A member of the Davao City Council took exception to an insinuation that dirty money was involved in the approval of a housing project in Barangay Dumoy where the Davao City Water  District (DCWD) draws out drinking water for the city’s 1.5 million residents.

The Dumoy aquifer,  an underground water reservoir where the DCWD pumps out the city’s water needs, is located in Dumoy.

Councilor Mary Joselle Villafuerte, the presiding officer when the project was approved during the City Council’s regular session on Tuesday, denied there was bribery in the project approval.


Councilor Danilo Dayanghirang said he would seek a review of the project whether or not  it complied with requirements.

In his morning radio program “Banat” on ABS/CBN’s DxAB radio on Friday, broadcaster Jun Bersamin said that there could be “pabaon” for city councilors in the approval of the 590-lot housing project atop the Dumoy aquifer.

 “Pabaon” is a Tagalog word meaning give-away gift that took an ugly meaning after it was referred to as millions of pesos of illegally-sourced  money on top of retirement benefits given to retiring generals of the Philippine National Police. The give-away gift erupted into a scandal years ago and sparked a full-blown investigation.

“Basig pabaon ni,” said Bersamin in his program. Several city councilors of the City Council headed by Vice Mayor Bernie Al-ag  will be winding up their terms before the 2019 mid-term elections.

Reacting to the insinuation, Villafuerte called Bersamin by phone and in the on-air interview protested the anchorman’s insinuation that there was “pabaon” or bribery in the approval.

Villafuerte also said the approval of the project was not hers alone but the collective decision of the City Council.

lopezIn the same program, Councilor Danilo Dayanghirang, interviewed also by phone, said he would want the approval of the project reviewed. The project was proposed by Councilor Elias Lopez, chairman of the Committee on Housing and Urban Development.    

In the program, Bersamin questioned the approval as the Dumoy area is a protected water resource area.

He also said that the property, where the project would rise, belonging to the Inigo family,  is still subject of a land ownership claim  by holders of  Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA). A CLOA is a title issued by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to tenants of land properties covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) of the government.

In addition, Bersamin said that the City Council also approved the project even without clearance from a City Hall office regulating developments in the city’s water resource areas.  Developments in the Dumoy area is regulated by the Davao City Water Resource Management Ordinance. The project approved by the City Council on Tuesday is a low-cost housing project that is banned by another water conservation ordinance, the Davao City Watershed Protection, Conservation and Management Ordinance.

In the past, there were accusations that city councilors milked housing developers for money in exchange for approval of housing projects.

Several years ago, a group of city councilors dubbed as the “DLBM Group,” surfaced as allegedly behind the extortion racket of fleecing developers. The bribery scandal prompted the City Council to conduct its own investigation. The City Council also passed a resolution requesting the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to ferret out the group that allegedly carried the first letters of the names of the involved councilors.

In the program, Bersamin also recalled the case of  a soft drinks company applying for permit to establish a manufacturing plant in Toril.

Then chairman of the Committee on Housing and Urban Development, Councilor Arnolfo Cabling, publicly admitted having received a large sum from the company as its application was being processed by the City Council.   


The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has started its investigation of the alleged anomalies involving an official of the Social Housing Finance Corp., a government-owned and controlled corporation under the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council.

cabling-4The NBI’s special action unit is looking into the allegation that SHFC president Arnolfo Ricardo Cabling received a P4 million check from an organized community group as payment for a property included in the SHFC’s program. 

The property, located in Barangay Ilang in Bunawan District in Davao City, was owned by Cabling’s family. Cabling is also a former village chairman of Barangay Ilang.

SHFC provides housing assistance for organized communities belonging to informal settlers. The SHFC’s primary mandate is to buy home lots for homeless urban poor families.

An NBI insider said the bureau will also look into other land-buying transactions for alleged over-pricing  made by Cabling for the  socialized housing program of the SHFC, which reportedly has a budget of P4 billion.

