Sara Duterte and the Culture of Impunity

Davao Mayor Sara Duterte punching Sheriff Abe Andres defending the plight of her poor constituents whose houses were about to be demolished make for good television. It also makes for good politics. It is very Erap Estrada. It is a winning formula that has kept the Dutertes in power. Is it any wonder that some praise it? “Duterte thus emerges”, Tonyo Cruz says, “as a shining star in this dark phase for the urban poor in the Philippines”. In a nutshell, Duterte is best described as, “Populist”.


Duterte requested that the execution of the order be stayed for a bit while she gets her people out, calmly. One can not fault Mayor Duterte for that. The Sheriff in the one hand has his orders. And under the law, no matter how incredulous it may be, then that law must be executed. One can imagine Mayor Duterte’s position, standing between the unruly mob, and the immovable force of Government. What happens when two immoveable forces meet?

And yes, that woman can punch. Many men, and a lot of women admire that.

What we have in Davao is a manifestation of the Culture of Impunity prevailing in the Country. This is a culture of impunity that manifests itself with a driver bribing, with a daylight roadside massacre, and it manifests itself in the Duterte versus Sheriff bout.

To frame the issue as Imperial Manila dictating to Davao what is right or wrong is also not the right way to go. It seem petulant just as Duterte however “macho”, the imagery of the heroic mayor punching the sheriff to defend the poor seem petulant. It makes the mayor look like Robin Hood. A vigilante right out of literature, and makes everything look surreal.

Tonyo cheers that Duterte is a shining light for the urban poor. See, being poor doesn’t make you right or wrong. Neither does being rich make you right or wrong. To frame it in the question is to simply advance a culture of impunity that says being poor ought to give us exceptions just as the rich flexing their muscles with money does.

Impunity is just as bad as corruption. In many ways they are interchangeable because our values are fucked up. When we can’t get our way, we rebel. We slug it out in the streets. There is a time for everything under the sun, and it is high time we bring back civility into our lives. Yes, it is harder to follow an order when just as easily, dirty and cynical minds could easily accuse the court of being corrupt.

When do we fight back against our cynicism?

When do we take back civilization?

When do we have civility?

We must admire Sara Duterte for her punch. On the other hand we shouldn’t admire the Mayor of Davao slugging it out with an Officer of the Court. It is a manifestation of a Culture of Impunity. Being rich doesn’t make people right or wrong. Being poor doesn’t make right or wrong. We must bring an age of reason and civility to the Philippines to knockout a Culture of Impunity.

Image: Screenshot

Video by ANCAlerts via YouTube

Cocoy Dayao

Cocoy is the Chief Technology Officer of Lab Rats Technica, a Digital Consulting company that specialises in DevOps, iOS, and Web Apps, E-Commerce sites, Cybersecurity and Social Media consulting. He is a technology enthusiast, political junkie and social observer who enjoys a good cup of coffee, comic books, and tweets as @cocoy on twitter.

Cocoy is also the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of the ProPinoy Project.

Cocoy considers himself to be Liberal.

  • J_ag

    The Law in Practice is the LAW and not the Written Law.

    Unless overturned by another act of one practicing law it is the law.

  • J_ag

    So now apart from giving the finger Mayor R. Duterte also used the F word…


    The KIngdom ruled by the Dutertes Rocks….

  • (Esci Carriedo

    If we only focus on the issue of Sara Duterte’s hitting the sheriff from the legal standpoint, right away we can say that she was at fault. Let us look at it from a broader perspective. The mayor asked the sheriff to delay the demolition for ONLY TWO HOURS (she arrived on time) because she was still on a relief operation with the flashflood victims. Was it too much to grant considering that she is the Chief Executive of the city? Besides, she was not out to stop the demolition. Nakiusap lang na andoon siya to calm down the violent squatters dahil meron siyang dalang assurance that they would be relocated.

    Masama pa yon? Sa Davao merong tinatawag na NO DEMOLITION WITHOUT RELOCATION agreement between the local government and the landowner/s. Why? In the first place may negligence ang may-ari kaya nakapasok ang informal settlers. Maniniwala ang mga tao kung ang “kanilang” mayor mismo ang magsasabi na may malilipatan sila kaysa sheriff at mga police.

    Takot ma-contempt ang sheriff? Maaga pa yon. As long as he was in his post at 8:00 am, no problem (Malayo pa ang alas singko ng hapon!) Nagkagulo na first thing in the morning. Ang hirap kasi sa mga taong legalistic titik lang ng batas ang nakikita, hindi ang bigger picture. If only the sheriff exercised prudence and discretion and waited for the mayor, the July 1st demolition could have ended as a win-win situation.

