Sara Duterte leaves legacy as Davao City mayor that’s distinct from father

Chrislen Bulosan and Hernel Tocmo

Posted at Jun 19 2022 12:08 AM | Updated as of Jun 30 2022 12:28 AM

Sara Duterte leaves legacy
The Davao City Hall on June 18, 2022. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

As Vice President-elect Inday Sara Duterte is set to leave her mayoral seat, she will be leaving Davao City with a legacy distinct from her father, outgoing President Rodrigo Duterte, who also served as the locality's mayor.

Sara Duterte leaves legacy
Sara Duterte is proclaimed the vice president-elect of the Philippines during a formal ceremony officiated by Senate-president Vicente Sotto III (L) and House Speaker Lord Allan Velasco at the House of Representatives at the Batasan Pambansa in Quezon City on May 25, 2022. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

Political analyst Ramon Beleno III said he recognizes the more “systematic” approach of the daughter as the local executive chief. 

Among the many things she resolved was stabilizing the finances of the city. During the last campaign period, Sara Duterte touted making Davao City “debt-free” by the end of the month.

“As we continue to implement the projects, we have also been allocating ample budget every year to diligently pay back our loans,” Duterte said during her state of the city address (SOCA) last March.

“Pagpasok ni Mayor Inday, nakita niya na kailangang efficiently i-manage yung resources ng city … There are some people who are bing supported by the city pero pagpasok ni Mayor Inday, tinanggal na 'yun kasi they see na it’s not healthy sa finances ng City,” said Beleno.

Sara Duterte leaves legacy
Sara Duterte sings the Philippine National Anthem with her father, President Rodrigo Duterte during the commemoration of the 123rd Anniversary of the martyrdom of Dr. Jose Rizal at the Rizal Park in Davao City on December 30, 2019. Karl Norman Alonzo, Presidential Photo

Davao City bagged a total of 118 awards and citations for the LGU’s governance and service, including the "4th Most Competitive Highly Urbanized City" in the 2021 Cities and Municipalities Competitiveness Index, the highest-ranking of any city outside the National Capital Region. 

Davao has not missed a spot in the top 5 since 2015.

The biggest city in the Philippines in terms of land area, Davao was named the 8th richest city in the country in 2020, with P23 billion worth of assets, based on the annual financial report released by the Commission on Audit (COA).


The fight against terrorism was one of Duterte’s first challenges during her first few years as mayor.

The Roxas Night Market bombing happened in September 2016, causing 14 deaths and 70 injuries.

Sara Duterte leaves legacy
Rescue workers carry a bag containing victims of an explosion at a night market in Davao City early September 3, 2016. Manman Dejeto, AFP

Months after, alleged New People's Army (NPA) rebels attacked a banana plantation in Mandug, killing a fish vendor in a landmine blast in April 2017.

“We already sought to address insurgency through a concrete local government program. We formed the Davao City Local Peace Committee to put an end to the atrocities committed by the New People’s Army in Davao City,” Duterte said in her last SOCA.

After the relentless operations, the military and police dismantled the Guerrilla Front 55 in Paquibato district this year, the known stronghold of NPA rebels in the city.

Sara Duterte leaves legacy
Then Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte takes a photo with her father and other distinguished guests during the commemoration of the 123rd Anniversary of the martyrdom of Dr. Jose Rizal at the Rizal Park in Davao City on December 30, 2019. Karl Norman Alonzo, Presidential Photo

A drop in the total crime rate index was also recorded by the Davao City Police Office — from 13.0 in 2016 to 1.9 in 2021.

According to Davao City Police Office (DCPO) spokesperson Police Major Maria Teresita Gaspan, besides strengthening their anti-criminality campaign and raising the police visibility even more, an augmentation with the number of authorities was helped to keep the peace and order in the city.

The police auxiliary, institutionalized during Duterte’s term, was deployed in stations together with police officers, was utilized and mobilized as the body of the PNP during patrol operations. They are under the LGU’s payroll.

Meanwhile, during the time of then-Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, the Barangay Peacekeeping Action Teams (BPAT) were much more visible.

The war against drugs was one of the highlights of the President's projects and one he focused on during his term as mayor.

