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Cebu town mayor: 'No dealings with drug lords'

MANILA, Philippines – After being accused as a "protector of drug lords," former police chief superintendent Vicente Loot arrived in Manila on Thursday, July 7, saying he was willing to submit himself to an investigation in order to clear his name. 

Loot, the newly-elected mayor of Daanbantayan town in northern Cebu, was one of the 5 Philippine National Police (PNP) generals linked by President Rodrigo Duterte to the illegal drug trade.

He arrived in Camp Crame Thursday night to meet with PNP chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa, saying he would "ask for guidance" on his next steps. He also said that he was hoping to meet with the President to explain his side.

Loot said the allegations against him were rooted in politics, saying that questions over his wealth and properties have long been raised by critics back when he was still with the PNP, while his wife was mayor of Daanbantayan town in northern Cebu.

Speaking with reporters, Loot denied that he had any dealings or transactions with drug lords in his town. He added that he only served a brief stint as the regional director of the anti-narcotics group in Cebu from 2000 to 2001.

Loot said that he had been involved in administrative functions from 2007 until his retirement in July 2015.

"Director ako ng PNP training service, involved in competency training of our policemen. How will I protect a criminal when I am not involved in the campaign against criminals, especially illegal drugs?" he said.

"Wala na sa mandate ko 'yung operations against illegal drugs, purely administrative na. Illogical na mag-protekta ako, wala na akong influence," he said.

No unexplained wealth

Loot also shot down allegations that the P70 million worth of assets he and his wife declared in their 2014 joint Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) was acquired through dealings in drugs.

The former police official said that most of the properties declared in the SALN were owned by his wife, who was mayor of Daanbantayan for 15 years.

He also said that he had already been cleared by the Ombudsman last year, after a case was filed against him in 2009 over unexplained wealth. 

"We have explained that to the Ombudsman, the case has been dismissed already. Our political opponents had sought a lifestyle check on us and filed a case for unexplained wealth," he said in Filipino.

Loot also pointed out that his political opponents would benefit from this controversy. In the May 2016 polls, Loot won the mayoral seat by 7 votes over incumbent mayor Augusto Corro. (READ: Incumbent Cebu mayor who lost by 7 votes won't concede)

But Loot said that he does not plan to step down from his elective post.

"I don't need to take a leave of absence because it won't be fair to the people who have put me where I am now," he said in Filipino.

He also lamented that he is being subjected to trial by publicity after Duterte's pronouncement.

"Sana hindi na maulit ito. Kung merong ibang mga heneral na involved pa dyan, dapat mauna ang investigation and finding the truth bago ang condemnation. We are now being tried by publicity," he said.

The 4 other generals named by Duterte were former Quezon City Police District chief Edgardo Tinio, former National Capital Region Police Office chief Superintendent Joel Pagdilao, former Western Visayas police chief Chief Superintendent Bernardo Diaz, and retired Police Deputy Director General Marcelo Garbo Jr. – Rappler.com