    While I do not absolve Sara from her violent act, I invite us to see it in the context of what psychology calls “nature and nurture”; “heredity and environment.” She is temperamental, a trait that runs in the family (hereditary). The recent flashflood in Davao took away more than 30 human lives, including some missing persons, destroyed millions of pesos worth of properties, and left many residents hungry, homeless and traumatized. The past days were so stressful! The magnitude of her constituents’ needs took a toll on Mayor Sara’s patience and emotion. As a mayor, she wanted to avoid additional injuries and casualties that could be brought about by the demolition. The built-up of emotions—weariness, pity, anger and frustration—reached a peak. She hit the sheriff. (Buti na lang hindi nag-ala Bob Marley, “I Shot the Sheriff.”) Why? Inis siya! She held him responsible for the violent confrontation between the informal settlers and the police. Madali lang sabihing she should not have lost her cool. Even Jesus Christ lost his temper at the temple; drove away the merchants and overturned their wares.

    Yong sheriff naman, dahil lang ba may utos ang korte agad-agad ipatupad niya kahit merong better way of doing the demolition: in the presence of the mayor? He lacked foresight of the consequences of his decision. “What is legal may not be moral.” While his action was legal, it was also immoral. As a public officer, the sheriff got the moral obligation to uphold public safety and order. What our people need are law enforcers who can see the larger picture beyond the mere letters of the law; who have discernment and can balance justice and compassion.


    Mayor Sara is woman enough to take responsibility for her action and is willing to face whatever its consequences. Hated. Admired. Scorned. Applauded. Heroine. Villain. Poor People’s Champ. Babaeng astig. However we regard her, one thing is sure: Inday SaraDu HAS BECOME A CONTEMPORARY, FEMALE LEGEND.

    • Bert

      Female legend like Robin Hood? I don’t think so. Robin Hood was championing the cause and helping the poor of Sherwood forest, Mayor Sara was protecting the cause of ILLEGAL squatters in Davao.

      Unless Davao is the land of illegal squatters there is no valid reason for Davao folks to make a hero out of Mayor Sara.

      If the Davao folks want to be ruled by uncivilized behavior, then the Davao folks deserved the black eye, or worse, that the sheriff got.

    • Bert

      On the other hand, I agree she’s now a legend, the ‘poor people’s champ’, a female Manny Pacquiao, ahay, hehehehe.

    • Leytenian

      i am suspecting that the sheriff must have been bribed by the owner of the land to rush the demolition. illegal squatters are renting too so if the owner accept the rent, they become a legal renter., right? even if they are illegal, the community still have the right to due process. Sheriff went ahead without considering the 30 days notice. I don’t know, I cannot trust this sheriff. I cannot believe that his previous record did not put a ding to his credibility and until now still the sheriff of Davao. Now he is doing almost the same crime as he was previously convicted in 2008. So Punching in Philippines is PUBLIC service.? as one Bishop pointed out that it’s a classic example that morality is larger than legal ethics…. 🙂

  • Leytenian

    and the mayor is even more liable , criminally liable if she failed to ease the tension even without her punching . It would have been bloody and would not only cause a blackeye but multiple injuries to the community and the children. Her punching is not civilized but it might have served its purpose. I’d say, both mayor and sheriff should leave public service. they cannot manage with civility according to the rule but this is Philippines where all negligent acts are unpunished. it would take 50 to 100 years for the local courts to give people Justice they deserve. To make the law work and promote civility, all negligent parties must face the penalty. Now who’s in charge?

  • Leytenian

    Yes Philippine law is for Tarzan and Jane… LOL. the people of Davao can file an ethic case against the mayor. but the people cannot file a case of assualt and battery , only the sheriff for he is the direct victim of the punching. If the Sheriff acted according to the rule and gave the mayor 2 hours? will he be punched?
    It is no longer common among politician to side with the poor and use her angry punch. Its only in the movie. 🙂

  • Leytenian

    correction ” Even if the owner is unaware of the law, he is NOT safe from being innocent. “

  • Leytenian

    Hi Bert , Up N and Cocoy, Miss you guys… hahaha

    • Cocoy

      Welcome back!

      • Leytenian

        thanks Coy… well written blog again.

    • KG

      Hey Leytenian !

      • Leytenian

        hi KG… see you in facebook?

    • Bert

      Hi, Leytegirl, I’m so glad to see you here back with us. Where have you gone for so looong? I miss you, please don’t do that ever again, hear?

      Please tell your BFF Mirriam to visit too, she’s not presently baby-sitting for Gibo, is she? :>D

      • Leytenian

        you know this punching thingy has made laugh big time. hahaha. you think the sheriff will grant the two hours request if it had been the father asking it? the sheriff is prejudice to a woman… hahaha. th father said, if Sarah punched him 5 times, he would do it 10 times…. LOL

      • Leytenian

        Miriam is busy working out and trying to get fit. I think she followed Benigno and BongV. you know those guys who don’t make sense? LOL

    • UP nn grad

      Glad you’re back!

