EVEN if he is not barred from joining President Rodrigo Duterte’s Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bakan (PDP-Laban), Daanbantayan Mayor Vicente Loot said he has no plans of joining the now-ruling party.
Instead, he will remain with the United Nationalist Alliance (Una), the party in which he belonged when he ran for the mayoral post of Daanbantayan, a first-class municipality located more than 120 kilometers north of Cebu City, during the May 2016 national and local elections.
“I’m staying with Una. Anyway, Una is affiliated in a grand coalition with PDP-Laban. But for this purpose, all barangay captains and barangay officials under me (took) their oath together with Provincial Board (PB) Member Sun Shimura (with PDP-Laban),” Loot told Cebu Daily News in a text message.
Shimura, Loot’s stepson, represents the 4th District in the PB and is one of the hundreds of elected officials in Cebu who, along with about 50,000 of their supporters, took their oath as new members of PDP-Laban in a mass oath-taking ceremony in Plaza Independencia on Friday.
However, Loot said he did not know, and was never informed, about the instructions from Nixon “Jojo” Dizon, the Cebu chapter president of PDP-Laban, that barred officials in President Duterte’s list of alleged narco-politicians from joining their party.
President Duterte, within months after he won the election in 2016, revealed the names of politicians, police officials and even those in the judiciary whom he said have links to the illegal drugs trade.
Loot, a retired police general, was in that list, along with retired Police Regional Office- Central Visayas (PRO-7) director Marcelo Garbo, and two mayors from Cebu: former Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama and incumbent Ronda Mayor Mariano Blanco III.
Loot, Rama and Blanco have all denied the allegation.
Loot said he also underwent a lifestyle check as means to clear his name after authorities claimed they found probable cause that the amount of wealth he amassed before he was seated as town mayor might have come from unlawful means.
Loot, together with his wife and former Daanbantayan Mayor Maria Luisa Loot, had been consistent on topping the list of wealthy local officials in Cebu.
The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) cleared him of these allegations later on. But it was not enough to stop President Duterte from still raising his name, and of other so-called narco-politicians on the latter’s list, even a year later.
Loot said he has no adverse opinion to the rules that PDP-Laban has laid down for those who joined Friday’s mass oath-taking ceremony.
“I didn’t know that there exists such an order. But if that’s what will please them, then let me assure them that I am a person who always consider myself part of the solution to the problem, and never part of the problem itself,” explained Loot.
Loot said even if his stepson and allies were in the oath-taking ceremony, he did not see the need for him to witness the event.
“There is no need. Board Member Sun is enough (to represent Daanbantayan in the administration party),” he said.
Loot, a first-time mayor, won by a slim margin in the May 2016 elections with a total votes of 20,412. His opponent, Augusto Corro (Liberal Party), who then was seeking reelection, lost to him by a margin of only seven votes, or a total of 20,405.
Meanwhile, Rama and Blanco have earlier announced their willingness to still join PDP-Laban even if they were instructed not to take part in the oath-taking ceremony on Friday.
However, they have to wait since their names have yet to be removed from the President’s narco-politicians list.