Controversial sister city?

LIHUE — Last Monday, Sara Duterte, the mayor of Davao, a city on Mindanao Island in the Philippines, was on Kauai signing a sister-city partnership with Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr.

She’s the daughter of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, whose administration has been criticized by Amnesty International and other groups for committing multiple human rights violations.

In a statement to TGI, Sarah Blane, County of Kauai spokesperson, said sister-city relationships are not endorsements of any specific governmental type or administration.

“They are not agreements between two elected officials, but rather a commitment to foster relationships between the people within those communities. They are about aloha and giving and receiving cultural exchanges,” she said.

The sister-city partnership with Davao is the fifth between cities in the Philippines and the County of Kauai.

“It’s about partnership and creating and fortifying an open, communicative atmosphere to induce a heightened exchange of ideas, particularly in tourism and culture, agriculture and trade and commerce,” Carvalho said in a press release following the signing.

“As the world continues to evolve, the challenges we face become increasingly complex. Now more than ever, there is a value in learning continuously and in collaborating with others to find solutions to address concerns that we may face,” Sara Duterte said in the press release.

In February, Carvalho visited Davao, signing a similar agreement at its city hall.

“Through these sister-city relationships, I have had the opportunity to visit the Philippines and learn firsthand how Hawaii and the Philippines are separated by ocean but connected by our sense of family, and our dedication to build our youth, our connection to our culture and heritage, and our dedication to agriculture, tourism and other business and economic ventures,” Carvalho said.

But Davao itself and the Duterte family are not free from controversy.

While Amnesty International did not respond to a request for an interview, a quick search of its website revealed dozens of articles about President Duterte, who was once Davao’s mayor and is known for his hard stance on the city’s drug war, which allegedly included death squads and vigilantism in the killing of thousands of supposed drug suppliers, dealers and other criminals.

An Oct. 7, 2016, Amnesty International article states that 100 days into his presidency, 3,000 lives had already been lost, marked by state-sanctioned violence on a “truly shocking scale.”

“His (Rodrigo Duterte) brutal crackdown on those allegedly involved in drug crimes has led to carnage on the streets and the obliteration of key human rights, including the right to life and due process,” Rafendi Djamin, director of Southeast Asia and the Pacific at Amnesty International, was quoted as saying in the article.

Duterte’s presidency has created a climate where anyone can kill or be killed in the name of the war on drugs, Djamin said.

An article published by the Human Rights Watch dated March 2, 2017, states that as of that year, more than 7,000 people were killed in Duterte’s anti-drug campaign and in March, an article published by The Global Journalist states that number has grown to more than 12,000 deaths.

Sara Duterte — whose office declined to participate in this story — was first elected to office as a vice mayor in 2007, while her father was mayor. Reports say she assaulted a court sheriff, leading to the demolition of a squatter community several years ago. As a deal with her father, she ran for mayor in 2016.

She’s a lawyer, married and a mother of three, and is seeking reelection in the 2019 election.

Her husband and older brother were implicated in a large methamphetamine smuggling bust in 2017, but were cleared of all charges due to lack of evidence.

Blane told TGI the people of Davao and the concepts of friendship, understanding and goodwill are not political. They are universal, Blane said.

“By sharing our aloha spirit with others, we have the ability to foster unity rather than perpetuate divisiveness,” she said.

Founded by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1956, the sister-city organization’s mission is to promote peace through mutual respect, understanding and cooperation — one individual, one community at a time.

Christina Burchette, communications manager for Sister Cities International, told TGI the purpose of sister cities is citizens working with citizens to make the world a better place.

When asked if Sister Cities International had any concerns about Davao, Burchette responded: “There’s not supposed to be any political association with the program. That’s not the driving force behind the purpose of sister cities.”

The organization’s policy states that it is an autonomous not-for-profit organization whose policies and actions are independent of any individual, as well as any federal, state or local entity.

“Our members and our volunteer citizen diplomats pride themselves on representing their respective communities, and on maintaining relations with citizens in other countries even when official national relations are problematic,” it says.

TGI also asked the Kauai Filipino Chamber of Commerce if it had any concerns about the connection.

In a written response, the Kauai Filipino Chamber of Commerce said it was looking forward to working with the county to help make this sister-city relationship successful.

“Mayor Sara Duterte is a duly elected official in her own right and we will work with her as mayor of Davao City. Our hope is that this sister-city relationship helps opens doors for our Kauai businesses to do more business in the Philippines,” said the statement.

The Kauai Filipino Community Council said the sister-city partnership with Davao is timely.

“By our examples and struggles, we hope to demonstrate that we can indeed overcome and contribute to a better Kauai, Hawaii and country,” the statement said.