      • Leytenian

        just dropping by… will read more.

  • Leytenian

    Supposed Penalty to Sheriff : Penalty Cause. – Any person who violates any provision of this Act shall be imposed the penalty of not more than six (6) years of imprisonment or a fine of not less than Five thousand pesos (P5,000) but not more than One hundred thousand pesos (P10,000), or both, at the discretion of the court. Since the sheriff carried the order in behalf of the land owner, the land owner can be liable too upon the acts of his messenger, in this case the sheriff. Even if the owner is unaware of the law, he is safe from being innocent. The land owner should have coordinated well. The sheriff must have been bribed? to demolish within a week of court notice? who knows….

  • Leytenian

    The sheriff was not following the rule of law. He was either incompetent or negligent. ” In the execution of eviction or demolition orders involving underprivileged and homeless citizens, the following shall be mandatory:
    (1) Notice upon the effected persons or entities at least thirty (30) days prior to the date of eviction or demolition;
    (2) Adequate consultations on the matter of settlement with the duly designated representatives of the families to be resettled and the affected communities in the areas where they are to be relocated;
    chan robles virtual law library
    (3) Presence of local government officials or their representatives during eviction or demolition;
    (4) Proper identification of all persons taking part in the demolition;
    (5) Execution of eviction or demolition only during regular office hours from Mondays to Fridays and during good weather, unless the affected families consent otherwise;
    (6) No use of heavy equipment for demolition except for structures that are permanent and of concrete materials;
    (7) Proper uniforms for members of the Philippine National Police who shall occupy the first line of law enforcement and observe proper disturbance control procedures; and

    The order was received on June 23. Its not 30 days yet. the mayor asked for 2 hours. The sheriff also did not wear his uniform.

  • I’m calling it. Mayor Sara Duterte will be 1) disbarred by the IBP, to be upheld by the SC, 2) suspended by the DILG for a short period of time, and 3) not be charged with an information of direct assault. All told, she will get hit where it hurts least (according to her, anyway), will get a slap on the wrist from the DILG, and will go scot-free where it should have mattered most.

    Assuming arguendo that she is charged criminally, she will be charged in a Davao court. No further comment needed.


    Because that’s how we roll.

  • Cocoy

    You can also read comments on/about this thread here


    I dont mind her punching the sheriff .

    All she asked is a two hours to closely monitor such demolition to restrain both side for engaging into any conflicts

    she is the mayor .she is attending to the flash flood that has occurred in their town

    and now a demoliton is to be done .how ironic for us to demolish house in the midst of the flashflood.

    Is this what you call a human nature of a filipino people.? there is no sympathy? a simple gesture ? a kind heart since there in a disaster that has occured.

    Now you are telling me that we must condemn this action of Mayor Duterte.

    She is their elected mayor. She looks for after them .They are her constiuents.



    • Bert

      In governance as in all private affairs there is a process to do things in a civilized manner and violence is not one of them otherwise what is the use of government if we have to resort to the law of the jungle.

      • Bert

        correction: ‘there are processes’

    • UP nn grad

      si June naman…. hindi dahil tama iyong sama ng loob ni mayor eh puwede na niyang pag-sasampalin ang kaniyang kinagalitan.

      Isipin mong ikaw ay iyong katulong ni mayor, masaya ka ba na pinag-sasampal ka ni mayor dahjl may nagawa kang mali?

    • Dura lex, sed, lex. The law is harsh, but it is the law. And the lawful order of the court said to proceed with the eviction. If you think that the “heartless” Sheriff of the Court wanted to be there and wanted to tear houses down, you are gravely mistaken. He was given an order, and was expected to perform his job accordingly.

      Mayor Duterte broke the law. Direct assault. Caught on camera to boot. Anywhere else in the world, this would be an open-shut, slam dunk textbook case. Here in the Philippines, we’re even debating whether or not it was RIGHT, let alone justified.

      The worst of it is that all this has unearthed what we’ve known all along – in name, we’re all Filipinos, but regionally, our norms and values are as different as night and day. Proof of concept: whenever one condemns Duterte’s actions, another will ask, “Taga-Davao ka ba?”


  • UP nn grad

    Now this is where a real Solomonic decision (call Binay!!! time for a real Solomonic decision!!!)….

    a straightforward action-item is to determine if the –lady– woman-mayor has broken a law. If she has, justice may be : jail-time, zero. Penalty — P5,000 to P25,000 pesos.

    What I’d really like to know if is the Mayor had committed a felony and not just broken a law. But Jesse Robredo has already been quoted to have said that he does not understand why the Sheriff was not more accomodating to the mayor’s request… so my guess is that the sheriff will just “lulon!!”.