Would have talked about the Internet of Things or IoT and its role in building Smart Cities but events have led us to a more reflective state traveling back to Manila from a four-day stay in the garden state of Singapore. It has always been the case that when one travels to Singapore, one can actually dream of what can be, the Smart Nation. A nation of 5 million residents in a small patch of land, where 2 million foreigners work. Singapore is modern, efficient and disciplined, yet multi-cultural and innovative. Every time one visits Singapore, visitors are amazed because there is always something new. But when you hear bad news about your country as you wait for your flight home, you think of the future and what can be.
The bombing that took place in Davao City last Friday, 3 September, was the 8th since 19 April 1981. What made it different this time around was a Davaeno is president. Such senseless killing of 14 and injuring of 71 individuals clearly brought the act home. And it is “in Davao that one hurts Digong,” as one aptly stated. And hurt it did on a crowded night market by the way of a cellphone-triggered improvised explosive device (IED), said to be a signature contraption by bandits called Abu Sayyaf. A mortar round was used in making the IED. The Abu Sayyaf initially claimed responsibility for the blast, but retracted its statement hours later “to say that an ally group, Daulat Ul Islamiya, was behind the attack.”
What is the significance of Davao, apart from being the home of PRRD? Davao City is a highly urbanized city in Mindanao. Per the 2015 census, it had a population of 1,632,991 people, making it the third-most-populous city in the Philippines and the most populous in Mindanao. It is the center of Metro Davao, the third most populous metropolitan area in the Philippines. With a total land area of 2,444 square kilometers, the city is the largest in the country in terms of land area. The city serves as the main trade, commerce, and industry hub of Mindanao and the regional center of Davao Region.
Davao is Duterte country. Davao is the symbol of a Duterte leadership. It is the sum total of Duterte’s public career, as prosecutor, mayor and legislator. It’s the laboratory of what can be by a leader, whose North Star appears to be people-centric, frontline focused, ensuring a caring government that attends to the needs of the people. But Davao is much, much more to Digong. It is home and once home is attacked, one drives the stick to the heart, making it excruciatingly painful. And this is where a lot of people failed to see things clearly.
When innocent lives are sacrificed to send a strong message to a leader, one wonders if the perpetrators do not know Duterte personally. The lion will roar and in the jungle, he pounds as one hides behind shaking trees. Would those who planned the blast be totally oblivious of the fact that sending the message to his home could not shake the man? Scare the mayor-daughter? Or bring down Davaenos? Who frequents a public market on a Friday night? Once you bring the war to the home of a Duterte, you test fate.
The declaration of a state of lawlessness is nothing new, as others would like to insist that it is a step toward the declaration of martial law. In 2003, former PGMA issued General Order No. 3, covering Regions 11 and 12 after twin bombings struck Davao, killing at least 38 people and wounding 200 others. It ordered the Philippine National Police and Armed Forces to “suppress acts of terrorism and lawlessness in Southern and Central Mindanao and to carry out actions and measures to implement the order with due regard to the constitutional rights of every individual.” The bombings also prompted the establishment of the Army-led Task Force Davao to ensure security of the residents.
Bringing the war home only strengthens Davaenos. Bringing it to Duterte’s turf is an affront to a President offering the negotiating table to all. Launching the attack and killing ordinary people, people closest to the heart of Duterte, is an outright declaration of war. Killing Filipinos bring it further to the heart of every Filipino who loves this country. Those who planned and executed this heinous crime practically reconsolidated support to Duterte and distanced themselves from the power grab scenarios being cooked by others.
As methaphetamine or shabu when inhaled causes delirious effects and fries the brain well done, same is true with power. Power is exhilarating. When played to the max, it distorts your sense of purpose. So, is removing PRRD this early to the betterment of the nation? Is making the VP a pawn to a power grab ensures a much better future where institutions take root, grow and mature? Would removing a duly elected President be the solution that the country needs at this time? Since when has our democracy been defined by “mere plurality and that 60 percent did not vote for him.” If that is the logic being bantered around, the same is true with the VP, right? So, when do we say campaigns are over and governance is the order of the day?
Yet bringing home the war allowed Davaenos to teach us a thing or two in crisis: there was no finger pointing, their local government worked for them, clockwork, they mourned collectively, in silence weeping but steadfast to rise and soar just like the vaunted Filipino eagle. Mindanao has taught us a lot. Davao has shown us the way. We are made better by its examples, unlike others who relish an overzealous power play. “Every man builds his word in his own image. He has the power to choose, but no power to escape the necessity of choice.”