And once again, Davao City is in the news.
In the middle of a violent clearing action in Barangay Soliman, one of the city's squatter areas, our mayor Sara Z. Duterte intervened and called for a halt to the operation. Who, she demanded of the police, called for the demolition to proceed?
"We're following the orders of the sheriff", the head policeman said.
"Ipatawag mo siya!"
It took a while to find the sheriff. He was skulking in some corner, blending in with the rest of the crowd, dressed in grey checked shirt and jeans. They finally found him and pointed him out to the mayor.
"Dali, dali dinhi," Sara Z. beckoned.
The sheriff shuffled forth. And when he came within reach...BAM! She struck him across the eye with a right hook. And again! And again! Someone came to the rescue of the poor sheriff and dragged him away while a few others held the lady mayor back.
I caught the whole thing on the news. I don't know why, but I found myself cheering for our mayor. I suppose it was because of the...sincerity...with which she threw her punches.
It's tough to be mayor of Davao this week. Last Tuesday, heavy rains fell and a flash flood struck several barangays in Matina and Ma-a. Some thirty people died, many of them children. Several hundred families are still in evacuation centers, no home to return to. Sara Z. did not need the trouble of a demolition on her hands.
It was the look in her eyes, more than anything. Sara Z. was tired. She was haggard. In the past few days it seemed that she had aged years. She's been soldiering on, but the drama in Soliman took her over the edge.
As per Sara Z's account: she wasn't defying the demolition order, but she had spoken with the sheriff and they had agreed to an abeyance. Two hours, she asked, while she oversaw relief operations in the flood-stricken areas, after which she would help negotiate with the squatters. The sheriff reneged and called for the demolition as scheduled.
In the aftermath, we saw our mayor sitting on the street, her hand wrapped in a bandage. Less agitated now, and bereft of wind. And still she stood by her actions.
It's tough to be mayor of Davao City this week. Go, Sara.