“...It’s as if you wanted me jailed or killed...”
-- Mayor Vicente Loot, March 18, 2018
DAANBANTAYAN, Cebu Mayor Vicente Loot has told the public he is not sure who ordered five armed men to attack him at the New Maya Port in his town last Sunday (May 13). But he said they were guns for hire. Paid by whom? Drug lords, vigilantes, the police, his political enemies, himself? He said he wants the authorities to inform him “what was going on.”
Loot escaped unscathed, along with his wife, Vice Mayor Ma. Luisa Loot, stepson Provincial Board Member Sun Shimura, and Sun’s wife and their five children. But wounded were Loot’s two drivers and the kids’ nanny and a porter.
Media reports offered theories, sourced mainly to Loot. An ambivalence though suggests that he’s not publicly sharing all that he knows. But then who does?
He tossed the job of finding out what’s going on to the police but hours after the shooting he pointed at a band of killers. He indicated that gun forensics might show that firearms used in the attack on Peter Lim’s brother Wellington last March 24 were the same weapons used last Sunday. (The Lims were also linked to alleged drug trafficking.)
Which means that Loot initially gave more weight to the angle of illegal drugs, common element in both assaults. A retired general, Loot was among five police generals whom President Duterte named last July 7, 2016 as coddlers of drug lords. At a Senate hearing, Loot was tagged by self-confessed drug lord Rolando “Kerwin” Espinosa who said Loot received P100,000 monthly protection money from him.
Shift in theory
Loot, however, dropped the drugs theory yesterday. It couldn’t be the reason as he had been cleared by CIDG, he told dyCM’s Jason Monteclar in Loot’s the-day-after analysis.
While CIDG hasn’t contradicted his claim of a clean slate, he appeared to be still twisting in the wind. An affidavit with NBI Manila had drawn no response. Last March 18, he publicly appealed to police, NBI and PDEA to investigate and clear or charge him: “It’s as if you wanted me jailed or killed. I’m serious because that’s the only way to clear myself.”
Why the shift in theory? It must be because he couldn’t blame the drug campaign for the attempted rubout. That would support charges of human rights groups that the killings are encouraged by government or even state-sponsored. That would fuel the fire blazing against suspected drug personalities. A PDP-Laban ally through One Cebu, he wouldn’t want to break political ties in his planned 2019 run for reelection.
Loot seemed to be leaning now on the “political enemies” theory. He didn’t name a specific rival but it must be the camp of Augusto Corro whom he beat in 2016 by seven votes and whose protest was thrown out last March by the Bogo RTC on a technicality. He suspected Corro of waging a social media propaganda blitz against him, asking why his trolls predicted the exposure of the drugs scandal and his “impending exit” from Daanbantayan.
The same political enemies, Loot said, promoted the theory that he staged the ambush himself. Which would be scary, if not stupid, considering the huge risk it had exposed Loot and his family.
The incident was expected to be exploited on both sides of the political war where hostilities have long been heating up.
Still, it’s troubling that the real motive might not be publicly established or revealed. Police are themselves suspects, given the controversy on illegal killings in the drugs campaign. Most incidents such as the Lim and Loot shootings remain unsolved. The public might never know.
Given his access to information in the right places, being a PMA graduate, Loot should know more and better than most of us. But for his own interest, he couldn’t publicly tell.