BY ROGER M. BALANZA
They are heroes.
This is how Davao City Vice Mayor Paolo Duterte looks at victims of the bloody 2003 bombings of the Sasa Wharf, the second to hit the city in that bloody year of bombs that claimed a total of 39 lives and wounded more than a hundred others.
To him the Sasa Wharf bombing victims, along with those killed or maimed in the Davao International Airport bombing a month earlier, are unsung heroes and more than mere victims of terrorist attacks, as their tragic fate contributed later to the peace, progress and development of Davao City.
The deaths and injuries, according to Duterte, inspired Dabawenyos to be more vigilant against terrorism. The vigilance, he said, would later be a positive brew that helped the city to achieve stable peace and order.
They are heroes, said Duterte on April 2, as he visited the site of the carnage at Sasa Wharf to offer flowers and light candles in commemoration of the 11th anniversary of the bloody bombing that killed 17 people and maimed 57 others. A month before on March 4, 2003, an improvised explosive device ripped through a crowded passenger shed of the Davao International airport killing 22 people and wounding 114 others.
The fear, grief and pain over threats of other violent attacks, according to Duterte, inspired Dabawenyos to be more vigilant so that the tragedy should not happen again.
The deadly twin bombings also led to the creation of Task Force Davao, a special anti-terrorist unit of the Philippine Army, which has been permanently deployed in Davao City since 2003.
If the bombing did not happen, we could not be where we are now, he said, adding that peace and order and vigilance against terrorist attacks became the Dabawenyos’ mantra after the bombings blamed on a militant Mindanao secessionist group.
On April 2, Duterte, sitting as the acting mayor, visited the site with relatives of the victims in a continuing annual ritual of his father, Mayor Rodrigo Duterte who is on leave.
Last month, Mayor Duterte also lighted candles and offered flowers at the blast site of the separate bombing at the Davao International Airport also in 2003 where dozens were killed and hundreds wounded.
The 2003 twin bombings were the deadliest terrorist attacks on the city, made more painful by happening before and after the celebration of the Araw ng Dabaw, the city’s founding anniversary.
After a simple ceremony at the blast site, Duterte said the tragedy should not be commemorated by mere prayers, flowers and lighted candles.
He said he wants a monument erected at the Sasa Wharf blast site to serve as reminder of the bloody event and to further inspire the Dabawenyos into a continuing vigilance against terrorism.
Duterte said he had helped soothe the pain of the survivors and relatives of the bombings by lifting up the tragedy to a higher level other than treating them as mere victims of terrorism.
The victims are heroes of the city for their contribution to Dabawenyos’ awareness and vigilance against terrorism and to the development of the city, Duterte said he told the survivors and the victims’ relatives.
The local government of Davao City has been allocating millions of pesos annually for continuing medical assistance to the injured survivors including educational aid to children of the dead victims.