During the heat of the May elections campaign period last year, we posed this question: Will the Artica Sports Dome—the unfinished P300 million city government project mothballed by Mayor Rodrigo Duterte for being a ‘monument of corruption’—rise from the dead?
Former mayor Benjamin de Guzman—under whose administration the edifice at the outskirt of barangay Langub—hoped so, if he would win the race for the vice mayorship in 2010.
Partnering with Speaker Prospero Nograles, the standard bearer of the Lakas/Kampi/CMD, de Guzman was hoping to redeem his political stock with a crack at the post he held in 1995. A former ally of Duterte, de Guzman won as mayor in 1998 but was trashed by Duterte in the 2001 elections. He was up agaainst the elder Duterte in the vice mayoral run.
Davao is suffering today with the disrepute of being a billionaire city without a decent sporting facility but who knows it may end up with not just one but two world-class sports domes, said de Guzman.
Nograles, up against then Vice Mayor Sara Duterte in the mayoral race, played up the city’s lack of a sports center as a propaganda spin in an apparent slap at the Duterte administration’s reported lack of focus on sports.
Luring votes, Nograles as early as mid-2009 promised a sports center to be built at the University of Southeastern Philippines Bo. Obrero campus and to be completed before the May elections. Repeat, before the May elections.
The campaign promise of Nograles, along with the black propaganda he hurled at the Dutertes, did not bite. All he had to show to Dabawenyos before they went to the precincts on election day were a few posts and some diggings and an ultra-large large tarpaulin announcing the proposed sports facility.
When the dust of the political battle settled down, he found himse losing by more than 200,000 votes to Sara Duterte.
In the 2001 electoral campaign in his comeback bid, Duterte had used the Artica Dome as a propaganda gambit—tagging it as a “monument of corruption” of then incumbent de Guzman administration.
There were plenty of jokes that hounded the tormented Artica Dome. For one, after it was mothballed by Duterte, the edifice took a new name: Artica Doom.
In the 2001 campaign, it was at the center of jokes that the comebacking Duterte delivered in his verbal harangue against de Guzman. In rallies, Duterte stands on a stage back-dropped by a large tarpaulin showing the edifice and fat goats feeding on tall grasses at the foreground. Duterte said only goats benefitted from de Guzman’s wanton waste of public money.
The Artica Dome further became a butt of jokes when some quarters suggested it be completed and converted into a crematorium and mausoleum as the city’s public cemeteries become overcrowded. Again, it earned a another name: Artica AstroTomb.
A city councilor also had suggested that Davao City could land in the Book of Guinness if it converts the sports center into the “world’s biggest cockpit” where international cock derbies would be held. The suggestion was an intended pun on the donors of the lot where Artica stood: the Uy brothers of Tagum City whose fame includes being cockpit kings with their killer fighting cocks.
As it is, there is no hope for Artica to rise from the dead.
Now, what about Nograles’ USeP sports center?
A year after work started on the project the structure remains unfinished.
Duterte had said Artica was smeared by graft and sat on an earthquake fault that would endanger lives—reasons he had in stopping the de Guzman monument.
Graft he smells in the Nograles sports dome, and is planning to go to the Onbudsman to ask these questions: how much money had been poured into the project, how the money was used and when it would be completed.
And most likely, he would also ask the Ombudsman to please find out who made money out of this project—if there is corruption in the implementation of the project.
Would it lead to Dona Vicenta?
We still have to find out. But already, the Usep sports complex is facing the same predicament faced by Artica.
If there is graft, will Duterte ask that its completion be stopped while the racket is being probed?
Now, I am in a joking mood.
Artica sat on an earthquake fault and should be abandoned, according to the Duterte doctrine. Could it be also said that the Usep structure should not be there because it would create a traffic nightmare when in operation and should therefore be removed?
Duterte has henchmen who can demolish beautiful parks sitting atop canals or main drains because they clog water flow and cause floods.
Does he have henchmen who can demolish structures as big as the Nograles sports project in Usep because they could cause monstrous traffic jams?
If De Guzman wrongly predicted he would defeat Duterte in the May race, he was right when he said in 2001 that the city would be having two giant sports domes.
Unfortunately, while his Artica dome is dead, Nograles’ own dome is coming into trouble.