Manila, Philippines – Mayor Vicente Loot, of Daanbantayan town in northern Cebu province, has made himself scarce amid continuing threats to his life linked to President Rodrigo Duterte’s naming him as a drug protector.
But a stepson, Cebu Board Member Sun Shimura, said Loot continued to discharge his duties from an undisclosed place.
Loot has lain low for at least three months now. Attempts by media to interview him by phone were futile, too.
“Mayor has not been going out to public places and is no longer staying at home because he doesn’t want anything bad to happen to his family and other people near him,” Shimura said.
Shimura added that Loot had been attending to paper work in an undisclosed place.
The mayor sends representatives to activities and gatherings in the municipality.
Shimura said Loot and his family had been feeling unsafe after Mr. Duterte repeatedly linked Loot to the drug trade.
Loot, a retired police general, feared that the Tagalog-speaking men who had been looking for him in Daanbantayan were sent to assassinate him, Shimura said.
“I have not seen my stepfather in person for a few months now,” Shimura said.
“We just talk over the phone or through video call,” he added.
The board member appealed to Mr. Duterte to give his stepfather the chance to prove his innocence by ordering an investigation of the mayor.
“The President is a lawyer and a former prosecutor,” Shimura said.
“I hope he will give my stepfather due process,” he said.
“We have many investigating agencies and it would be good if an investigation will be conducted instead of just threatening him in public,” he added.
“We’re afraid other people may take advantage of the situation and kill my stepfather,” he said.
In his visit to Cebu City on Tuesday, the President again called out Loot in his speech, saying that the former police general wasted people’s funds that were spent on his education at the Philippine Military Academy by becoming a drug protector.
“You’ve been ambushed a number of times and yet you survived. You’re really strong. Do not threaten me,” said Mr. Duterte in a profanity-laden outburst.
Shimura said it seemed that Loot would not have the chance to prove the President wrong since there had been no investigation.
“We’ve been asking for an investigation and we’re open to anything,” Shimura said.
“We’re even willing to sign any waiver for our bank accounts so that the public will know that we have no ill-gotten wealth,” he 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 had already been cleared on three aspects—drug links, failure to implement the antidrug campaign in his municipality and unexplained wealth.
Still, Mr. Duterte continued to link him to illegal drugs.
Loot earlier said he believed that intelligence reports fed to the President were made up to destroy him politically.
But he said the accusation was “too much” and had hurt his four children—aged 34, 27, 26 and 24.
One of the attacks on Loot that Mr. Duterte could be referring to took place on May 13, when unidentified men fired at the boat that carried Loot and his family as it was docking at the port in the village of Maya, Daanbantayan.
Two drivers, a nanny of Loot’s grandchildren, and a porter standing nearby at the dock area were wounded.
While he said he didn’t want to speculate, Loot said the attack might be related to Mr. Duterte’s rant against him.