BUKIDNON, Philippines – Davao City’s legislature on Tuesday, March 22, declared vice presidential candidate Walden Bello persona non grata in the city.
The Davao City council approved the resolution, authored by Councilor Danilo Dayanghirang, as it condemned Bello’s statement that described the city’s governance as corrupt, and for saying that the city was a trading hub of illegal drugs during the vice-presidential debates on Sunday.
During the debate, Bello repeatedly called out Davao Mayor Sara Duterte for her absence in the debate and criticized her leadership in the city.
Dayanghirang lashed back at Bello as he cited 118 awards the city government received from 2016 to 2021 under Duterte.
He said Davao too was recognized as the 4th Most Competitive Highly Urbanized City outside the National Capital Region in the 2021 Cities and Municipalities Competitive Index (CMCI), and the most peaceful and safest cities in Southeast Asia in 2018 by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI).
The Davao City Police Office was also awarded as the Best City Police Office in 2017 and 2020 by the Philippine National Police (PNP), he said.
“Walden Bello’s publicized malicious statements discredit the efforts and commitment of hardworking city government employees who are behind all the successes and recognitions received by the city,” read part of the resolution.
Dayanghirang said Davao City’s anti-illegal drugs campaign was recognized as outstanding by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) in 2017, and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) in 2019.
“Bello’s persistent attacks will debilitate the city’s economic efforts, especially in tourism and investment opportunities in the local and international scene, and affect Davao City’s reputable governance,” Dayanghirang said.
On March 21, Mayor Duterte’s Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) questioned Bello for holding information about illegal drugs in Davao and keeping it from authorities.
“It can be said that Bello is a narco-politician for withholding information crucial in the government’s anti-illegal drugs campaign. Because of this, we have requested an investigation into the extent of his knowledge and involvement in the illegal drug trade in Davao City,” read part of the HNP statement.
Bello and presidential candidate Leody de Guzman visited Davao City on March 15 and March 16 for their campaign sorties in the Davao region.
Bello was slapped with a P10-million cyber libel case on March 7 filed by Duterte’s former city information officer Jefry Tupas who claimed that Bello falsely accused her on social media of being a drug addict and dealer.
Tupas was entangled in a controversy for attending a beach party in Mabini, Davao de Oro that was raided by narcotics agents on November 6, 2021.
Bello, for his part, said he would return to Davao City despite the persona non grata declaration.
He was neither concerned nor bothered with what he described as the move of the “Davao elite.”
He said his conversations with ordinary people in Davao indicated an “immense dissatisfaction with the corruption and hypocrisy of the city’s dynasty.”
“I consider the ordinary people in Davao to be far more important than those privileged few who have sold their souls to the Dutertes,” Bello tweeted on Tuesday.
For the nth time, he challenged Mayor Duterte to a public debate, and advised her to stop sending “lackeys… to wash her dirty laundry.”
“If the coward Mayor Sara is confident about her track record, she should show up to debate me,” read part of his tweet. – Rappler.com
Grace Cantal-Albasin is a Mindanao-based journalist and awardee of Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship