When exactly was Davao founded?

On November 25, 2018, the House of Representatives, through the chamber’s committee on revision of laws, declared March 1 of every year as a special non-working holiday in Davao City to celebrate its foundation day, instead of the March 16 date.

The initiative substituted House Bills 8215 and 8261, authored by deputy speaker and Davao City Rep. Mylene J. Garcia-Albano and Davao City Rep. Alberto Ungab, respectively and was filed to rectify what a historical error that has been perpetrated since Republic Act 7551 was approved in 1992 changing the city’s official date of inauguration.

Also, under Republic Act 7685, approved in 1994, the ‘Araw ng Dabaw’ celebration was moved to March 16 for no reason at all. Its approval contravened Resolution No. 25, which the City Council of Davao City adopted in 1973, amending and changing the date of the city’s founding from March 16 to March 1 of every year.

Historically, the elevation of Davao town to a city was by virtue of Commonwealth Act 51, filed as House Bill No. 609 and authored by then Davao assemblyman Romualdo C. Quimpo. Signed by President Manuel L. Quezon on October 16, 1936, it created Davao as a chartered city.

Its inauguration, however, was contained in Proclamation No. 132, which Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon signed on January 23, 1937.

The proclamation, in part, declared that “March 1, 1937, as a day for the inauguration of the City of Davao, and declaring it a special public holiday for the Province of Davao.” It adds: “In order to provide full opportunity for the people of Davao to participate in the celebration of the inauguration… so that the day may be fittingly observed.”

Secretary of the interior Elpidio R. Quirino represented the President during the inauguration.

Strangely, on February 23, 1994, President Fidel V. Ramos signed into law RA 7685 “declaring March 16 of every year a special nonworking public holiday in the City of Davao, to be known as ‘Araw ng Dabaw.’ The edict is an offshoot of a similar initiative passed two years ago in Congress.

Records in Congress show the Albano-Ungab bill began in the lower chamber, passed in the House of Representatives on October 8, 1993, and on November 25, 1993, in the Senate. Senate Bill 2090, the counterpart version, was filed by Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara on November 23, 2018,

RA 7685, which has no factual basis, also raised a furor in certain sectors who were surprised with the passage of an ahistorical initiative. In the City Council and in the press, the statute was placed under the microscopic, prompting the passage of a legislation in Congress to rectify the error. Rep. Ungab, in explaining House Bill 8216 that he authored, wrote:

“On March 6, 2018, the Sangguniang Panglungsod ng Davao City adopted Resolution No. 1946-18 Series of 2018, informing the Congress of the Philippines that the ‘Araw ng Davao’ or the foundation day of Davao City is on March 1, 1937 and not on March 16, 1936, and that there are markers or historic landmarks, particularly in the City Hall, that indicate that Davao City was inaugurated on March 1, 1937 and not March 16, 1936.”

For her part, Rep. Albano, in filing House Bill 8215, argued that the early endorsement of her measure, would “correct a historical inaccuracy in Davao City’s evolution as a major urban center of the country and arguably the seat of power in this era of the country’s history.”

On August 22, 2019, Republic Act 11379, “an Act declaring March 1 of every year a special working holiday in the City of Davao, Province of Davao del Sur, to be known as ‘Araw ng Dabaw,’” was signed into law by President Rodrigo R. Duterte.
The statute repeals RA 7551, approved on May 22, 1992, and RA 7685.

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