Malita’s existence dates back scores of years before its formal creation as municipality on November 17, 1936. Records show that Malita must have existed long before the passage of the Acts – Laws of the Moro Province that mentioned Malita in Section 1 of Act No. 164 dated December 10, 1904. Through the said Act it is presumed that it existed as a barrio long before the coming of the Americans to Davao. Executive Order No. 64 issued by President Manuel L. Quezon officially created Malita into a municipality. The name “Malita” is a derivation from the Spanish word “Maleta” which means suitcase. It is said that purportedly Don Mariano Peralta, a retired veteran of the Spanish-American War and who ventured in the place, decided to live on the vast, fertile plain across the river. One day while bodily fording the deep and swift river with his suitcase and other belongings in hand, the force of the current overwhelmed his perilous balance and got swept by the water consequently losing his grip on the suitcase. His frantic shouts of “Maleta, Maleta” attracted the attention of the bathing natives who after realizing the situation promptly responded and retrieved the vanishing suitcase. Hardly forgetting the shouts of Peralta, the natives later thought the word referred to the land he intended to settle as Malita. How it came to its present spelling and usage maybe attributed to the native’s prevalent use of long `e’ sound for the vowels `i’ and `e’.
Malita’s early inhabitants are mostly of the Tagacaolo, B’laan, Manobo, Maguindanao, Sangil and Bagobo tribes believed to be descendants of the second wave of Malays who migrated to Mindanao from other parts of Southeast Asia years before the birth of Christ.
In 1909 Governor Leonard Wood sent U.S. Marine Officer Orvil Wood to enforce the Liquor Law in the place. Officer Wood and his troops were seated on the south bank of the river dividing the present Poblacion and Barangay Culaman, to establish the first recorded settlement and system of government. In 1912, Mariano Peralta came and worked briefly with Wood as capataz. Shortly, a wave of immigrants from the Visayas, mostly from Cebu, came. Settlers from Luzon Island also came so with a number from the neighboring provinces of Mindanao.
Malita’s development as a municipality underwent 22 leadership changes under various political situations and official assumptions and titles. The period 1906 to 1937 saw the local chief executives in the title of President whose assumptions to office were made through appointment. From 1937 to the present, the official designation of the local chief executive was changed to Mayor and those who assumed the office were installed either by popular election or appointment.