Mayor Sara is the Iron Lady who vowed to defend the rights of her constituents.

Feisty and “palaban” are terms easily associated with Davao City Mayor Inday Sara Duterte-Carpio. She’s not one to back down from any fight, and has a “don’t mess with me attitude” especially on issues that are close to her heart, which include peace and order, the welfare of the poor, women, and children.

Mayor Sara led the send-off ceremony for Indonesian President Joko Widodo after the successful launching of Davao-General Santos-Bitung ASEAN RoRo Shipping Services.

If you are historically the only lady mayor (not to mention, the youngest!) in the largest and most populous city in Mindanao and taking over the reins of a strong-willed leader that is your father, President Rody Duterte, people expect nothing less from you.

As Mayor Sara was busy attending to the urgent matters of the Marawi Crisis (with Davao City having recently been placed under Martial Law at the time of the trip), League asked people who work with her about her kind of leadership and governance, and how she is leading Davao towards progress.

To people who have only heard of her name, she was the gutsy mayor who punched a court sheriff over a demolition work back in 2011. But to people who know the story behind—such as Jefry Tupas, who was then a news reporter and now Davao City’s information officer, and the owner of the shanties that were demolished—Mayor Sara is the “Iron Lady” who vowed to defend the rights of her constituents.

In Tupas’ news report on, Mayor Sara, a lawyer by profession, admitted she was angered by the sheriff’s insistence on serving the notice of eviction when she was only asking for a two-hour reprieve until the residents’ lawyers got a ruling from the Court of Appeals. Proving her capacity to mediate, the incident ended with the mayor eventually convincing the people to relocate.

Fast forward to 2017, Inday Sara, as she prefers to be called by the people of Davao, is still the same unflinching mayor. “Mayor Sara is palaban,” quips City Legal Officer and Chief of Staff Atty. Raul Nadela, Jr. “She’s not meek at all. She speaks her mind, if she thinks this would help put forward an agenda. But if she thinks that doing so will just aggravate the situation, she would rather not speak about it.”

Mayor Sara can appear intimidating to people meeting her for the first time, not because she puts on airs and graces, but because she’s pretty and intelligent. “Unknown to many, she is actually kind of shy but very approachable,” says Atty. Nadela.

The lady mayor’s wisdom in public service, he says, comes from experience and maturity, as she has served one term as vice mayor, and is now on her second term as mayor. “Sometimes, there’s a problem and we present possible solutions, and then she’ll give us an option that we never thought of. I get amazed by her insights,” he says.

One of the qualities that can be considered “Tatak Duterte” is the sincerity to serve—something that is clearly passed on from father to daughter. Their gauge to know if a project is worthy to spend money on: if the results can benefit the grassroots. “Mayor Sara wants everything done fast! She wants tangible results,” says Tupas.

“She’s very result-oriented,” concurs Atty. Nadela. “If it is an anti-poverty program, the beneficiary must feel that her life has drastically changed. If it’s a livelihood project—say, we gave cattle and farm materials to residents in far- flung areas, or we provide capitalization to small businesses, we evaluate if the assistance given made their lives better. We do the evaluations during the last quarter of the year.”

All agencies under the city government of Davao are guided by the mayor’s 10-point agenda: poverty alleviation, infrastructure development, solid waste management, education, health, agriculture, tourism, transportation planning and traffic management, peace and order, and disaster risk reduction and mitigation. “We make sure that all those projects get implemented, all the programs are felt by the people,” says Atty. Nadela.

Mayor Sara wants everything done fast! She wants tangible results.

—Jefry Tupas, Davao City Information

Mayor Sara was toured inside the Philippine Navy Ship, BRP Gregorio Del Pilar.
The mayor offers legal advice to a constituent in her office.
Mayor Sara speaks in front of the 911 Volunteer Auxiliary Police on their graduation at Camp Domingo Leonor.
Residents of a sitio of Barangay Malabog, Paquibato District consult Mayor Sara.

Most Davaoeños will agree: Mayor Sara got her father’s political will. “Si President Rody, if he wants things done, nangyayari talaga. Ganoon din si Mayor Sara.”


While it’s impossible to micro-manage a city that’s composed of 182 barangays, the mayor makes sure that her instructions are clear, and that she makes follow-ups, based on the agreed timelines.

“As department heads, we meet every Monday, to discuss everything and make sure that what we’re doing is aligned with what the mayor envisions,” says Atty. Nadela. Mayor Sara makes herself accessible via group chats on Viber, WhatsApp, and Facebook messenger. “She’s very techie. She replies any time of the day, even at 2 a.m. when she’s breastfeeding.”

Most Davaoeños will agree: Mayor Sara got her father’s political will. “Si President Rody, if he wants things done, nangyayari talaga. Ganoon din si Mayor Sara,” says Tupas.
Proof: the ordinances on anti- smoking and prohibition of sale of liquors and cigarettes to minors, no liquor drinking after midnight, among others, are still in place and strictly implemented in the city. Adds Tupas, “Mayor Sara reiterated the enforcement of smoking ban in public places. She called a meeting with bar and restaurant owners and told them, ‘If you are not going to follow our existing laws and ordinances, I will be forced to shut down your establishments.’”

But Mayor Sara balances it off with her motherly instinct, which is apparent in the way she cares for her constituents, especially the children. “One of her key projects is the Kean Gabriel Hotline, which rescues and helps child abuse victims,” says Atty. Nadela. It was named in memory of Kean Gabriel Agustin, who was to turn four-years-old when he died at the hands of his allegedly abusive stepfather in August 2016.

“Mayor Sara is very passionate about that project because she likes kids. Ang gusto niya lahat ng bata ay pumapasok sa iskwela. Ayaw niya ng may batang nasasaktan o minamaltrato,” Atty. Nadela adds. The mayor has three children of her own—Sharky, Stingray, and Stonefish.

According to Tupas, Mayor Sara goes to the communities every now and then to reach out to the residents, even personally giving lectures to the mothers and the youth. A week before this interview, the mayor went to a far-flung barangay, where premarital sex and early pregnancy were found prevalent.

“One time, she was quick to spot a child sleeping in a crib beside the city hall without a guardian. Pinatawag nya ang nanay ng bata, and the lady received a mouthful from the mayor. Sabi niya, kung nagtatrabaho ka, meron naman tayong child care center and social workers who can provide care for the child while you’re away,” explains Tupas.

The Roxas Night Market bombing can be considered as one of the major problems that challenged the administration of Mayor Sara. But armed with resilience and sheer Davaoeño (or shall we say, Filipino) spirit, life simply goes on.

Business owner and Kadayawan Festival head Gatchie Gatchalian says, “The day after the Roxas Night Market bombing, she was there at the site telling everyone that yes, something happened, but we are on top of the situation. We are safe here. That shows leadership,” he says.

Maintaining peace and order in the city remains a top priority for Mayor Sara. But her foremost vision, according to Atty. Nadela, is to alleviate poverty.

“All people in Davao should have homes to live in, all children should go to school, all families should enjoy three meals a day.”

From what we have observed, Davao is on its way there. – LAKAMBINI BAUTISTA

Mayor Sara likes kids. Ang gusto niya lahat ng bata ay pumapasok sa iskwela. Ayaw niya ng may batang nasasaktan o minamaltrato.

— Chief of Staff Atty. Raul Nadela, Jr.

Mayor Sara lights a candle during a mass offered to the victims of Roxas night market bombing.
Mayor Sara consoles the wife of Larry, a fish vendor who was killed by an NPA land mine.
Mayor Sara is welcomed by students of Malabog Elementary School. The mayor visits the school on its first day of classes.


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