“Sa time ni PRRD, doon nagsimula na intensified talaga ang intelligence, information-gathering. Na-experience natin na siya talaga ang nakapatigil sa mga gangs noon,” Gaspan said. 

Sara Duterte continued the efforts to keep the peace and order during her term.

But Beleno said there was a decline in the number of recorded deaths for drug suspects.

“Meron pa rin. Pero ’yung frequency, hindi na ganu’n kalala compared nung si Mayor Digong 'yung nandito. Siguro ’yung frequency ng mga naririnig nating patayan, pero ganun pa rin, ’yung mga nahuhuli marami pa rin,” Beleno said.


On the night of March 12, 2020, with 52 total COVID-19 cases in the country, Davao City quickly mandated residents to refrain from leaving the city, announcing the cancellation of mass gatherings and closure of the Roxas night market.

Sara Duterte leaves legacy
A city worker wearing a protective suit disinfects the vicinity of the city hall on March 9, 2020. Cerilo Ebrano, EPA-EFE

The implementation of liquor ban and curfew hours followed thereafter, as pandemic precautionary measures. 

As the health emergency situation forced a lot of establishments to close, the unemployment rate in the city soared high. 

Several emergency work opportunities were initiated for retrenched workers.

By March 2022, over 1.2 million residents were already fully vaccinated, which is 80% of the city’s total population, as per the statistics from the city information office.

However, children in the 5-11 years old bracket had a low vaccination turnout. Out of the 240,000-plus target population in that age bracket, only 19,639 (8.11%) got their first dose and 15,990 (6.60%) were jabbed for their second doses.

The COVID-19 Cluster Clinic and the Los Amigos Molecular Laboratory were also created in the city amid the pandemic. Davao's own crematorium was also built, which catered to over 300 cadavers of COVID patients.

In order to strengthen the information drive during the pandemic, the LGU also launched its own radio station, the Davao City Disaster Radio, of which programs are also simultaneously broadcasted live on the internet. 


Duterte disclosed that over 3,000 infrastructure projects were completed in the past six years. Among these were roads, bridges, schools and government buildings, irrigation projects, and other structures.

Among the many projects. and the biggest so far, is the Davao City Coastal Road—a 17-kilometer-long project considered to be the “flagship project” by the DPWH in the city to address the heavy traffic along Cotabato-Davao road.

“It will serve as bypass road, a coastal shore protection and breakwater that protects the city from sea wave actions, water surges and shore erosion,” according to the press statement released by the DPWH XI.

The coastal road in the Talomo area was opened to the public last February but only for biking, hiking, and exercising activities for now. It is targeted to be completed by next year.

Sara Duterte leaves legacy
Pedestrians cross a busy intersection in Davao City on June 18, 2022. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

By-pass roads and diversion roads were built over the past six years also, to address the traffic congestion in the city.

Flooding, however, remains a perennial issue in certain areas in the city, resulting in displaced families every time a heavy downpour. 

While there have been dikes built along rivers, the strong current of the waters eventually destroys the dikes. Pumping stations have been installed, too, but it does not suppress the situation.

According to DPWH XI spokesperson Dean Ortiz, the agency is currently conducting the master plan and feasibility study on flood control and drainage projects in Davao.

“The study is still ongoing but upon completion of the study, it will be our guide in all the upcoming projects of DPWH along the rivers of Matina and Talomo. As well as the main drainage channels. This will be a holistic plan to prevent the flooding from worsening,” Ortiz said.

Urban planning is one thing the LGU could have focused on, said Beleno, as this can address several land development projects in the city, including the recurring flood situation.

“Na-notice natin, yung flooding is already becoming frequent pero kung maganda kasi yung urban planning natin, alam na natin kung saan ifo-focus yung mga flooding projects,” he said.

“Tingnan muna natin 'yung urban planning. Ano ba talaga ang magiging itsura ng syudad in a matter of 30-50 years. Kasi ngayon, parang lumalabas, na it’s just creating roads, widening roads, pero ang daming tinatamaan,” he added.

Another project that would also help boost the tourism industry in the City is creation of seaports, Beleno said.

“Compared siguro sa ibang lugar, mas established na yung kanilang sea routes … Sayang yung mga development natin dito, and yet it’s just limited lang sa mga taga-Mindanao or sa mga nearby provinces natin. So sana, mas medyo may project ata ang incoming DOT na ma-promote ang Midanao,” he said.


