The governors who ruled undivided Davao (1915–67)

By Antonio V. Figueroa
The historiography of Davao region is a treasure trove of facts, vignettes, tales and urban legends that add color and intrigue to its evolution from an ordinary Moro fief in the 17th century to becoming a boom city today. Some of the narratives bruited around include the claim of a Spanish encomienda granted to a merchant and the war-time double-spy storyline.
The creation of Davao as a province did not happen until 1915. Outside its establishment as an administrative region, there are little-known facts about its early leaders that are almost unknown and, therefore, deserving fleeting mention.
In pre-1915, Spanish lawyer Joaquin Rodriguez, paternal grandfather of Sonja Habana’s husband, was appointed governor-at-large of Davao by his bosom friend, American Gen. John ‘Black Jack’ Pershing who, at the time, was the governor of the Moro Province. A reminder of this period is Carmen, a village in Baguio District, which was named after Rodriguez’s wife.
In the years leading to the creation of the Philippine Commonwealth, American governor-general Dwight F. Davis (after whom the Davis Cup in tennis was named) appointed Mariano R. Marcos, father of future President Ferdinand E. Marcos, as deputy governor-at-large of Davao in the early 1930’s. His appointment was through the effort of then acting Davao Governor Alfredo Zamora (1921) who got the support of then Secretary of the Interior Honorio Ventura. The Cabinet official convinced Davis to appoint Marcos.
From 1915 to 1967, a total of 17 luminaries served as full-time or acting governor of Davao which, at one time or another, included the two Surigao provinces, Gen. Santos City, and the area now known as the province of Sarangani.
During the war, two individuals separately held the position of governor of Davao. Pantaleon Pelayo, Sr., the last pre-war mayor, took over the post while in the underground movement after Gov. Romualdo Quimpo, founder of Davao City, surrendered to the Japanese, while Ricardo Miranda accepted the Japanese appointment, serving as acting governor until 1946.

Creation of provinces
The idea to create a distinct and separate Davao region was originally conceived on Feb. 27, 1849 when Spanish Governor General Narciso Claveria partitioned the old Caraga province into two provinces. Surigao town was made the capital of the northern sector known as the Surigao Province, while Caraga, now a town of Davao Oriental, was the capital of the northern territory of Nueva Guipozcoa (Davao), which included the gulf of Davao. But the administrative control of Davao remained with the comandancia de Bislig.
A decree issued on July 30, 1860 by Queen Isabel II led to the creation of a politico-military government in Mindanao and its neighboring areas. Under Article 13 of the edict, published in the Gaceta of Madrid on August 5 that year, Mindanao was subdivided into six districts. Davao was reorganized as the fourth district, giving Cauit Point as its northern boundary and its territorial jurisdiction covered “the region from Point Tagubon westward to the original Davao Gulf area, down to the present South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat provinces with Malaluna Point near Lebac as the farthest southern boundary.”
In 1867, Nueva Vergara reverted to Davao, its old name. Two decades later, the northern boundary of the province was moved up to Cape Catarman between Lingig, Surigao del Sur, and Cateel, Davao Oriental. The territory was integrated into the jurisdiction of the Mati comandancia, with the comandancia of Glan in Sarangani Province controlling the southern limits of Davao, which extended southwest to Malaluna Point near the Bay of Tuna, South Cotabato.

