Walden Bello ‘persona non grata’ in Davao City

Contributed photo
Contributed photo

THE 19th Davao City Council passed a resolution on Tuesday, March 22, declaring vice presidential candidate Walden Bello "persona non grata" for his "malicious claims" of the city being the "drug center" of the southern part of the Philippines and that some of the big ticket projects are hounded with corruption.

Persona non grata is a Latin word that literally means "an unwelcome person." In the legal sense, a person so declared is no longer welcome in a country or specific place and "is usually forced to return to his or her native country/place."

Councilor Danilo Dayanghirang, who crafted the resolution, denounced Bello's statement during the Commission on Elections (Comelec) PiliPinas Debates 2022: The Turning Point on Sunday evening, March 20.

"Vice presidential candidate Walden Bello wantonly and baselessly alleged corruption in Davao City which he pretentiously wanted to 'cleanse'," Dayanghirang said.

He added, "Further, he imputed that Davao City is the drug center of the south under the control of a member of a Duterte family."

According to the resolution, Bello is "not welcome to enter the borders, and entire territorial jurisdiction" of the city.

"The City Council denounces the unbecoming character of Walden Bello particularly his act of employing malicious tirades. Davao City's exemplary reputation is the hard work not only of the local government but of every honest, disciplined, responsible Dabawenyos," Dayanghirang said.

Bello, during the debate, said he will focus on "cleansing" the hometown of his fellow candidate, Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, if he wins in the May 2022 elections. Among the ongoing city projects that he would focus on is the Davao City Coastal Road and the Davao Public Transport Modernization Project, also known as the High Priority Bus System (HPBS).

"I would focus on cleansing, cleaning up Davao. For instance, 'yung (the) 36.8 coastal highway road... P1 million per meter? That's crazy... that's really corrupt,” he said.

“'Yung modernization nila ng PUV (public utility vehicle) system nila (Their modernization of the PUV system), they took away... they defrauded so many people and consolidated the whole PUV system into three bus companies, corruption 'yan (that is corruption)," Bello added.

The former Akbayan representative also said the city is the "drug center" of the southern part of the Philippines.

"Davao [is] the drug center of the south under the control of a member of the Duterte family. My God! This is something... we need to bring this out so that the people can examine the record of Sara Duterte," Bello said.

'Davao City: safer, developed place'

Contrary to the candidate's claim, Dayanghirang said the city "has become a safer and more developed place with top-notch infrastructure, economic and social programs."

The councilor cited some of the city's achievements, including the Seal of Good Local Governance and the Seal of Good Financial Housekeeping awarded by the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) over the years.

He also cited the award bestowed by the National Competitiveness Council and the Department of Trade and Industry declaring the city as the fourth Most Competitive Highly Urbanized City in the 2021 Cities and Municipalities Competitiveness Index -- the highest ranking of any city outside Metro Manila.

He also said the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry awarded the city in May 2018 a Special Recognition as one of the Most Peaceful and Safest Cities in Southeast Asia.

Also, several agencies recognized the city's anti-drugs and anti-criminality efforts. These include Davao City Police Office (DCPO) being recognized by the Philippine National Police as Best City Police Office for 2017 and 2020 due to its efforts in decreasing the total index crime rate from 13 in 2016 to 1.9 in 2021.

DILG, during the Anti-Drug Abuse Council Performance Audit in 2017, also recognized the Anti-Drug Abuse Council for its efforts in the government's anti-drug campaign.

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency also awarded the city as an Outstanding Local Government Unit-City Level for its anti-drug campaign in the entire Davao Region in 2019.

"Walden Bello's publicized malicious statement discredits the efforts and commitment of hardworking city government employees who are behind all the success and recognitions received by the city," Dayanghirang said.

Duterte-Carpio and her camp have not yet issued any formal statement regarding the Council's resolution.

The mayor's regional party, Hugpong ng Pagbabago, issued a statement on Monday evening, March 21, saying that they find Bello as a “threat” to the government’s anti-illegal drug campaign.

HNP said it is alarmed by the recent claims of Bello that the city is a trading center of illegal drugs in the South.

"As a Vice Presidential candidate in a narcopolitics, 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," the regional party said in a statement.

‘Unconcerned and unbothered’

Bello, in a statement issued on Tuesday afternoon, said he is "unconcerned and unbothered" by the resolution declaring him as persona non grata.

"I consider ordinary people in Davao to be far more important than those privileged few who have sold their souls to the Dutertes," he said.

He said that his conversation with some Dabawenyos, particularly the workers, farmers, professionals, and others have revealed an "immense dissatisfaction with the corruption and hypocrisy of the city's dynasty."

"I reiterate: if the coward Mayor Sara is confident about her track record, she should show up to debate me," Bello said.

"She should stop sending lackeys like [Jefrey] Tupas and the City Council to try to wash her dirty laundry," he said.

In a separate statement issued early Tuesday, March 22, he renewed his call to the mayor to show up in the debates and answer the allegations thrown against her leadership.

“This reeks of desperation. What is Sara so afraid of? Why can’t she just face me? Why is she and her party doing all these things to try to silence me? But this is also concerning: An estimated 27,000 people who have been accused of being in the drug trade have been killed in Sara’s father’s “war on drugs.” Are they also setting me up to be killed?” he said.

“I repeat my challenge to Sara Duterte: ‘Wag kang duwag. Ayaw pagtinawalan. (Don’t be a coward.) Face me in a debate,” he added.

Aside from Bello, the City Council previously declared former senator Antonio Trillanes as “persona non grata” in 2018 for portraying the city as the most dangerous in the Philippines and likening Dabawenyos to North Koreans who are easily brainwashed by President Rodrigo Duterte.

The council also declared Comedian Ramon Bautista persona non grata after he made a joke describing women of the city as "hipon (shrimp)" during a Kadayawan event in 2014.

Hipon is a "a street slang for a woman with an ugly face and a sexy body and is usually used to refer to women who are ugly and/or stupid and you only want to be intimate with them because they have sexy bodies."


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