Initial investigation, according to the insider who begged anonymity, revealed the modus operandi in the scam: the price of the land would be jacked up and the overprice divided among officers of the homeowners association, the land owner and “an official” of the SHFC.

Cabling, a former Davao City councilor, was appointed president of SHFC by President Rodrigo Duterte in June 2017.

The bureau is also investigating an allegation that Cabling spent P1 million in government funds to pay for two months’ stay at a posh hotel in Makati for his grassroots action team and P2 million for plane tickets for the team from Davao to Manila.  

“The project in question is merely a continuation of community-initiated efforts to acquire land, which started more than a decade ago. Initial payment for the other phases of the project was made a long time ago, even before Cabling became president of SHFC,” Lorie Bundoc, SHFC strategic communications division manager.

“The transaction was between the community and the landowners. The landowners did not transact directly with SHFC. Everything went through SHFC’s regular process of loan application,” she added. 

She also denied that government funds were used to pay for the hotel stay and plane fare. (with PhilStar report)



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Ordinance No. 0448-10, PROVIDING MANDATORY REPRESENTATION FOR THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLE IN THE CITY COUNCIL OF DAVAO, was authored by Councilor Arnolfo Cabling, chairman of the Committee on Cultural Communities and Muslim Affairs. Davao City journalist Roger M. Balanza, publisher and editor of the weekly paper and online news site THE DURIAN POST, Cabling’s private legislative consultant, assisted in the research, conduct of consultations and formulation of committee reports, the ordinance and resolutions.


Balanza documented the process and the installation of the first Mandatory Representative, Datu Berino Mambo-o of the Ata Tribe of Paquibato District , in news reports and a four-color center page of the Durian Post weekly. 




Amnesty International, Akbayan Partylist impressed by election of Indigenous peoples mandatory representative in Davao City CouncilAmnesty International, Akbayan Partylist impressed by election of Indigenous peoples mandatory representative in Davao City Council




Davao natives win fight over ancestral domain rights


Farmers blast Davao City watershed code


Saying their rights were not taken into consideration, farmers in Davao City are asking the Davao City Council to take a look-see at the Watershed Protection, Conservation and Management Code for amendments.

City Ordinance 0310-07 also known as the Watershed Code authored by councilor Arnolfo Ricardo Cabling, as then chair of the environment committee, was approved by the 14th City Council on February 23, 2007.

The code laid down regulations in about 34,000 hectares of watershed areas which were delineated and classified into conservation areas, agro-forestry non-tillage areas and prime agricultural lands.

At the core of the watershed code is the Third District terrain analysis and study conducted by the City Planning and Development Office and the Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in 2005, which is now embedded in the city zoning plan.

Affected by the code are land-owners growing bananas in property classified as conservation areas by the code.

Chua, convenor of the Third District Landowners Association, said some lands were declared as agro-forestry and non-tillage areas and farmers are clueless about their status or regulations that would guide their farming activities.


“Our barangay was declared an agro-forestry non-tillage area and we are at a loss what exactly non-tillage means,” said a farmer from Baracayo, New Daliaon..

While the code has yet to be implemented, Pellicer said farmers are now sleepless over losing their right to farm for survival

“The issue of our rights to the full utilization of our property was not addressed and whether or not the government will purchase our lands for conversion to non-tillage agro-forestry development,” said another farmer.

Chua said Third District farmers were not invited to the Cabling committee hearings. While he acknowledged that the intent was to protect the watershed code which his group supports, Chua said amendments should be introduced to also protect farmers’ right to survival.


THE DURIAN POST COLUMN —Avoiding a water crisis



Davao City may be blessed with its water sources, but there is no guarantee this God-given gift could last forever.

Studies show that the city’s underground reservoir located mostly in the Dumoy area may be depleted in 50 years if no alternative source is identified to ease pressure on this source where the Davao City Water District presently pumps out water for domestic use of the Dabawenyos.