Sara Duterte leaves legacy
Rescue workers evacuate flood-affected residents in Davao on December 23, 2017, after Typhoon Vinta dumped torrential rains across the island. Manman Dejeto, ABS-CBN News

To ensure that water levels of rivers are monitored during the rainy season, especially in residential areas, cameras were installed in each coastal area in the city.

New sirens are also now operating to alert residents in disaster-prone areas for emergencies. 

The City Disaster Risk Reduction Management Office (CDRRMO) has been consistent in its information campaign, in emergency situations, when residents needed to be alerted or preempt an evacuation.

A committee for the implementation of the LGU-crafted local climate change action plan has been formed.


The existing Lingap Para sa Mahirap Program, which aids indigent residents with their hospital bills, opened its satellite offices in two districts in the City and was made accessible online to forgo physically going to Lingap offices and submit their requirements through their gadgets instead.

Sara Duterte leaves legacy
A view of the newly constructed Mental Wellness Center in Davao City on June 18, 2022. The center which can accommodate around 50-60 patients, currently houses 23 patients and primarily caters to homeless people in the city. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

A mental wellness center, which was built last 2021, serves as a facility for mentally challenged homeless individuals and an outpatient counseling service center.

The city-owned public hospital will also be built with a P250 million allocation from the 2022 Annual Development Fund for its land development.

Meanwhile, a budget of P70 million was allotted for the construction of the Davao City Special Needs Intervention Center for Children, which aims to provide free services of early intervention, occupational, speech, and physical therapy, and special education and transition programs to children and youth with special needs.

Sara Duterte leaves legacy
Duterte greets supporters during a grand rally at the Lima Commercial Estate along on April 20, 2022. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News


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According Belleno, people's perception of the two Dutertes is that they would make things and plans done regardless of the repercussions of their actions.

"Basta they think this would help or this would benefit the constituents, then they go with it," he said.

However, there were instances that the father and the daughter have had different stances on some issues.

Former Davao City councilor Danny Dayanghirang recalled a project in Davao City, wherein it was green-lighted by the elder Duterte, but was not pursued under the daughter's administration.

It was in 2017 when the younger Duterte canceled a P39-billion reclamation project in Davao City, which was a joint venture agreement by her father with the Mega Harbour Port and Development Inc.

"During the last few months of President Duterte when he was the Mayor, there was this proposal to reclaim some portions of Davao Gulf area. And pagpasok ni Mayor Sara vineto niya, she opposed it. So hindi natuloy ’yung project. She believes that reclamation, reclaiming an area of Davao Gulf will affect the environment," Dayanghirang said, highlighting Sara Duterte being independent as a mayor.

Beleno said Sara Duterte is a technocrat and a politician who is very keen to details and technicalities, and very efficient in terms of allocation of resources and spending.

"Na-notice natin na talagang very strict siya doon sa mga ganoong spending. And in fact na kahit na may mga programs or projects ’yung kanyang tatay before, kung sa tingin niya this would not help doon sa kanyang advocacy of making the city more financially sufficient, medyo nile-let go niya ’yon," Beleno said.

He also cited an instance where her father reportedly helped some people before to work at the city hall, but when Sara noticed that it was not really helping the city, she removed them when she took over as the mayor.

"In fact, may mga programs nga na ini-stop niya dahil sa tingin niya, although it’s helping the people, pero parang hindi yata ganon ka-efficient," Beleno said.

"Although hindi naman natin sinasabi na hindi tumutulong si Mayor Inday, tumutulong naman siya, pero ’yun nga in a systematic way na hindi lumalabas na dole-out na lang ’yung mga binibigay na parang out of pity, out of spite."

There were also instances when the elder Duterte passed ordinances, but his daughter vetoed it.

"Marami din ang nag-o-observe na as compared sa tatay, medyo mas matigas yata ’yung anak. May way of thinking din siya and this goes to several decision-makings. Siguro pwede nating masabi ’yung pagtakbo niya for vice president is something na siya mismo ang nag-decide. And you know, kahit na ayaw ng tatay niya, and since ito ang gusto niya, pinagpatuloy niya pa rin," he said.

For Beleno, Sara Duterte is the intelligent version and more refined than her father, as she does not spew expletives in public and her movement is presidential-liking.