Bethany Freudenthal can be reached at 652-7891 or bfreudenthal@thegarden

  1. Charlie Chimknee September 17, 2018 6:11 am Reply

    Aloha Kakou,

    Having lived on and off in Davao City for over a dozen years, we have observed a thriving, energetic, bustling city of warm and welcoming people. Smiles and eye to eye contact are a cultural standout.

    We’ve been in probably every neighborhood many times. The fresh and delicious foods are a healthy benefit to living there, as well as the fresh sea foods brought in daily. Giant supermarkets and even many fantastic shopping centers are located throughout the City.

    Transportation we should learn from, gettting a taxi or the convenient little vehicle called a tricycle make getting around never more than a minute wait from anywhere in the City.

    It seems everyone has a job as you see no idle people. As a city, Davao City has over a million people. Schools of every level, and colleges and universities are prevalent all over Davao City.

    People are well dressed, especially the children, and appear to be well fed and happy. Their community markets are thrilling to walk through and see the array of fresh foods that Davaoenos feast on. Let me not forget the other goods being sold clothes to furniture

    As to complaints about the ill treatment of drug meth dealers, well, we’ve seen more obviously messed up drug addicts and alcoholics on Kauai’streets and parks, and you see none of that in Davao City. But not to be naive, there are over million people, there must be some living the low life in areas of the City. We saw none in 12 years.

    It is a testament to their leadership and brilliance that the Duterte’s, from President Rodrigo Duterte to his daughter, Mayor Sara Duterte, and his sons who have all contributed to DAVAO City, have made this a better and safer, and more prosperous City than many other cities of Asia, USA, and Latin America.

    While the “bleeding heart” (job protection) whining Amnesty International people are claiming civi rights violations against drug dealers, the very drug dealers who may each infect a hundred or more young people per year, into a life of addiction, crime, and an early death, and we are talking about former good students, good workers, and we are talking about “meth” dealers destroying the lives of these youth and young parents…well these drug dealers are a 1,000 times worse in violating the civil rights of youth who are like us entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, not snuffed out by drug addiction caused by the drug dealers.

    President Duterte and his daughter Mayor Sara Duterte have made it clear that drug dealers are not welcome in Davao City and now in all of the Philippines; and his stand against drug dealers, thus overall crime as well, is a societal good the world,should look up to.

    Shamefully the opioid addiction epidemic in America has been brought about by reckless opioid drug prescribing by our own doctors looking for patient return visits for new drug prescriptions. Money over mankind never works out in the long run. The Duterte’s protect their people, and we should take a lesson from them.

    With the Duterte’s, over 800,000 drug dealers and addicts by 2017, had turned themselves into prison or rehab centers, who upon release after their sentence completed, thanked the Duterte’s for saving their lives and ultimately protected their own individual families by return to work and health, and parents throughout the Philippines are grateful their children did not get the “meth virus” that was sweeping their country.

    If here on Kaua’i the methods used in the Philippines to squash drug dealing and addiction were used here, there would be long Stand By Boarding lines at the LIHUE Airport with drug dealers trying to get off island before justice caught up with them; instead the drug dealers of Kaua’i walk our towns, neighborhoods, and beach parks with little fear of justice; and a bad example for our youth.

    Sister City status between Kaua’i and DAVAO City, the Philippines and DAVAO City hav a lot to offer Kaua’i. Our Agriculture System, to feed our island, has much to learn but also to share. The quality of their foods from poison free farming, and the aroma and taste of Davao Coffee is a real morning treat. We can benefit from that as well as the many other opportunities of a Sister city relationship.

    The quality hotels and thriving condo projects with wide City and Ocean (Gulf of Davao) views and always nearby shopping make DAVAO city convenient for travelers. And Davao is only an inter island flight from Manila, several flights daily.

    Mayor Sara Duterte and her father the Mayor before her, have and continue to keep Davao City safe for it’s inhabitants and visitors and they should be congratulated as my comments are doing

    It may well be that Mayor Inday Sara Duterte will follow her father into the Presidency of the Philippines; and Mayor Inday Sara just came all the way to Kaua’i from the Philippines to visit our tiny island and share the mana of Davao City with the island of Kauai and our Mayor Bernard Carvalho.

    Mahalo to Both inday Sara and Bernard for bringing us all together.

    Sister City status will be a great legacy of our Mayor Carvalho.



    1. Joe Public September 17, 2018 11:19 am Reply

      You should read your letter, basically your saying that killing people is the answer to lower crime and have other criminals turn themselves in for rehab?

      Guess people like Hitler are still out there thinking they are the master race.

      If Davao City was such an awesome place…go back.