With the city’s population growing at a fast pace, demands could double in 50 years—a scenario that should make imperative identification of the alternative sources.

What is happening today in Manila which is being hounded by a severe water crisis could also happen in Davao City.

No less than DCWD spokesperson Imelda Magsuci has said that what is happening in the capital could indeed happen here.

Magsuci’s pronouncement should not be taken lightly. She is an expert on water and water resources having been with DCWD for so long.

Magsuci also is in possession of several studies conducted on the city’s aquifers  and their figures could only make more of a necessity DCWD’s intention to find an alternative source like the Tamugan River that it wants to tap for a surface water project.

Magsuci said that by 2011 or next year, the city’s ground water supply would be equal to the water demand.

While DCWD for a while would be able to deliver water to Dabawenyos with that kind of ratio, the aquifer would eventually be squeezed dry if an alternative source is not tapped.

Magsuci points out a study by the National Water Resources Board (NWRB) which indicated that with the daily extraction equal to demand, there would later be severe depletion of the underground water reservoir.

If you wonder why DCWD is hell-bent about building the Tamugan Surface Water Project at the soonest, it is because the project is the only hope for DCWD to meet its commitments in the future to the Dabawenyos.

The DCWD presently pumps out about 200,000 per gallons per minute from the underground reservoir—-enough to supply the city.

The Tamugan project when in full operation could provide that same volume.

This would mean that the Dumoy aquifer would be saved from depletion and allowed to replenish its stock while Tamugan comes in as an alternative source.

But conserving the city’s water sources should not be the be-all if we want to ensure supply of water for the future generation.

Managing, preserving and conserving our forests is the first step to ensure the supply. Davao City should be thankful for the Watershed Protection, Conservation and Management Code which has set into place the mechanics for the protection of our watershed areas.

This Code should be implemented to the fullest now if we don’t want to see thirsty Dabawenyos in future unable to find water due to our wanton disregard for the environment and our forest and our water resources.

Clashing over a vital Davao City river

durian beat


When the 16th Davao City Council sits down to tackle business next month, one of the major issues it would handle would be the Davao City Watershed Code.

The Aboitiz-owned Hedcor Inc. and the Davao City Water District plan to construct separate projects in Tamugan River which would violate a vital provision in the Code that specifically outlaws development aggression in the river declared by the code as conservation area.


As the vice mayor, Sara Duterte had made it known she is prone to allow the DCWD surface water development project and is not sold to the Hedcor hydropower plant. Of late, she has been treading the center road, but as the newly-elected mayor she had strongly hinted that she would not allow both projects to avoid a precedence that could lead to more developmental aggressions introduced into the conservation areas.

In a recent statement that could be a disaster for Hedcor and DCWD, Sara Duterte said she would veto any ordinance introducing amendments to the code that would allow the projects.

What makes the issue about Tamugan River exciting is that Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, who would be sitting as presiding officer of the 16th City Council as the vice mayor-elect, has already issued a statement that he wants both Hedcor and DCWD to be happy. Mayor Duterte is playing a balancing act between the city’s water needs and doomsday projection of a looming critical power crisis.

He had in fact gathered officials of both utility firms to the negotiation table to come to terms with each other, ending up with DCWD agreeing to allow the Hedcor project for as long as it would not threaten the viability of its gravity-powered surface water development project.

Do we see a clash point between Rody and Sara?


We are very interested in the final outcome of the Hedcor and DCWD projects and how city councilors would treat the Watershed Code in view of the conflicting positions of the mayor and the vice mayor.

Our interest involves our personal relationship with the code which author then chair of the environment committee Councilor Arnolfo Ricardo Cabling and I, as his private consultant, hammered out in four long agonizing months before seeing its final draft.

I am very proud about this landmark legislation being part of its soul and which came into being as Cabling and I–inspired by my own advocacy for environmental protection—conspired together into what I then called as a productive collaboration between media and legislator to produce a legislation that would be remembered forever.