The first delineation of boundaries of the province of Davao under American rule was in 1900. In the Report of the Philippine Commission to the President, it was outlined, thus:
“[The] district or province… occupies the territory [of the former Nueva Guipozcoa province] and extends from the Bay of Mayo, on the Pacific Ocean, to Point Malaluna, near the Gulf of Tuna, on the south coast of Mindanao… on the north by the district of Surigao, on the south by Cottabato, between these two being Lake Buluan and the country called Boayen, or Buhayen; and on the southeast by the Pacific Ocean, where the port of Balete and the Bay of Pujaga are found. The islands of Samal, Talicud, Pujaga, Saranginas, Sirangan, Moleron, Limbal, and the little islands of Malipano and Sigaboy belong to this district.”
On June 1, 1903, by virtue of Act No. 787 passed by the Philippine Commission, Moro Province, which covered the provinces of Zamboanga, Lanao, Cotabato, Davao, and Sulu, was created. Later, with the creation of the Department of Mindanao and Sulu on July 23, 1914, pursuant to Act No. 2408, Mindanao, excluding Lanao, was placed under the department, which was abolished in 1920.
The first post-war effort to constitute Davao into a contiguous district was in 1952 when the municipal presidents (mayors) of the towns of Cateel, Baganga, Caraga, Manay and Mati, collectively known as “Contra Costa,” passed a resolution endorsed by their respective municipal councils to petition Manila to declare eastern Davao into sub-province to be known as Plaridel.
Four years later, in response to the appeal, Rep. Ismael C. Veloso of the lone congressional district of Davao filed a bill seeking the division of Davao into two provinces. Under the plan, the towns of Lianga, Hinatuan, Bislig and Lingig, now under the province of Surigao del Sur, would be merged with the eastern municipalities of Davao Oriental to form Dasur Province, a blend of ‘Davao’ and ‘Surigao.’ Unluckily, the initiative failed to get the nod of the Senate. He later filed another bill dividing Davao into three provinces, which passed the scrutiny of the House but did not get the approval of Senate.
In 1965, Rep. Lorenzo S. Sarmiento revived the Veloso bill in the House seeking the division of the undivided Davao into not just two but three provinces. With the blessing of Sen. Alejandro Almendras, the legislative measure was passed by both the House and the Senate and was enacted into law as Republic Act 4867. As a result, the provinces of Davao del Norte, Davao del Sur, and Davao Oriental were created. Thirty-three years later, Congress passed Republic Act No. 8470, which created the Compostela Valley Province as an independent province carved out of the larger territory of Davao del Norte.
In a move construed as gerrymandering, on Nov. 10, 2010, two Davao del Sur congressmen, namely Rep. Marc Douglas IV Cagas, as principal author, and Rep. Franklin P. Bautista, as co-sponsor, filed House Bill 3644 (later expanded and re-filed as House Bill 4451), which sought to create the province of Davao Occidental from Davao del Sur, comprising the Davao del Sur towns of Malita, Santa Maria, Don Marcelino, Jose Abad Santos, and Sarangani. The bill, approved in Congress on May 16, 2011 and transmitted by the Senate on May 24, 2011, was eventually enacted on July 23, 2013. It was signed by President Benigno s. Aquino III as Republic Act 10360 on Jan. 14, 2013.

Eulalio E. Causing (1915-17)
A member of the Provincial Board of Cebu in 1907, Eulalio E. Causing ran for elective office and won twice as representative of Cebu. He, however, resigned to take over the post as first Filipino civil-governor of Davao on Jan. 1, 1915. His congressional vacancy was succeeded by Tomas Alonso. After his stint as governor, Causing accepted the offer to become judge of the Court of First Instance (CFI) in Cebu. As a Mason, he became the worshipful master of the Nilad Lodge, and was behind the creation of Grande Oriente Español and the Mactan lodges.

Francisco Sales (1917-21)
A native of Cebu, Francisco Sales is best remembered for the key historical events that transpired in Davao in 1918. During the first national census under American rule, he was appointed Inspector of the Provincial Advisory Census Board. It was during his watch as governor when the famous Lukban case took place. On Oct. 25, 1918, on orders Manila mayor Justo Lukban, around 170 prostitutes were exiled in Davao to work as laborers in plantations he and Feliciano Iñigo owned. He receipted the arrival of the women who would become the focus of a habeas corpus case filed before the Supreme Court. In 1921, he resigned from the position.

Alfredo Zamora (1921-22)
Born in Ermita, Manila, on June 18, 1881, Alfredo Zamora joined the government on Dec. 15, 1901, as a clerk of the Bureau of Audit. Four years later, he became assistant calculator of the Bureau of Finance and Justice before he was promoted to chief clerk. In 1919, he was appointed deputy secretary-treasurer, and later secretary-treasurer of Davao. When Gov. Sales resigned, he was appointed as ipso facto provincial administrator, or acting governor, being the next in command on Oct. 28, 1921. His administration was brief, which makes it difficult to determine if his decisions really made an impact in Davao’s growth.

Celestino Chaves (1922-24)
A native of Leyte, Celestino Chaves, a lawyer, was the co-founder of Sarangani Lodge No. 50, the oldest Masonic club in Davao. He briefly served as deputy governor before he was elevated to the provincial leadership. Much of what he was admired for, though, was as a journalist. He was the first editor of pre-war publication Maguindanao and caught the attention of the public for his no-nonsense and fiery writings as editor of El Eco de Davao. During the war, he was appointed an assemblyman in the National Assembly (1943-1945), representing Davao. Nothing much is known about his stint as governor.

