WHAT are we supposed to make of Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte’s resignation, which he announced on Christmas Day in a special council session? His sister, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, attended as a show of support but said that the decision to accept or decline the resignation ultimately rested on their father, President Rodrigo Duterte.
As of Tuesday, the President’s decision had yet to be revealed. He has so far shielded his eldest son from allegations that the younger Duterte and a so-called Davao Group were involved in illegal transactions at the Bureau of Customs. Three months ago, the vice mayor attended a Senate inquiry on the smuggling of 605 kilos of shabu, valued at some P6.4 billion, where a private customs broker had brought up his name. To be fair to the vice mayor, that broker and the senators who participated in the inquiry couldn’t find conclusive proof to link him to the transaction.
Vice Mayor Duterte mentioned “recent unfortunate events in my life that are closely tied to my failed first marriage” among the reasons for his resignation. These, he added, included “a name-dropping incident” in the customs bureau and his “very public squabble” with daughter Isabelle. By resigning now, the vice mayor may indeed gain the opportunity to mend his relationship with his daughter, away from the curiosity of a public that can often be intrusive.
But while resigning might take some of the heat off the vice mayor’s back, it is not necessarily the sacrifice that some of his supporters are making it out to be. Being the president’s son affords him plenty of clout, whether or not he remains in public office. Away from public office, he will gain further protection: he will no longer be bound by the accountability any Filipino can demand of a public official; he will be farther away from the ombudsman’s reach.
And what of the 522,119 Davaoeños who voted for him in May 2016? As a candidate, the younger Duterte was apparently so formidable that no one bothered to run against him. Why should he now let some vague allegations—which he insists are baseless, anyway—keep him from delivering the campaign promises he had made? Scrutiny, even unwanted scrutiny, is part of the price public officials pay for the power voters grant them.