VICENTE Loot, retired police general and mayor-in-hiding of Daanbantayan, Cebu has been repeatedly named and shamed in public by President Duterte, the latest before Visayas mayors who met in Cebu City last Aug. 21.
The shaming started in July 2016, when Duterte on national TV read the names of Loot and four other generals. The others--Marcelino Garbo, Bernardo Diaz, Joel Pagadino and Edgardo Tinio--have been left alone since then but the bullying of Loot hasn’t ceased.
Why pick on him
Theories were raised and the reason could be one, some or all of them: betrayal of public trust as police officer and mayor, conspicuous display of wealth, being identified with ex-president Noynoy Aquino who criticized Duterte’s drug campaign, and not being caught by the law’s arm.
On eluding prosecution, Loot apparently has been an artful dodger. Either the investigators didn’t have the goods on him or he knew how to throw the probers off track.
No charges filed
No case has been filed against him at any level, he said, from the PNP’s internal affairs office to prosecutors and the court. He said he hasn’t been summoned to answer questions or file affidavits. In August 2016, with the air rife with accusations against mayors, DILG created Task Force Eagle to investigate past and current officials suspected of being involved in drugs. TF Eagle was dissolved in March 2017 with not a single mayor in its claws.
What to do with drug suspects who cannot or won’t be prosecuted?
That must be where the name-and-shame game came in, along with the old reliable, EJK or extrajudicial killing.
The shaming has been repeatedly done already. Among the suspected police generals, Loot is the favorite whipping boy.
The first rubout attempt last May 13 at the Daanbantayan port failed. Five shooters wounded Loot’s two drivers, his nanny and a wharf porter but didn’t get Loot. It could’ve been more bloody and costly to the ex-general: he had in tow his wife, his daughter and son, his stepson, along with the family’s six small children.
The smear blitz and the threat on his safety and that of his clan would qualify as oddities, surely not the usual punishment in the law books.
Like cardboard sign
It’s cruel: Being humiliated across the nation by no less than the president, something like, on a wider scale, being paraded at the town square with an “I’m a drug trafficker!” cardboard sign on one’s neck. And being targeted by police assassins, bounty hunters or vigilantes, state-sponsored or not
And it’s unusual, or curious: It’s not prescribed by statute and sentence is meted without trial, the presumed-innocent-until-proven-guilty precept dumped into the bin.
Could be guilty
Loot could be guilty. Self-confessed drug lord Kerwin Espinosa testified at a Senate hearing in 2016 that he paid the then police official a weekly bribe. But the Senate testimony wasn’t enough. Loot has to be charged before prosecutors and the court where Espinosa’s allegation, and other evidence against the ex-general, will be examined and tested.
The problem was that Kerwin’s testimony may not stand in court and PNP may have nothing else to proceed against Loot.
Humiliating Loot in public and hunting him down would do away with the legal process. Thus the former law enforcer has been hiding, obviously fearing for his life and his family’s safety.
It’s cruel and curious punishment in an era of legal quirks: quo warranto to evict an impeachable official, constructive possession of illegal drugs by a client’s lawyers.