Sebastian T. Generoso (1925-28; 1928- 30; 1935-36)
The only three-time governor of undivided Davao, Sebastian Generoso, a lawyer, was the first elected governor in 1925, and reelected in 1928 and 1934. Despite his contributions, he figured in numerous controversies. On Dec. 19, 1930, he was dismissed from office for his involvement in “certain land transactions.” On April 12, 1935, he was suspended for a month “for various irregularities.” And on June 25, 1936, President Manuel L. Quezon suspended him for two months “for acts of misconduct in office.” He remained popular at home, even earning the honorary title of sultan for his peacemaking efforts between the natives and the Muslims.

Cayetano B. Bangoy (Dec. 20, 1930–1931)
A member of the landed gentry, Cayetano Bangoy’s name is prominent in official records for donating lands for public use, notably in 1920 and 1921. In 1922, during the local elections in Davao, he ran for governor but lost to eventual winner Celestino Chaves. In 1929, he was appointed vocal de junta provincial (board member), promoted to provincial treasurer-secretary, and in 1930, after Generoso’s dismissal from service, was installed acting governor until the next elected governor was sworn in as a result of the June 2, 1931 elections. He was also a member of the first Independence Congress held in Manila on Feb. 22-26, 1930.

Juan A. Sarenas (1931-1934; 1934-1935)
A native of Nueva Ecija, Juan A. Sarenas, a lawyer, sought greener pasture in Davao in 1916 with his wife who accepted the offer to become principal of Davao Central School (now Kapitan Tomas Monteverde). As a legal luminary, he made a name for himself and was later appointed deputy governor. In 1930, he won as governor of Davao but lost it in 1934. His high-profile image was not exactly smooth. He was accused of dummying lands for the Japanese and used his office for nepotism. He was also dragged in a pre-war land-grabbing case that involved future governor Domingo Braganza. In 1938, he ran for the National Assembly but was defeated. During the war, he became one of four figures appointed to represent the city in the National Assembly (1943-1944). A decade later, he joined the judiciary as CFI judge of Cotabato.

Domingo M. Braganza (Sept.-Dec. 1937)
Born on Aug. 4, 1895 at Alaminos, Pangasinan, Domingo Braganza, whose mother was a Montemayor, was accepted in roster of lawyers on Oct. 4, 1917. He became a provincial board member during the third Generoso administration (1935-37). In 1937, the year the city was inaugurated, he was briefly installed as governor, succeeding Gov. Generoso who died four months before finishing his term. In a land-grabbing case that reached the Supreme Court, he and co-defendant Juan Sarenas were ordered to pay P2,810 to the complainants as payment for a land irregularly acquired. He died in 1944.

Pacifico M. Sobrecarey (1937-39)
A native of Manay, Davao Oriental, Pacifico M. Sobrecarey can lay claim as the first governor after Davao town became a component city. He assumed the provincial leadership after winning in the Dec. 14, 1937 election, confirmed by President Manuel L. Quezon under Executive Order No. 133 signed on Dec. 29, 1937. One of the highlights of his administration the defense of President Manuel L. Quezon in the resolution filed in May 1939 before the US Congress by Rep. John G. Alexander (Minnesota, USA), which demanded a probe into Philippine-Japanese relations on claims that “many members of the National Assembly [were] bribed by Japanese persons and companies.” He sought a second term in 1940, but was soundly defeated by Quimpo who was already making political waves as the “father of Davao City”.

Romualdo C. Quimpo (1940-41)
A native of Capiz, Romualdo C. Quimpo, a lawyer, sponsored the law that made Davao a city in 1937. His first visit to Davao was in 1929 as justice of the peace. In 1935, he joined politics and won as Davao’s representative to the 1st National Assembly (1935-1938). As a legislator, he was accused of nepotism and for asking fees in homestead applications. In 1940, Quimpo won as governor over Gov. Sobrecarey but his residency was challenged. He eventually won in the high court. Though stricken with paralysis, he remained actively involved in politics and pursued growth-oriented initiatives for the city. He served as technical adviser to post-war local officials and was a presidential consultant. He died on Jan. 6, 1978.

Ricardo Miranda (1942-46; 1947-48; 1948-51)
A native of Loon, Bohol, Ricardo Miranda was acting mayor after Gov. Quimpo peacefully surrendered to the Japanese in 1942. Towards the end of 1947, Miranda was again installed as acting governor. The following year he won in the country’s first post-war elections, making him the first Davao governor elected under the country’s Third Republic. He and his wife died in tragic accident when their residence along Ramon Magsaysay Avenue just across the Sta. Ana Elementary School was razed to the ground. Actually, Davao had two governors during the war. Aside from Miranda, who was appointed by the Japanese, Davao City mayor Pantaleon Pelayo, Sr., now in hiding, declared himself governor of ‘Free Davao’ (1942-May 1945).