    2. Just Saying September 17, 2018 3:36 pm Reply

      Wow, is Pollyanna Charlie’s ghost writer?
      The reason you didn’t see people who looked shady is because that’s all it took for them to be pushed out of helicopters or shot during Duterte’s midnight motorcycle rides over his 24 year reign of terror!
      Gotta love those Strongmen, they get stuff done and keep the litter amounts down. You see, Duterte “knows stuff!” He’s got lists made from hearsay. That’s all he needs. He hasn’t time for trials and gathering proof or evidence. If you’re on one of his lists, you are the walking dead! The problem is that what Duterte knows is mostly a coin flip when it comes down to the truth.

      1. Charlie chimknee September 17, 2018 10:32 pm Reply

        Aloha Joe P., it boils down to choice. But 1st, to qualify to being able to answer, you must answer the question in your mind…Do You Have Children? Especially do you have a daughter or a few?

        If you do not have children…game over.!

        If you do have children which do you prefer…the pusher man shoving a needle in your child’s arm and plunging dope into him or her, to begin the ruination of your child of whatever age teen or adult.

        Would it sadden you that your son would steal for more drugs after the 1st dose is free and head to prison; or worse becoming another pusher man himself to supply himself more dam deadly dope.

        Or your daughter reduced to prostitution to buy the drugs, end up with AIDS and 2 unrelated illegitimate children, and then the greatest insult to you and your family that she dies an early death from the combination of AIDS and an overdose…all the while you’re protesting the denial,of a felony criminal’s silly civil rights?

        I can’t imagine any parent choosing the rights of a scum bag dope death dealer over their own children.

        While I am ignorant of who Pollyanna is, I do know the story of Typhoid Mary…who do you prefer to spread the deadly disease to your children?

        I may be too old to run for President, but I’m young enough to vote into office any President who has the testicular fortitude to wipe out death drugs and their salesmen and women like those who push meth and heroin and opiates, etc.

        So far for you “Bleeding Hearts”, we share a commonality, a dislike for the President, those that love Fake News, and those of us that think he ain’t tough enough…! Think about it…United Parents…Yours…!



      2. Charlie chimknee September 17, 2018 10:42 pm Reply

        Aloha Just, maybe the Court should rent the house next door to you and sentence the drug dealers to live next door to since they all live next door to someone who ain’t happy about it. Your new experience may sober you up.
        And since you know so much about shady people and lists and helicopter drop offs and midnight rides and hearsay as in Fake News, maybe you are CIA, READY TO TESTIFY.?

  2. Craig Millett September 17, 2018 9:58 am Reply

    “Our hope is that this sister-city relationship helps opens doors for our Kauai businesses to do more business in the Philippines,” said the statement.
    This says it all. It’s one thing to that sister cities are not about politics. It is however another thing entirely when the politicians are also members of crime families as is the case in both countries.

    1. Charlie chimknee September 17, 2018 10:45 pm Reply

      No aloha for Craig…our Mayor’s Family is what?

  3. hutch September 17, 2018 10:30 am Reply

    What are Bethany Freudenthal’s credentials as an editorialist? Because it’s quite obvious that her articles almost always have some sort of ulterior motive behind them, whether they be about the Philippines or about her fave bestie girl friends running for office locally.

  4. Joe Public September 17, 2018 11:13 am Reply

    “Tourism”? must be a one sided term, never saw bus loads of visiting filipinos, have only saw caucasians and asians.

    Is this “sister city” a rouse to cover all the trips to the philippines that the mayor took during his tenure?

    1. Charlie chimknee September 17, 2018 10:49 pm Reply

      Uh Joe.? Filipinos are 100% Asians, unless of coarse if they are of mixed parents.

  5. George Ho September 17, 2018 4:44 pm Reply

    I applaud Charles and fully support appropriate action against drug pushers. Frankly I’m surprised the editors allowed free speech. The democrats must have been arguing over donuts while this went ‘to press’.

  6. Charlie chimknee September 17, 2018 11:10 pm Reply

    Aloha George, mahalo for your kind words. We can be sure that when the very strong family oriented Filipino people and their President discussed ditching the substance abuse, the ruination of a nation, there was no argument or donuts.

    Mayor Bernard drew almost 100 Filipino business people, professionals,, to the DAVAO City ceremony and spent his very busy “spare time” visiting businesses and agricultural lands and production.

    You can be assured Mayor Bernard and the large Kaua’i contingency he brought with him spent much serios time in discussion of things beneficial to both Kaua’i and Davao City. It’s almost 12,000 miles RT to Davao and back, for a few days of travel that is a grueling schedule, not a jaunt.

    Mileage wise it is about 1/2 way aroud the world. We have a dedicated Mayor.

    Mahalo, I’m anxious for another visit, it’s been several months already.


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