"What the hell do they think they'll accomplish with that?" groused my Dad during a long-distance call. My father, who is not usually given to grousing on community matters, finally had something that caught his ire and attention: the police parade through the streets of Dumaguete to kick off yet another high-visibility crime-prevention drive.
Perhaps if we ourselves hadn't fallen victim to a burglary, my Dad wouldn't be as concerned. Crime, after all, is Something That Happens to Other People. But not anymore: our Piapi home was broken into just a couple of months ago. Perspective changes rapidly once you have first-hand experience.
Out of that incident came a greater awareness and sympathy for (and from) fellow victims. That's when the stories start to come out. Not too long after our house was robbed, we heard that a judge and a pastor has also had their homes burgled. Just lately, a Korean family would have fallen victim had the thieves not been spotted clambering over their fence. How many more crimes like this have gone unreported?
What's happening to Dumaguete? That's the oft-repeated lament. It's echoed so often and just as quickly forgotten that perhaps its lost much of its impact. Perhaps it's necessary to revisit this question again and again with greater force each time until we find sufficient answers. What, indeed, is happening to Dumaguete?
If you need a picture of the situation, look no further than the lead photo of the front page of the August 12, 2007 issue of the Metro Post. In it, a jolly Mayor Tuting Perdices and two city hall officials hold court with a gaggle of teenage copycat hiphop gangsta wannabees as they sign a 'peace covenant.' Behind the blacked out eyes are gleeful smiles, mayor and staff included, as everyone mugs for the camera flashing L's and V's.
Peace covenant? Ri-iiight.
I look at this picture and I wonder if I'll ever see Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte in a similar position. In all honesty, I don't think I ever will. Any picture of Mayor Duterte with teenage copycat hiphop gangsta wannabees will most likely not be fit for print...which is why there are no teenage copycat hiphop gangsta wannabees in Davao City. If you know what I mean.
Two Sundays past I caught Mayor Duterte's interview on a community program on TV. He had just come back from a long vacation and he was back in fighting form. On the agenda: local government acquisition of private property along the boulevard to make way for a wider drainage system ("Kinahanglan man himu-on...bahala na kung masuko sila nako"); landgrabbing scammers from Metro Manila ("Gi-ingnan nako, pama-uli sila, kung dili...."); decisions to suspend classes in case of flood ("Ako'y magbu-ot kung kanus-a i-suspindi...dili ang DepED...amaw ma na silang taga-Manila...."); and a plan to make bus trips terminal-to-terminal to avoid bomb attacks ("Dili...kay lu-oy kaayo nang mga pobre nga manakay...doble ang ilang biyahe...kung mabutohan, aw, wala tay mahimo.")
The pictures of a smiling Duterted patting someone's back are rare indeed. He's ever slouched forward, the scowl only occasionally giving way to a smug yet well-deserved sneer.
Duterte is brusque and crass and dangerous as heck. But he's straight-talking and effective. He knows how to use his political collateral and exert his political will. Some people -- myself included -- may not agree with the rumored summary executions but that certainly does not eclipse his achievements overall.
And that's why he's a well-respected mayor and will be long-remembered as a giant in the history of Davao City.
Having been back in Davao the past eight months (with no signs of a return to Dumaguete), I can't help but compare and contrast the mayoral styles. And the question comes to mind: what is happening to Dumaguete City?
Listening to the stories coming in from friends and relatives in Dumaguete, I am filled with concern. Is it as bad as they say it is? When will the next break-in happen? Whose house will it be? When will the next drive-by shooting near Hayahay and El Camino occur? When will the next fire strike? Most importantly, will anyone I know get hurt, or worse?
And as I look at the city response -- pathetic parades and pointless photo-ops and pitiful promises -- I can only say: