2022 PH local races

Davao NGO worker faces uphill battle in bid to unseat Duterte’s son

Grace Cantal-Albasin

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Davao NGO worker faces uphill battle in bid to unseat Duterte’s son

CANDIDACY. NGO worker Mags Z. Maglana fills out her certificate of candidacy while her lawyer Manny Quibod, dean of the College of Law of Ateneo de Davao University, administers notarial procedure for the documents.

Photo from Mags Maglana sa Kongreso FB Page

'We have a vision and a compelling agenda, and we are aiming to win for the first district, for Davao, for good governance,' says prominent NGO worker Mags Maglana

Without the machinery, Maria Victoria “Mags” Maglana is facing an uphill battle in the race for the congressional post in Davao’s first district, where she would be up against the most powerful political family not only in her community, but in the entire country.

Prominent nongovernmental organization (NGO) worker Maglana is up against reelectionist Davao City 1st District Representative Paulo “Pulong” Duterte, son of President Rodrigo Duterte. He is also one of the deputy speakers at the House of Representatives.

Maglana said her decision to file her certificate of candidacy on October 8 was already a milestone by itself, knowing full well that mounting a “genuine challenge” to the incumbent – and the most powerful family in the Philippines today – was unthinkable.

“The die is cast. But, we are not only mounting a challenge. We have a vision and a compelling agenda, and we are aiming to win for the first district, for Davao, for good governance,” she said.

Maglana said she was trying to find out why nearly half of the voters in Davao’s first district did not vote in 2019, the year the younger Duterte was elected as congressman.

That year, according to Maglana, only 58.88% voted in the congressional district. She said one of her challenges would be to understand why this happened.

“We need to truly understand how voters in District 1 decide, and what they value most. There was no pandemic yet in 2019. Why was it that many did not vote? We must understand better and address this better among other things. Our campaign must reach everyone in District 1, and not just to those who did not vote,” Maglana said. 

She said her campaign strategies would become clearer to her on November 16, after the deadline for the substitution of candidates. 

Maaari pang magbago ang hugis ng eleksyon, ng kandidato, magpalitan pa (How the elections would look like can change, and candidates can still trade places). To me, it’s not substitution, it’s reshuffling. We can only speculate. What is important is how these political players would conduct themselves after November 15, and then we strategize better,” she said. 

The voters in her district, Maglana said, are diverse, and it is home to businesses, old Davao families, the urban poor, Moro communities, and informal settlers.

Maglana urged Dabawenyos to journey with her and work for the “Davao of their dreams.”

‘Ovaries of steel’

Ica Fernandez, one of her friends, described Maglana as someone with “ovaries of steel,” and whose “brilliance and deep experience” working on governance issues in Mindanao make her a serious contender in the 2022 congressional race “even without the money and machinery that command elections.”

RELIEF AID. Mags Z. Maglana helps in repacking relief goods for families affected by the Davao floods early this week. The donation drive “Tambayayong,” spearheaded by Davao for Leni group, raised a quarter of a million in two days.
Photo by Davao for Leni Facebook page

“I trust that the voters of those 54 barangays will do the right thing,” said Fernandez. 

Davao’s 1st District used to be the stronghold of another political family, the Nograleses, although President Duterte had also served represented the district in Congress.

Bayan Muna Representative Carlos Isagani Zarate told Rappler that Maglana’s candidacy was timely because there were sectors in Davao that were seeking an alternative.

But Zarate, a Dabawenyo, said Maglana’s campaign against Duterte’s son would be an uphill battle between a well-entrenched political dynasty and a non-traditional politician. 

“For the longest time, she has been a development worker. Her impeccable record as a development worker is open. With this, she can contribute so much in Congress,” he said. 

Zarate said Maglana’s inexperience in traditional politics was both “positive and negative” for her. 

“Her being a non-politician is negative, yet it is also positive because people could now be presented with an alternative who knows what she speaks of. She is adept in legislation and she knows the issues in Davao and in Mindanao,” he said. 

Zarate said Maglana has broad support and the challenge for her and the civil society is how to expand this to the grassroots. 

“What is crucial here is making Mags’ campaign a people’s campaign,” Zarate said. 

Davao journalist Margarita Valle told Rappler that Congressman Duterte’s record pales in comparison to Maglana’s leadership. 

“In Mags’ younger days, she was a stellar, natural leader. It is the kind that we need. Pulong (Duterte’s son), kung sa Tagalog pa, ‘walang sinabi (mediocre).’ I really hope Mags wins,” said Valle. 

She said, however, that Maglana would need to overcome the “flawed electoral system plagued with vote-buying, patronage politics, and intimidation.”

“It would be difficult for Mags, but laban lang (keep up the fight),” she said. 

Former Anakpawis representative Ariel Casilao said the local chapters of Anakpawis, trade unions, and the urban poor organization Kadamay were bent on supporting Maglana’s candidacy.

“Mags has all the qualities, skills, and passion to lead the people in District 1. Her leadership is far from the traditional brand of Pulong’s politics. We will recommend Mags to our Davao City-based leaders who will endorse her election bid,” Casilao said. – Rappler.com

Grace Cantal-Albasin is a Mindanao-based journalist and an awardee of the Aries Rufo Journalism Fellowship.

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