Lawlessness in Davao City

By Perry Diaz

"Arrogance of power"

“Arrogance of power”

Once known as the “Murder Capital” of the Philippines, Davao City once again topped the headlines when Mayor Sara Duterte – surrounded by armed police bodyguards — beat a sheriff while hundreds of horrified people watched.

Duterte was caught on video camera punching sheriff Abe Andres – an officer of the court – several times while he was serving a court demolition order to destroy the shanties of approximately 250 informal settlers – or squatters – in the Agdao district in the city.

Assault on sheriff

The video footage played on TV news showed Duterte gesturing to Andres with her hand for him to come closer.  Unsuspecting, Andres came closer and, in lightning speed, Duterte punched him on the head at least four times with her right fist.  Andres cowered and ran away.  Duterte’s police bodyguards ran after him and dragged him back to Duterte.  While two of her police bodyguards held Andres’ arms, Andres with a swollen left eye grimaced in pain – and fear — as Duterte grabbed his collar with her left hand and poised to strike him with her clenched right fist… click!  That image was captured on camera for the whole world to see. The photo says it all: arrogance of power.

In an attempt to justify her beating of Andres, Duterte said that Andres ignored her “order” to wait for two hours before serving the writ of demolition.  Andres did not heed her “order” – she’s not his boss — and tried to proceed with serving the court’s writ of demolition.  That’s when Duterte lost her temper – wham!  And all hell broke lose.

Duterte claimed that she was only trying to avert violence and bloodshed that would have happened if the demolition order were not stopped.  Indeed, the video of the scuffle between the riot police and the squatters showed that emotions ran high.

For several days after the incident, Andres was out of public sight.  And when he failed to attend a meeting with the Supreme Court administrator in Manila, it led people to speculate that he went into hiding.  The following day he appeared in public and denied that he was in hiding.  However, he said that he was not going to file charges against Duterte.

In hindsight, couldn’t this sad episode been avoided if city and court officials were in communication during the time the demolition case was being heard before Judge Emmanuel Carpio, who happens to be related to Duterte’s husband, Maneses Carpio?

And don’t tell me that Duterte was not aware of the plight of 250 squatters within the city boundary.  If she were not aware of her constituents’ problems, then she was remiss of her mayoral duties.  And to resort to violence to deal with constituents’ problems is typical of the mindset of local government executives who see themselves above the law. Worst, they think they are the law!

Support for mayor

It did not come as a surprise that many local executives came out in support of Duterte, most notably Mayor Alfredo Lim of Manila who had earned the moniker “Dirty Harry” during his first mayoral stint in the 1990s.  Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson – known for his “tough on crime” style when he was head of the Philippine National Police — also justified Sara’s action.

Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte flashes dirty finger at media critics - SOURCE - ABS-CBN-ANC video

Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte flashes dirty finger at media critics – SOURCE – ABS-CBN-ANC video

In reaction to the punching incident, Sara’s father, vice mayor Rodrigo Duterte who is now acting mayor since Sara took a five-day leave of absence, expressed his all-out support for his daughter, and congratulating her for a “good job” in punching Andres.

Last July 4, on his first day as acting mayor, the elder Duterte was caught flashing his middle finger on TV as he cursed the media critics of his daughter.  He said that if he were the mayor at the time of the incident, he would have punched Andres and kicked him as well.  And, in a demonstration of arrogance — and raw power — he addressed Andres directly: “It would have been good for you if that was all you received from me [Expletive].”  Makes one wonder what else he would have done more than just punch and kick Andres?  That brings to the fore the kind of “law and order” that existed in Davao City when he was the mayor.

Culture of impunity

Rodrigo Duterte, who was mayor from 2001 until he was termed out in 2010, gained notoriety when a vigilante group known as the “Davao Death Squad” was believed to have been responsible for the murder of more than 1,000 citizens including children and young teens.  Although he was never proven to be associated with the death squad – which was often referred to as “Duterte Death Squad” — he had made public statements that seem to encourage or condone those killings.

In February 2009, according to the Human Rights Watch, Duterte told reporters: If you are doing an illegal activity in my city, if you are a criminal or part of a syndicate that preys on the innocent people of the city, for as long as I am the mayor, you are a legitimate target of assassination.”

The report, “You Can Die Any Time: Death Squad Killings in Mindanao,” details the “involvement of police and local government officials in targeted killings of alleged drug dealers and petty criminals, street children, and others, and describes the lack of any effort by the authorities to investigate the killings and bring those responsible to justice.”

The report further said, “The longtime mayor of Davao City, Rodrigo Duterte, has made numerous statements attempting to justify the killing of suspected criminals, believing that such killings have a deterrent effect on crime and have made the city a safer place. But according to statistics provided by the Philippines National Police, the number of annual crime incidents has increased some 219 percent in the last decade, while the city’s population rose only by 29 percent. An increasing number of death squad killings appear to have made crime rates worse in Davao.”

The administration of then-president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ignored the “targeted killings” in Davao City.  Not only did she ignore those extrajudicial killings, she appointed Duterte in 2003 as her consultant on “peace and order,” which seemingly indicated that she approved Duterte’s modus operandi of operating outside the law in fighting criminal elements.

Where do you draw the line?

Sara Duterte may have been be noble in her desire to alleviate the situation of the “informal settlers,” but was she right in resorting to violence to stop the court-ordered demolition?  Do two wrongs make a right or three wrongs?

In a civilized society, which I presume we are, the rule of law should – nay, must! – prevail at all times.  No one is above the law and every government official is mandated to enforce the law.  But when public officials break the law and take the law into their own hands, then lawlessness would break out.

It happened many times before in other parts of the world.  Indeed, it wasn’t too long ago in Somalia where lawlessness and poverty led to anarchy out of which warlords reign.

Are we getting there?



22 Responses. Have your say.

  1. Fritz Acuna says:

    The condition in the Philippines require immediate action on the part of those who ran the government if criminality will be stopped.

    No wonder ex-mayor of Manila Lim and ex-PNP chief Ping Lacson (known for taking the law into their hands) were behind Mayor Sara Duarte’s punching an erring government official and past Mayor Rodrigo Duarte’s death squad tactics.

    Fear of the law and authority is what the Philippines need to get rid of carnappers, kidnappers and drug pushers. What better deterent is there than on the site execution of caught perpetrators. Since the catholic church vehemently disallow birth control to curb population
    maybe killing criminals will help solve the problem of over population in the country.

    Fritz Acuna
    Ft. Worth, Texas

  2. You are exactly right in saying the caption in the photo says it all, “Arrogance of Power”.
    Davao city is under “Marshall Law” ran by the Duterte’s like Marcos did to the country.

    Thus, Ping Lacson goes down the drain for supporting such arrogance of power.
    That shows he would do the same as he did before, whenever, if ever, he gets into power.

    Let Duterte (and Lacson) have her day in court so the “Creatures” can say good riddance when they can finally see “The Circle As Before”. –

  3. frank says:

    In Davao City, the rule of law does not apply. Rule of law stands in contrast to the idea that the leader is above the law. Some are beyond the law and they rule.

  4. tony villan says:

    If this Andres has the Balls, File cases in the Court of Law is just as simple as that. Yes that he deserved to be PUNCHED TO WAKE-UP THIS BOBO SHERIFF OFFICER. HIS PRIME DUTY IS TO UPHOLD THE LAW AND PEACE AND ORDER.

    This is his second time to bangle a case he held on, the third time he IS DEAD OF HIS OWN DOING!



  5. Fortunato says:

    She is the mayor she can do what she wants to.

    • perry says:


      That’s the problem. Some mayors think that they can do whatever they want to do and that’s wrong. Rule of law must prevail; otherwise, we’ll end up like Somalia.


  6. Dionesio says:

    Re Fritz Acuna, you’re naive to believe that only malefactors would suffer. We’re human beings all and if not because of honest mistakes, people sometimes act against another because of prejudices, political reasons or hidden resentment. Do you really believe that those salvaged by the likes of Lim, Duterte and Lacson were all criminals?

    Re Villan, this guy is commenting obviously without reading the full story. It says that a report details the “involvement of police and local government officials in targeted killings of alleged drug dealers and petty criminals, street children, and others, and describes the lack of any effort by the authorities to investigate the killings and bring those responsible to justice.”
    It is open knowledge that behind this dreaded ‘salvage squad’ is Mr. Duterte. Now, if you are the sheriff concerned, would you dare go after the Dutertes?

    My point is that whoever you are, you have no right to inflict physical harm on a fellowman especially if he is being held by other persons and defenseless. In the case of the sheriff concerned he was merely implementing a lawful order.

  7. Ike says:

    The sheriff was upholding the law, he served the court order the way he was supposed to. I don’t blame him if does not file charges, “Our Leader: Duterte is mayor, he could easily activate the Davao Death Squad and it’s over for Andres. Why do you think he didn’t fight back when the mayor started punching him? Sara’s body guards could have finished him off right there.

