'Narco-politician', 11 others killed in drug raid in the Philippines

Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog Sr (left) was killed and his daughter Vice Mayor Nova Princess Parojinog was arrested in a series of raids conducted by Philippine Police in San Roque Lawis.
Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog Sr (left) was killed and his daughter Vice Mayor Nova Princess Parojinog was arrested in a series of raids conducted by Philippine Police in San Roque Lawis. PHOTO: WWW.OZAMIZ.GOV.PH

MANILA - A city mayor tagged by President Rodrigo Duterte earlier as head of a major drugs syndicate and 11 others were killed in a police raid early on Sunday (July 30) morning.

Police said Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog, who turned an anti-communist militia into a big-time syndicate in the 1980s, was killed when a team sent to arrest him "was met with a volley of fire" at around 2.30am, on Sunday.

Also killed was his wife Susan, provincial board member Ricardo Parojinog, and nine others.

His daughter and vice-mayor, Nova, was arrested during the raid. She was said to have a relationship with a prison inmate whom Mr Duterte tagged as belonging to a triad running the illegal drugs trade in the country.

Get The Straits Times
newsletters in your inbox

Parojinog was the second mayor to be killed in Mr Duterte's list of "narco-politicians".

A raiding team killed Mayor Rolando Espinosa, of Albuera town, in central Philippines, inside his jail cell in October last year (2016). Circumstances surrounding his death led to congressional investigations into allegations he was summarily executed.

Parojinog was the latest "drug lord" to fall in Mr Duterte's controversial war on the narcotics trade.

In September last year (2006), unnamed assassins killed another suspected drug lord on Mr Duterte's list, Melvin Odicta, and his wife as they disembarked from a ferry.

At least 3,000 more have been killed in Mr Duterte's drug war, prompting charges of a "crime against humanity" before an international court against the tough-talking Philippine leader.

Mr Duterte responded by hitting back at his critics, including the United States, European Union and human rights groups, often with expletives-laden tirades.

He refused to accept results of an investigation into the killing of Espinosa suggesting foul play, and caused the leader of the team that killed Espinosa to be reinstated as a police officer.

Mr Duterte had said he wanted to abolish the Commission on Human Rights, and told government-investigating bodies they would have to go through him first before any policeman or soldier accused of human rights abuses could be probed.

The Parojinog family were known thugs in Misamis Occidental province in southern Philippines.

In the 1970s, they were employed by political kingpins and businessmen as bodyguards and enforcers. The military also use them to fight Muslim secessionists.

In 1986, Parojinog's father, Octavio, formed the core of an anti-communist group known as the "Kuratong Baleleng" (bamboo alarm bell).

The group managed to drive out communist partisans from Ozamiz City. But with arms and money supplied by the military, and under government protection, the family managed to quickly expand their criminal enterprise.

They extorted money from Chinese businessmen, engaged in robberies, and targeted tourists.

With its growing notoriety, the Kuratong Baleleng was ordered to disband in 1988. By then, it had over 316 members and at least 65 assault rifles.

Instead of disbanding, the group broke into cells that spread out of Ozamiz City.

Octavio's two sons, Reynaldo and Renato, formed their own groups that concentrated on bank robberies in metropolitan Manila and other big cities in the Philippines.

The elder Parojinog, meanwhile, was left with Ozamiz City as his turf for extortion and gambling. In 1990, a warrant of arrest was served against Octavio Parojinog for "illegal possession of explosives with destructive arson." He resisted arrest and drew out a hand grenade. He was shot and killed.

Renato took over leadership of the gang. He was killed by hired guns in 2002.

Leadership then passed on to Reynaldo, who took to politics as a leverage to protect his family's illegal trade.

The Kuratong Baleleng came to the nation's consciousness in 1995 when 11 of its members were killed as they were being transported to jail in what was believed to be a rubout.

Criminal charges were filed against the head of the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission, Mr Panfilo Lacson, and 33 other police officers.

The charges were dismissed by a lower court. Mr Lacson is now a senator.