Duterte accuses Loot anew
President claims mayor “flooded” house with drugs; Loot willing to step down
President Duterte has leveled up his tirade against Daanbantayan Mayor Vicente Loot.
During a private dinner with local chief executives on Saturday night, the country’s most powerful man accused Loot of “flooding” his house with illegal drugs.
“Sabi ko si Loot, nandito daw. Where are you? Huwag mo akong lokohin. . . Remember, General Loot, your house was flooded with drugs sa isang kwarto. Huwag na tayong maglokohan dito. (I was told Loot is here. Where are you? Don’t fool me…
Remember, General Loot, your house was flooded with drugs in one room. Let’s not make a fool out of ourselves here),” he said in a speech, a transcript of which was released by the Philippine Information Agency on Sunday.
“Huwag ka talagang mag-salig-salig diha nga heneral ka. Hindi ako naaano ng mga heneral heneral diyan. Either magkaintindihan tayo dito o — magsabi ka lang kung anong gusto mo. (Don’t be too complacent just because you’re a general. I’m not afraid of generals. It’s either we understand each other or just say what you want),” he added.
When reached for comment, Loot denied the President’s claim and offered to resign if only to appease Mr. Duterte.
“If that’s what will make the President happy, then I’ll do it. I’m ready to step down, not because I am guilty, but because I want to clear my name,” he told Cebu Daily News on Sunday.
“But the problem is, if I will step down, I will eventually be replaced by another Liberal Party member (Vice Mayor Gilbert Arrabis Jr.),” he added.
Loot, who had been trying to seek an audience with the President, was not invited to the private dinner on Saturday.
In his speech, President Duterte warned local executives who were into the illegal drugs trade that he would not hesitate to have them killed if they would not stop their illegal operations.
“Kaya kayong nandito, Cebu malakas pa rin ha. So kung babagsak ka, sorry. You want to file charges against me? Go ahead. You want to file charges against the police, go ahead. (And so for those who are here, let me tell you that the illegal drug trade in Cebu is still strong. So if you fall down, I’m sorry. You want to file charges against me? Go ahead. You want to file charges against the police, go ahead),” he said.
“Di ba ipinatawag ko kayo sa Malacañan. ‘Di ba sinabi ko sa inyo nakakahiya. I would talk in a very harsh language. Pardon me. Mayor lang rin ako kagaya ninyo pero if you start to f*** with drugs, I will really finish you off. (I already called you to Malacañan. I told you its embarrassing. I would talk in a very harsh language. Pardon me. I was also a mayor just like you, but if you f*** with drugs, I will really finish you off),” he added.
Loot belied the President’s claim, saying he was not in any way involved in the illegal drugs trade.
He said President Duterte’s claim that illegal drugs were stored in one of his rooms may have come from “trolls” who wanted to destroy his reputation.
“I’ve read about that on Facebook. Those came from fake accounts,” Loot said.
To prove he wasn’t hiding anything, Loot said he would open his house and compound to investigators. “They can bring in sniffing dogs to determine if there were traces of illegal drugs in our house,” he said.
His challenge, he clarified, was addressed to the Police Regional Office in Central Visayas (PRO-7) and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency in the region.
“Just don’t search our house at night. Do it in the appropriate time,” Loot said.
Supt. Reyman Tolentin, information officer of the PRO-7, said they would have to decide whether or not to give in to Loot’s request.
“PRO-7 will decide on that. Perhaps, it’s just his way of clearing his name,” he said.
Cebu Daily News tried but failed to reach PDEA-7 spokesperson Leia Albiar on Sunday.
Aside from their private bungalow, Loot said they now run a two-story board and lodging building, and an unfinished three-story structure.
“My life here in Daanbantayan is an open book, and my house is open to anyone,” he said.
Asked what if the President would continue to go after him, he replied: “It’s up to him if he will do that. I am just a human being. I can go anytime. What is important is I am not guilty.”
“I will not run from where I am standing now because I am not guilty. If somebody wants me killed, I will die for the truth,” Loot said.
In November 2016, Loot said he was investigated by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group after he was publicly identified as a drug coddler by the President.
He said he was told that he was already cleared on three aspects: drug links, failure to implement the anti-drug programs in his municipality and unexplained wealth.
“I don’t know (if there are still other aspects in my life that they are looking into),” he said.
Loot said he has long wanted to meet the President but some people who he requested to arrange the meeting were “afraid.”
“I appeal to him (President Duterte) to listen to me. If you talk to a person personally, you’ll know whether he or she is sincere. I’m more than willing to meet him,” Loot said.
Loot headed the Central Visayas Regional Anti-Narcotics Office before he directed the Cebu Provincial Police Office from 2005 to 2007.
He was later named deputy director for operations of the PRO-7 and was deputy regional director in Eastern Visayas (2010 to 2012).
Loot retired in July 2015 with a rank of police general and ran for mayor of Daanbantayan last May 2016.
He won against then incumbent Mayor Augusto Corro by a margin of just seven votes.
But in July 2016, he was publicly identified by President Duterte as among the country’s top illegal drug coddlers.
Loot earlier said he believed that the intelligence reports fed to the President were fabricated in order to destroy him.
But he said the accusation was “too much” and had affected his four children — aged 34,27,26 and 24.
Last May 13, unidentified armed men fired at the pumpboat that he and his family were boarding while it was docking at the port in Barangay Maya, Daanbantayan.
Two drivers, a nanny of Loot’s grandchildren, and a porter standing nearby at the dock area were wounded.
While he didn’t want to speculate, Loot said the attack may be related to the issue of illegal drugs being linked to him by President Duterte.
The PRO-7 had assigned two policemen to secure Loot and his family following the ambush.
Loot said 17 out of 20 newly-elected barangay captains in Daanbantayan were his allies.
“If I died in the ambush, we should not have won big,” he said.
In the meantime, President Duterte thanked the Cebuanos for helping him win in the 2016 presidential elections.
“Even if Danao, I don’t have any barangay captains. Could you imagine, I still got something like two million votes here in Cebu? Thank you for your trust,” he said.
Duterte’s father, Vicente, served as mayor of Danao City after he was appointed to that position in an acting capacity by then President Sergio Osmeña from 1946 to 1948.
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