Davao City gov't declares VP aspirant Walden Bello persona non grata

Josiah Antonio, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 22 2022 06:22 PM | Updated as of Mar 22 2022 08:03 PM

Vice Presidential candidates Prof. Walden Bello answers questions during the #PilipinasDebates2022: The Turning Point – The Vice Presidential Debate at the Sofitel Tent in Pasay City on March 20, 2022. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News.
Vice Presidential candidates Prof. Walden Bello answers questions during the #PilipinasDebates2022: The Turning Point – The Vice Presidential Debate at the Sofitel Tent in Pasay City on March 20, 2022. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News.

MANILA (UPDATE) — Partido Lakas ng Masa vice presidential candidate Walden Bello was declared Tuesday as persona non grata by the Davao City government after alleging that the city is the "drug center of the South" during the recent Commission on Elections-sponsored debate.

The city council approved a resolution proposed by councilor Danilo Dayanghirang to declare Bello as such and "that he is not welcome to enter the borders, and the entire territorial jurisdiction of Davao City."

"Bello's persistent attacks will debilitate Davao City's economic recovery efforts, especially in promoting the city's tourism and investment opportunities to the local and international scene, and ultimately affect Davao City's reputable governance to the public in general," the resolution read.

It stated the various recognitions of the city in recent years, including the Seal of Good Local Governance and the Seal of Good Financial Housekeeping, Most Competitive City in VisMin, Best City Police Office for the local police, and Outstanding Local Government Unit - City Level given by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency.

"I am unconcerned and unbothered by the decision of local Davao elites to declare me as persona non grata," Bello said.

"It is the citizens of Davao who I consider to be far more important than those who have sold their souls to the Dutertes. And my conversations with them last week have revealed an immense dissatisfaction with the corruption and hypocrisy in the management of their city," he added.

Bello challenged his rival Davao City Mayor Sara-Duterte Carpio to join the debates and refute his claims. 

"I reiterate: if the coward Mayor Sara is confident about her track record, she should show up to debate me. She should stop sending lackeys like Tupas and the City Council to try to wash her dirty laundry," Bello said, referring to ex-Davao City public information officer Jefry Tupas who sued him for cyberlibel.

"To Davao City, I say, I shall return!" he added.

Bello earlier said that Hugpong ng Pagbabago's (HNP) claim that he is a narco politician is another smokescreen to Duterte-Carpio's absence in debates.

"This is the problem right now because all of these moves are meant to derail our attention from Sara Duterte appearing in a debate with me and with the other candidates. This is meant to derail, to smokescreen for her non-appearance at kailangan talaga siyang sumipot dito sa mga debates na ito to answer such questions," Bello told reporters in a press conference. 

(And she needs to be present in these debates to answer such questions.)

"All of us have been subjected to the same scrutiny by the other candidates and by the people. We are being asked questions about our records at ‘yung program of action namin, but she and her running mate Marcos Jr. refuse to be subjected to the same scrutiny by voters," he added.

Bello has repeatedly questioned Duterte-Carpio's track record as Davao City mayor and raised her alleged mishandling of drug war and corruption issues of his rival during the March 20 vice presidential debate.

This led to HNP, Duterte-Carpio's local party, to issue a statement alleging Bello to be involved in narco politics. 

"It can be said that Mr. Bello is a narco politician in a way that he withheld information crucial in the government’s anti-drug campaign. Because of this, HNP has already requested an investigation into the extent of Mr. Bello’s knowledge and involvement in the illegal drug trade in Davao City," HNP said in a statement. 

"As a Vice Presidential candidate in narco politics, as someone who knowingly and purposely refused to disclose information or cooperate with the authorities, Mr. Bello has just presented himself as a danger to peace and order and a threat to the anti-illegal drugs campaign of the government," it added.

Bello said HNP's claim is not a threat to arrest him, but an attempt to silence him and a threat to his life. He said they are running out of arguments to defend Duterte-Carpio's absence in debates where she can explain her side.

“Basically, this is an attempt to silence me by threatening my life. At itong Hugpong ng Pagbabago, HNP, which rhymes with PNP (Philippine National Police), very transparent naman itong aim nila which is to silence me for having exposed a major, major issue in Davao (City),” Bello said.

"The logic is non-existent. Hindi ko nga alam (I don't know) what kind of people are behind the propaganda of the Hugpong ng Pagbabago kasi talagang (because it's) illogical ‘yan. It’s ridiculous. I think they’re running out of arguments for not showing up in a debate," he added.

Asked if he will pursue legal action against HNP, Bello said he will not do the same tactics Duterte-Carpio has pulled off after Tupas filed a cyberlibel complaint against him.

"To allegations like those, the only that, you know, you do with those is itapon sa basura kasi (throw in the trash because) ridiculous naman talaga tas sabihin kung ano ‘yung dahilan (and explain their reasoning)," he said. 

"We do not adopt what they have been doing. Will we charge them by cyberlibel? Of course not. Hindi kami ganyan. (We are not like them.) That’s not the way we operate." 

— with reports from Chrislen Bulosan

Watch more on iWantTFC