What makes me doubly proud about the Davao City Watershed Protection, Conservation and Management Ordinance is that the city government did not spend much for it. The Watershed Code  saw the day based on research, depended less on  the cumbersome, expensive and time-consuming public hearings, did not spend for expenses of the so-called technical working group or a scientific study by private groups that eats up substantial fund.

All it needed was dedication and the mission to contribute something to the protection of the watershed areas by two heads burning candles for four months to see the landmark legislation through completion.  The draft ordinance was also approved in toto by City Legal Officer Melchor Quitain—who is now a councilor and member of the 16th City Council which would be faced with the question of whether or not to amend the Watershed Code—indicating the seriousness with which we prepared the ordinance.

On the issue of the Tamugan River, our personal opinion is that water should be over and above power.

Cabling and I worked on the premise that the watershed areas should be protected for the water that it would provide to the Dabawenyos.

Studies show that the Dumoy water reservoir where we draw out our water needs could not last 50 years and it is imperative that DCWD find an alternative source which happened to be—only—Tamugan River.

We find sense in Mayor Sara Duterte’s statement that Tamugan River as a source of alternative power to stave off an impending power crisis is an overly-hyped argument. The fact is Hedcor can have its hydropower plants all over Mindanao—and even the moon—without touching Tamugan River, which is the only river that DCWD can tap for the future Dabawenyos.


For critics of Cabling, I provide this one bullet: he has not yet paid me the substantial amount he promised to me for breaking my head over the Watershed Code proposal for four long months. Hehehe.

But I forgive him for that, my effort having been acknowledged by Mayor Duterte who appointed me as a regular member of the Watershed Management Council, the policy making and implementing body embedded in the Watershed Code, upon instance of then city administrator Wendel Avisado, who appreciated my role in the crafting of the landmark ordinance.

Karlo Nograles’ anti-squatter stand scored

                An alliance of homeless urban poor in Davao City informed lawyer Karlo Nograles that the process of demolition of squatters is properly covered by RA 7279 or the Urban Development and Housing Act (UDHA) and the local City Shelter Code and advised him to visit these pertinent laws before making statements that could create undue apprehensions in the urban poor sector.

                This developed as Nograles said squatters on properties planned for business projects would have to leave to allow their owners to use the property. He said the owners of the property could go to court to exercise their right of ownership and have the squatters demolished through lawful means.

                Nograles spelled out this grim scenario for squatters during a recent forum on ABS/CBN where he was asked about his plan on how to deal with informal settlers if elected to Congress.

                Nograles is running for the post in the First District against councilor Mabel Acosta.

                Mabel, for her part, said she would propose self-sustaining urban poor communities where the squatters could be relocated complete with amenities and livelihood projects.

                The Urban Poor Alliance of Davao City said Nograles should be reminded that UDHA provides for just and humane eviction or demolition of informal settlers, with aim of relocation if buying the property for the settlers is not possible.

                Speaking for the alliance, Virgie Bayo, president of the Kobbler Federation, an umbrella group for 12 urban poor associations, said the same protection is already embedded in the City Shelter Code which has created the Local Housing Board to deal with the sensitive issue of demolition of urban poor settlers and their relocation.

                Demolition today is an issue being properly addressed by the local government. With all of the processes for just and humane eviction or demolition already in place, we don’t need unnecessary comments that would create apprehension in the urban poor sector, said Bayo, referring to Nograles position on informal settlers and his defense of rights of owners over land properties.

                Bayo, a member of the Local Housing Board and president of Kobbler Foundation which is behind negotiations for purchase of about 60 hectares of the former Oriental Ventures property in Ilang for members of 12 urban poor associations, assured that the urban poor sector is now amply protected by UDHA and the City Shelter Code authored by councilor Arnolfo Cabling.

                The City Shelter Code has created the Local Housing Board that implements census tagging of informal settlers, identification of relocation sites, approval of funds for resettlement areas and development of sites and services.