TOWNSFOLK of Daanbantayan, Cebu must be happy that their mayor, Vicente Loot, was back in his office at the “municipio” last week. He returned for work Friday, Jan. 4, after an absence of almost eight months.
He was not brought down by ailment. He did not get the itch to travel: he briefly went abroad but then he was already on leave. Neither was he suspended or disqualified from office, the usual reasons for absent elected public officials. And he was not holed up in Manila, hiding from the wrath of a typhoon, which 10 officials in north Luzon did last October and angered Malacanang.
Unusual, even bizarre
The reason for Loot’s staying away was unusual, even bizarre in a time and place of law and order: Vic Loot, a retired police general, said he feared for his life.
With his power as mayor and the training and experience in police work, which involves skill in self-defense and offense and knowledge in hunting and being hunted, Loot could have very well survived the threat without leaving his job to hide.
He had shown he was adept at it since President Duterte named him in his “narco” lists of July 5 and Sept. 17, 2016, and repeatedly done after that, as a “validated” drug protector and trafficker, before local and outside-Cebu audiences. Last Dec. 19, Duterte mentioned Loot again, saying it was not he but former senator and DILG chief Mar Roxas who “masterminded” the attempts on the mayor’s life.
Loot disappeared, from the town hall and other public places, after the May 13 attack by five armed men at the Daanbantayan wharf, which wounded two drivers, the nanny of his kids, and two drivers. With him, miraculously spared from injury or death, were his wife (a former mayor), his son (a Board member) and grandchildren.
That must qualify as a life-and-death situation that, Sen. Ping Lacson once said, would justify a mayor’s disappearance. Typhoon Ompong, which prompted the Luzon mayors to vanish from their locality, was not an excuse, Lacson said.
What it may mean
Loot had not been Awol; he took care of all the paper work the governor’s office required. His return to work could mean:
 That he is now safe, the threat has disappeared, and there is no more contract on his life, because it was cancelled or he matched the bid. (Loot called the May crew bounty hunters.)
 Or the threat remained but he had to return to the seat of government to help his son’s candidacy for the seat Loot vacates on June 30.
The mayor’s case offers an interesting study of a public official who was virtually driven out of office without anyone filing a complaint of charges that he would have the chance to refute. No suspension or disqualification: a different kind of haunting that made him give up the race this May.