Pantaleon A. Pelayo Sr. (1942; May 1945)
Born on Aug. 31, 1901 in Zamboanga, Pantaleon A. Pelayo Sr. passed the Bar Examination in 1925. A year later, he moved to Davao to set up a law office, winning public acclaim as a brilliant lawyer. He won as delegate to the 1935 Constitutional Convention and earned the ire of the Japanese for his proposal to regulate foreign ownership of lands. When war broke out, he escaped with his family to the hills and joined the resistance movement; there, he declared himself governor of ‘Free Davao’ until May 1945 and briefly regained his elected position. He was later appointed mayor of Zamboanga City but resigned to return to Davao. On Jan. 13, 1953, he became undersecretary of Labor, but later joined the judiciary as CFI judge of Iloilo until 1963.

Antonio C. Lanzar (1946-47)
A former Philippine Constabulary officer, Antonio C. Lanzar was assigned in Mindanao at the height of the American pacification campaign. He fought alongside Captain Domingo E. Leonor, the first Filipino provincial commander of Davao (1927-1931). In the 1930’s, Lanzar was police-military head of a detachment at Malalag, Davao del Sur, retiring with a rank of colonel. Given his sterling military record, he was appointed first post-war governor of Davao in 1946. Part of his functions was to appoint mayors to spearhead the reparation of ravaged communities, and help find settlement areas for families displaced by the war. In 1953, Executive Order No. 596 created Malalag as a town, where he was appointed as its first mayor.

Gregorio V. Cañeda (1947)
A lawyer by profession, Gregorio Cañeda has had his share of war-time controversies. He was accused as an informer of the Davao Kempeitai, most of them his former clients. His family, though, maintains he served in the Japanese as a deep-penetration agent, ending with his capture and, later, his escape from detention. A Certificate of Discharge issued on Aug. 31, 1945 shows he was called to active duty on Feb. 3, 1943, and discharged at the end of the war. On Oct. 6, 1947, with strong support from families he saved during the conflict, Cañeda was briefly appointed acting governor. On Jan. 1, 1949, he was succeeded by Gov. Miranda succeeded him. Despite efforts to get his pension for his war efforts, he died without seeing his request granted.

Alejandro D. Almendras Sr. (1952-55; 1956-59)
Acknowledged as the first Davao leader to join the Cabinet, Alejandro D. Almendras, born in Danao City, relocated to Davao in 1947 after a decorated war stint as guerrilla. He tried logging and established a sawmill business while in between taking up Law. This was cut short, though, when he was put up as gubernatorial bet in 1950. He won in his first try at politics and was reelected. Halfway in his second term, President Carlos P. Garcia appointed him as Secretary of the Department of General Services but later resigned to run for the Senate, winning reelection in 1965 and 1971. In 1987, he ran for Senate but lost; in 1992, he returned to politics and won as representative of the first congressional district of Davao del Sur. Although he suffered a stroke, he still finished his tenure. On Aug. 3, 1995, he died at the age of 76.

Vicente G. Duterte (1959-64)
Originally from Danao City, Vicente Duterte, a lawyer, was one of the two relatives of Durano rivals who migrated to Davao, the other being Gavino Sepulveda, who won a Congress seat in 1957. In 1959, he was chosen to succeed Sen. Almendras as governor; he won the race and frustrated the political comeback of former political kingpin Ismael Veloso. On Dec. 25, 1965, President Ferdinand E. Marcos appointed him as new Secretary of General Services. Wanting to revive his political career, he ran in the 1967 congressional polls but was defeated by lawyer journalist Artemio Al. Loyola. He died on Feb. 21, 1968.

Paciano V. Bangoy (1965-67)
The only son of Francisco Bangoy, Paciano Bangoy won as governor of the undivided Davao in 1965, making him the last in a batch of illustrious administrators to grace the local political landscape. When Davao was divided into three provinces, he was appointed caretaker of the newly-created Davao Oriental. Prior to this, he was two-time appointed city councilor (1945-47; 1954-55). A short and somewhat stocky individual, his grandiose house along Santa Ana Avenue, in front of a college, hosted high-society events and Philippine presidents, and was the symbol of wealth in the district. As a landed scion, he owned extensive properties in the city.