    He may be bobo in the past, but he was not bobo when he served the order, one has nothing to do with the other. He was the victim of a crime. Why don’t we hear anything about the riot caused by the illegal squatters (oxymoron)? How the one that shot a dart on the policeman? Bakit si Andres ang pinag initan, the squatters, which were allowed to squat illegally by the Duterte’s seem to be untouched. Sara Duterte must be charged administratively and criminally. PNoy and the DILG can not dance around this issue the way they did with the Kalinga Gov. who attacked a radio commentator.

  8. LARRY G. DEL MUNDO says:

    A true leaders really know how to control themselves regardless wether they are single handedly facing the problem or surrounded by the group of media because :the character is being tested not by people around us but by the “ABOVE of EVERYTHING”who never hides from him. So leaders must to really be a good servant of the Lord to become a role model by the people of no entity to speak of. Dark justice is just a temporarily relief for injustices but the true measure is to follow the path of the law.Law must be the same for all human being….needs more reflection to avoid such or else it will become justifiable act for the next generations to come who certainly confused by the leaders who never act on this arrogancy.
    A wrong action cannot be corrected by a wrong solution because the rootcause is still there.Hopefully, the only consolation that we’ve seen on this episode is a never ending learn from mistakes and become a learning experience for everybody specaily for all people who wants to serve to the fullest…Nothing to project but to act accordingly!!!
    God please give our leaders more patience and humble enough to face any challenges.

  9. Now that’s what you call LEADERSHIP in ACTION! not just by position.
    Hooray to Mayor Duterte!!

  10. perry says:

    And to think I encourage people to go to Davao, or is this why people are afraid to be bad in Davao?

    Martin Aurelio
    (Sent by email)

  11. perry says:


    I am not surprised about this incident. In the Philippines, anything can happen with anyone taking the law into their hands, or knuckles !

    Ben Oteyza
    (Sent by email)

  12. perry says:

    Hi Martin,

    Yesrterday, a policeman was killed by a gang just so they can take his gun. Life is cheap in Davao City!


  13. Ike says:

    Behind those nice slide show of Davao tourism is the ugliness of drugs, crimes, and squatters all over the place. But the Duterte’s and his honchos give me the creeps. I crossed off my Davao visit next year.

  14. perry says:


    (Sent by email)

  15. perry says:

    Hi Ben,

    The sheriff was duty-bound to enforce the court order; otherwise, he could be cited for contempt of court or fired or both. Like any other eviction case, there was a due process that led to the issuance of a writ of demolition. If Sara was on top of things, she should have been aware that there was a big demolition case pending in court. The judge who heard the case is an uncle of her husband. She could have asked the judge for a continuance of the case so she can solve the relocation of squatters in her city. I’m pretty sure the judge would have agreed to a continuance, after all they’re related. It looks like it’s a case of Mayor Duterte dropping the ball. And she had the nerve to beat the sheriff — an officer of the court — for not following her “order” to stop the enforcement of the writ of demolition?


  16. perry says:

    Thanks for sharing Perrry,

    What party is she representing?


    Jaime Calero
    (Sent by email)

  17. perry says:

    Hi Jaime,

    I think she’s allied with P-Noy. Let’s see what Robredo will do.


  18. Apollodr says:

    There is simply no excuse for anyone to beat up a helpless person. On top of this arguement the victim is doing his job as an officer of the court. Just on which side is Duterte on??? Davao is not unlike the wild wild west of the lawless past in early America. In this day and age, the lack of civility in our country especially in the the south is astonishing. But what is worse is the unequivocal support Duterte gets from those leaders we look up to who should know better. Trully, what a shame.

  19. godmans says:

    ones in power, they feel that. they are in power ruling city. this article is right davao city mayor duterte. shown an example of arrogance of power and justice. she put the laws in her own hand and also her families. this show that the duterte families have abuse their power before. only no one bother to report, to the media. coz if ever or someone file criminal charges against her. you will be salvage for sure…

  20. SherlTee says:

    Aren’t the Dutertes allies of the President? Ka-partido ba sila? They say there will be no case since there is no complainant. LMAO! What an excuse! Must be “daang matuwid” time. Didn’t we all see the crime being committed on TV repeatedly? Is that not evidence enough? Is violence committed on persons, no matter their status in life or government position, not crime enough? Ka-text-mate ba ni PNoy si Sara? Hypocrits!

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