Mayor, 13 others killed in drug raid in Philippines

Ozamiz city Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog (left) was killed and his daughter, vice-mayor Nova Parojinog, was arrested in a series of raids conducted by the Philippine police early yesterday morning.
Ozamiz city Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog (left) was killed and his daughter, vice-mayor Nova Parojinog, was arrested in a series of raids conducted by the Philippine police early yesterday morning.

[WIRE_CREDIT]Wife, brother die in pre-dawn police raids too; third mayor to be killed in Duterte's drug war

A mayor, tagged by President Rodrigo Duterte earlier as head of a major drugs syndicate, and 13 others were killed in pre-dawn police raids yesterday.

Police said Reynaldo Parojinog, mayor of Ozamiz city, in southern Mindanao island, was killed when he and his men traded gunfire with a team sent to arrest him at around 2.30am.

"It was dark. There was a power outage. Then we were greeted by gunshots," senior superintendent Jason de Guzman, head of the Misamis Occidental provincial police, said in a radio interview.

Parojinog was gunned down, along with his wife Susan and brother Octavio, a provincial board member.

Also killed were Mr J. R. Millanar, a cameraman of Lumad TV, and Ozamiz information officer Mona Parojinog. Four of the other fatalities were members of a local auxiliary force, and it was unclear if they were killed while defending Parojinog.

Parojinog's daughter and vice-mayor Nova who was at the scene, was arrested and detained. Her brother Reynaldo Jr later surrendered.

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

Last October, Mr Samsudin Dimaukom, mayor of the southern town of Saudi Ampatuan, was killed in a shoot-out at a police checkpoint on suspicion that he and his security personnel were transporting illegal drugs.

That same month, a police team killed Mr Rolando Espinosa, mayor of Albuera town, central Philippines, inside his jail cell. Circumstances surrounding his death led to a congressional probe into allegations he was summarily executed.

But Mr Duterte refused to accept results suggesting foul play, and even pushed to reinstate the head of the team that killed Mr Espinosa.

At least 3,000 have been killed, either in police raids or by unnamed vigilantes, in Mr Duterte's drug war. A case alleging "crimes against humanity" has been filed against Mr Duterte before an international court. The President has responded by hitting back at his critics, often with expletive-laden tirades.

The Parojinog family members were known thugs in Misamis Occidental in southern Philippines. In the 1970s, they were employed by political kingpins and businessmen as bodyguards and "muscle". The military also used them to fight Muslim secessionists.

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

The Kuratong Baleleng managed to drive out communist partisans from Ozamiz. But with arms and money supplied by the military, and under government protection, the group managed to quickly expand its illegal operations in the city. They extorted money from businessmen and engaged in robberies.

With its growing notoriety, the Kuratong Baleleng was ordered to disband in 1988. By then, it had more than 316 members and at least 65 assault rifles. But instead of disbanding, it broke into cells that spread out of Ozamiz.

Two of Octavio Sr's 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 on Octavio Sr 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 leverage to protect his family's illegal trade.

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

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.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 31, 2017, with the headline 'Mayor, 13 others killed in drug raid in Philippines'. Print Edition | Subscribe