"Si President Digong kasi, di ba may mga kwento ’yan na may nadadaanan lang siya sa kalsada, then tinutulungan niya or may lumalapit sa kanya, tinutulungan niya kaagad. Whereas is Mayor Inday, more systematic noh. Hindi ’yung personal dole-out ’yung kanyang approach. It’s something more systematic na, well, kung kailangan mo ng tulong, we have different government agencies that can actually help you," he said.


Sara Duterte leaves legacy
Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte gestures to supporters on the last day of political campaign in Paranaque on May 7, 2022. Francis R. Malasig, EPA-EFE

In terms of political alliances, Beleno also observed that the younger Duterte has many established political parties and established political leaders that are supporting her, whereas her father had a smaller political party but was able to establish his rapport and connection with the people that led to his victory in 2016.

Beleno also predicts that Sara will stay in the background during the first few years of the vice presidency, but will eventually show her brand of leadership.

"Alam kasi natin na strong personality talaga si Mayor Inday and that would not look good having a president na marami namang issues. ’Yung comparison is inevitable. And of course, ’pag ganon, ’yung kinu-compare ’yung president sa vice president, there would be a tendency na baka ma-insecure ’yung president and that will destroy ’yung maganda sanang relationship ng dalawa," Beleno said.

"We’re expecting sana that she would be handling more sensitive positions like DND or DILG. Pero well, binigay sa kanya yung DepEd. Sa akin for now, siguro medyo magse-settle muna siya sa ganong mga positions, hindi muna siya masyado mag-ingay.”


Sara Duterte also became known as the mayor who punched a court sheriff in 2011 after the latter, implementing a court order, pushed through the demolition of houses in Agdao district.

Dayanghirang said that it did not affect Duterte even during the election.

"Hindi ito nakaapekto sa kanya because ’yung ginawa naman niya is for a reason. May reason ’yung ginawa niya," he said.

Despite the past issue, she did well in the election surveys and even had a majority win after May 2022 polls.

"Alam naman natin na hindi lang niya ’yon sinuntok dahil sa mayor siya, but may reason talaga out of, you know, humanitarian reason na naawa siya sa mga tao and nagkagulo nga dahil hindi nga nag-antay ng konting panahon ’yung sheriff at pinagpatuloy pa rin ’yung demolition kaya medyo nagkaroon ng kagulohan na at that time. The Mayor was also very busy trying to address other problems sa siyudad," he said.


Sara Duterte leaves legacy
Members of the Alyansa ni Inday take pictures at the People Power Monument during a motorcade along EDSA on February 25, 2021. George Calvelo, ABS-CBN News

Months before the election period, many groups urged Sara Duterte to run for president in the 2022 national elections, with huge tarpaulins of "Run Sara Run" seen in many parts of the country.

But many were surprised when Sara ran for vice president instead under Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.

Beleno believes the vice presidency is an advantage for Sara, who is a family person with young children. There were times as mayor when she took leaves of absence to take care of her family and her health. Thus, through the vice presidency, she can still have time for personal priorities without sacrificing public service.

"Alam natin kung presidente ang tinakbo niya and nanalo siya, walang leave of absence ’yon. So ako din mismo naniniwala na, well, it’s one way of sabi ko win-win situation. Number one is that, hindi pa siya maiipit between family and work kasi nga vice president, hindi naman gano’n ka-busy ang magiging trabaho. And, of course, you can still buy your leave. And ’yung isa naman is that, hindi niya binibitawan ’yung tinatawag natin na political capital," he said.

The vice presidency could also be her stepping stone to a higher position as Beleno believes by 2028, she would become more experienced and more knowledgeable especially with the problems of the country.

"But of course, the most important thing, hindi niya binitawan ’yung political capital. Sikat pa rin siya, nandiyan pa rin siya, nakikita pa rin siya ng tao. So pagdating ng 2028, kilala pa rin siya. Hopefully, popular pa rin siya by that time, which is one of the major ingredients para manalo in the national position," Beleno said.

Dayanghirang, who is a co-convenor of a major support group "Sara All Philippines", said there is a possibility of another Duterte as presidential candidate in 2028.

"But one thing is for sure that she is already qualified, even now, to be the president," he said.

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