DAVAO CITY, Philippines – At the public market in Bangkerohan, Nanette, a fruit vendor, was busy unloading a crate of mangosteens, which she would sell for 50 pesos a kilo.
Her face turned gloomy as she spoke about how the new administration must ensure that the prices of basic commodities – especially fuel – come down. It is ordinary people like her, she said, who are feeling the brunt of inflation after more than two years of lockdown.
But it brightened when we finally talked about the big day ahead: the inauguration of Davao Mayor Sara Duterte as the 15th Vice President of the Philippines on Sunday, June 19, nearly two weeks before the start of his mandate on June 30.
“[I feel] happy! Siya man jud ang amohang gusto nga mahimog vice president (That’s who we wanted to be VP),” Nanette said. The sentiment is echoed in other parts of the city – rejoice in their mayor and vice president who have finally been sworn in.
Bangkerohan is just a few blocks from San Pedro Square, where Duterte, the vice president-elect, was sworn in. Although Nanette didn’t attend the event itself – she had fruit to sell and a stand to watch – its significance certainly did not escape her.
It was the first inauguration to be held outside of Luzon since 2004, when former president and Duterte ally Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was sworn in in Cebu province, which proved significant for her in the presidential race. Arroyo’s inauguration in Cebu was the first to take place outside of Luzon, where the country’s capital is located.
It was also the first inauguration of a president or vice president in Davao City – his father, former mayor and incumbent Rodrigo Duterte, chose to be sworn in inside Malacañang.
First for Davao
Sara’s inauguration took place a stone’s throw from Davao City’s main landmarks – City Hall, where she served as mayor for a total of three terms; the legislative building; and Davao Cathedral.
Preparations in the area were in full swing on Friday, June 17, with closures along most of San Pedro Street and parts of Bolton Street, where crowds remained. Duterte herself checked out the venue for the inauguration, taking a quick step out of City Hall between meetings with diplomats and supporters.
After mass at San Pedro Cathedral on Sunday, it was time for Duterte’s inauguration. His oath was administered by Associate Supreme Court Justice Ramon Paul Hernando, his former teacher. She also said that Hernando and his wife have been her “good friends for over 10 years”.
Duterte was alongside her husband Manases Carpio throughout the ceremony, from the cathedral to San Pedro Square.
But the other two important men at the event – his father, President Duterte, and President-elect Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., only joined the actual ceremony in San Pedro Square.
The crowd cheered at the first sight of father and daughter Duterte together in one frame, an image never before seen in the campaign. Duterte was reportedly disappointed with his daughter’s decision to settle for the vice presidency. Sara was always shy when asked about her relationship with her father during the campaign. Their rocky relationship was no secret.
But Sara hugged her father after taking the oath, once again to the delight of a cheering crowd.
In her speech, Sara gave an ode to fathers, with no specific mentions of her father or her husband. Sunday was Father’s Day.
“Happy Father’s Day to all the fathers out there who make sure another person gets the best of everything,” the young Duterte said.
The Vice President-elect focused her speech on securing a brighter future for children, saying the challenges include “the trauma of broken families, the lifelong baggage of irresponsible and bad parenting, [and] abandonment problems due to an absent parent.
Eyes were also on the elder Duterte and his successor Marcos. Only Marcos’ sister, Senator Imee Marcos, was seen talking to the incumbent president, who was reportedly upset with the president-elect for forcing his daughter into running for vice president. Duterte called Marcos a weak leader during the campaign and did not endorse him.
“The voice of 32.2 million Filipinos was loud and clear – with the message to serve our motherland. And that message was reiterated in my oath: to dedicate myself to the service of the nation,” said Sara Duterte, who won the vice presidency by an even bigger margin than Marcos, who won with 31.6 million. of voice.
Sarah said: “[I am] a proud Dabawenya. A proud Mindanawon. Hindi is the best, or the best in all of the Philippines and the world, there is nothing to say about puso ko as a Filipino (I am not the best nor the smartest person in the Philippines or the world, but no one can beat the strength of my heart as a Filipino).
His mother, Elizabeth Zimmerman, held the Bible for the swearing. The new vice president wore a custom Filipiniana from Silverio Anglacer, a Davao-based designer who created most of Sara’s formal wear, including the Filipiniana she wore when her father was sworn in as president.
Duterte’s partner, Honeylet Avanceña, and their daughter Kitty, Sara’s half-sister, were not seen during the event.
Vice President Leni Robredo, according to Sara Duterte, was invited but declined to attend as she had already committed to the Naga City Charter Day celebration on Saturday, June 18.
The Duterte dynasty
Although she is neither the first Duterte on the national stage nor the first presidential child to win a vice-presidential race, it is the proximity of Duterte’s two electoral victories that makes her novel.
But Sara is no stranger to the spaces her father once occupied. When she won her first term as mayor in 2010, Sara and her father essentially switched places – Rodrigo Duterte had reached the limit of consecutive terms, so Sara, then vice mayor, ran and won in as mayor.
When the elder Duterte ran for president in 2016, Sara filed for mayor, taking the mayoral job. With his exit after winning the 2022 vice-presidential race, another Duterte will take the reins of mayor: Sebastian, his younger brother.
Another adult Duterte brother, Paolo, represents the city’s 1st district in Congress.
In his 2022 campaign, Duterte focused on three priorities: economic recovery from the COVID-19 shutdowns, peace and security, and education. It is the latter who will occupy most of her time from June 30, when she will also assume the post of secretary of the Ministry of Education.
At the same time, she said she plans to follow through on an early campaign promise to open “satellite” offices under the Office of the Vice President (OVP) across the country. She has not yet announced where these offices will be.
The two promises — an OVP that plans to replicate nationwide and the education portfolio — are sure to keep Duterte busy for the next six years. They will also signify the potential to build a wide network, which could come in handy should the 44-year-old have the presidency in mind. – with a report by Lian Buan/Rappler.com