyal ally of the Dutertes, told reporters the support that he and the council were giving Mayor Sara Duterte’s development agenda did not mean they were not independent.

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“If there are differences between the council and executive department, we will try to come up with a win-win solution,” said the new vice mayor.

Christmas Day resignation

Al-ag took over the post after Paolo quit on Christmas Day in the middle of controversies hounding him that included his alleged role in the smuggling of P6.4-billion in “shabu (crystal meth) through the Bureau of Customs and his very public social media spat with his daughter, Isabelle.

Paolo’s father, President Rodrigo Duterte, accepted the resignation only last week.

Al-ag said the only motivation he and the council had was public interest, nothing else.

“We will always decide what is good for the city and the Dabawenyos, not because it was somebody’s desire,” he added.

Al-ag said this would ensure that the council, under his leadership, would not become a rubber stamp or puppet of the mayor. “If we see that the policy would not do the city and the people any good, we will certainly voice out [our opposition],” he said.

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No pressure

When asked if he or the council would stand against any pressure from the Dutertes, Al-ag replied: “With the support of the members of the entire council, I’m sure we could withstand any possible pressure.”

But he quickly added that there had not been a single instance when the council felt pressure from the Dutertes.

Al-ag formally assumed his post as vice mayor on Wednesday. He took his oath of office before Sara around 4 p.m. on the same day.

The oath-taking, held at Sara’s office, was witnessed by several other Davao City officials.

Al-ag earlier said his becoming vice mayor would trigger a few changes in the leadership of various committees in the council.

He said he would be relieved of his duty as majority floor leader and chair of the committee on rules “so there will be few changes.”

Al-ag would serve Paolo’s remaining term until 2019, when new elections were expected to be held.

Al-ag was an Optometry graduate at Centro Escolar University in Manila and was in the top seven of the 1997 Optometry board exam.

He was councilor from 2010 under President Duterte’s local party, Hugpong sa Tawong Lungsod, and once served as acting mayor when Sara took a leave in July 2016. —Judy Quiros and Frinston Lim

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TAGS: Bernard al-ag, Customs shabu shipment, Isabelle Duterte, Paolo Duterte, Rodrigo Duterte
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