THE 19th City Council ended its last regular session with cheers and tears on Tuesday, June 28.

The City Council bid farewell to Vice Mayor and Presiding Officer Sebastian Duterte, who is set to assume the mayorship on June 30, replacing his sister, outgoing Davao City Mayor and incoming Vice President Sara Duterte.

The Council also said their goodbye to outgoing Councilors Nilo Abellera, Maria Belen "Mabel" Sunga-Acosta, Bonifacio Militar, Pamela Librado-Morata, Ralph Abella, Danilo Dayanghirang, Antoinette Principe, and Mary Joselle Villafuerte.

Plaques and awards were given to the "graduating" councilors.

Outgoing First District Councilor and Floor Leader J. Melchor Quitain, Jr., presided over the farewell program, wherein he congratulated his colleagues for a "job well done."

Quitain, an incoming Vice Mayor, shared how the Covid-19 pandemic affected some of the City Council activities, including their supposed attendance on the Philippine Councilor's League.

He also recalled that the majority of their sessions were held under a hybrid setup, digital and face-to-face due to the restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic. The 19th Council is the first to implement a video conferencing session in its existence.

"You can just imagine despite the challenges, it was the 19th City Council that was able to discover that we could do sessions via online," the incoming vice mayor said.

Quitain, who will also serve as incoming Council Presiding Officer in the 20th Council, said the council will still adopt the hybrid setup.

Farewell speeches

Principe, a lawyer, said the "passion to serve" was her purpose for running for the Council.

She said the establishment of the creation of the Davao City Special Needs Intervention Center for Children, landmark legislation she lobbied for and was passed, is "very special" for her as this would provide interventions for physical, cognitive, social, and emotional development.

Villafuerte recalled how her late husband, Jose Louie Villafuerte, who passed away in 2015, trained her to be a public servant by providing free health services in the communities.

She also said the 19th Council was the challenging era as the Covid-19 pandemic, wherein she legislated ordinances related to the pandemic response.

Her son, Enzo, will replace her in the Council.

Dayanghirang, a councilor for 29 non-consecutive years, thanked his constituents for supporting him throughout his career. His career started as an appointed councilor in 1986, and he won his first election in 1988.

In his stint, he chaired the Committee on Finance, Ways and Means and Appropriations, and the Games and Amusements Chair.

"Time seems to move so fast, especially when serving the people of Davao City becomes part of your life for 29 years," he said.

Dayanghirang ran for his second attempt in the Second Congressional District in the House of Representatives in the 2022 race, but he lost to incumbent Representative Vincent Garcia. His son, Danilo II, also lost in his council attempt.

Stella Acosta, the youngest daughter of Mabel and elected Councilor, gave a speech on behalf of her mother, who was out-of-town during the farewell event.

Acosta resigned in January this year after accepting the position as Mindanao Development Authority (Minda) chairperson. She was substituted by her daughter and legal staff head Luna, who won her first election in the 2022 polls.

Librado-Morata recalled her stint as councilor wherein she received "harsh criticisms."

A first time in politics, she lobbied for the reopening of the Salugpungan Ta'tanu Igkanugon Community (Salugpungan), a school that was allegedly being used as a recruitment hub by the New People's Army (NPA). Her call for a committee hearing in the Council was rejected by her colleagues.

She also said that during her first year as a city councilor, she "was treated as a pariah" for speaking about the need to investigate the closure of Lumad schools in the City.

She said she was "isolated", and her office's Annual Development Fund (ADF) was removed in 2019.

She was supposed to run for a second term, but she was delisted by the Hugpong ng Pagbabago (HNP) and Hugpong sa Tawong Lungsod (HTL), alongside Nilo "Small" Abellera Jr. for not meeting the "political party’s vision for Davao City and the Philippines."

"The end of my stint as a City Councilor would not mean an end to the cause I have espoused, and I will continue to assert for the marginalized, even in my capacity as a private individual come July 1," the outgoing councilor said.

Librado-Morata withdrew her candidacy, while Abellera won his reelection bid. His father, Nilo Abellera Sr. also delivered his farewell speech.

Ralph Abellera also delivered his goodbye speech and thanked his supporters in his three-year stint as councilor.

20th Councilors

The incoming 20th Council will be composed of Edgar "Kap" Ibuyan, Jr., Jessica Bongguyan, former Vice Mayor Bernie Al-ag, longtime councilor Pilar Braga, Abellera, Jr., Che Che Justol, Javi Campos, Louie John Bonguyan, Diosdado Mahipus, Jr., Jonard Dayap, Alberto Ungab, Wilberto Al-ag, Myrna Dalodo-Ortiz, Sweet Advincula, Cocoy Zozobrado, and Conde Baluran.

Marissa Abella, Abellera, Jr., and Al Ryan Alejandre will return to the Council after a successful reelection bid.

Newcomers Bonz Militar, grandson of long-time councilor Bonifacio Militar; Luna; Dr. Potpot Villafuerte, daughter of former Davao City Health Office (CHO) head Dr. Josephine Villafuerte; and Enzo Villafuerte. Former TV broadcaster Tek Ocampo, meanwhile, is the lone newcomer with no close political affiliation to sit in the council. RGL