Death came for Parojinogs: What neighbors heard
Published: 7:36 p.m., July 30, 2017 | Updated: 12:52 a.m., July 31, 2017
Power went out at Barangay San Roque Lawis, a residential area in Ozamiz City, at 2:30 a.m. on Sunday.
“We’re used to brownouts so we did not mind,” said one resident.
Moments later, gunfire erupted.
At daybreak, residents saw the police carrying out bodies from a compound owned by the family of Mayor Reynaldo “Aldong” Parojinog Sr.
“We saw Mayor Aldong on a stretcher. He was bloodied. He was dead,” the resident said.
At least 11 others were killed by police serving arrest warrants on drug charges against the 60-year-old Parojinog, according to Supt. Lemuel Gonda, Northern Mindanao police spokesperson.
But the Associated Press reported that 15 other were killed, quoting as its source Chief Insp. Jovie Espenido, chief of the Ozamiz City Police Station.
“He’s a high-value target on illegal drugs,” Espenido, who oversaw the simultaneous, post-midnight raids on the mayor’s residence and three other houses, said at a news conference.
“We enforce the law to protect the people who want peace in this country,” he said. “How can we enforce the law if … we’re scared of the drug lords? That cannot be, they should be afraid of people who do good for all.”
According to Espenido, a grenade held by one of Parojinog’s bodyguards exploded during the clash inside his house. But it remained unclear if he and his wife were killed by the blast or police gunfire or both.
Espenido added that that assault rifles, grenades, suspected methamphetamine and cash were seized in the raids.
Eleven others, including the mayor’s daughter, Vice Mayor Nova Echaves, 36, were arrested.
The slain mayor had earlier said Echaves and Herbert Colangco were lovers.
Colangco is a convict at New Bilibid Prison allegedly running a national drug distribution syndicate.
The police have not released the names of the others who were killed. But the Catholic-owned Radio dxDD said among them were Parojinog’s wife, Susan, 59; Misamis Occidental Board Member Octavio Parojinog Jr., 44; and civilian volunteer members Miguel del Victoria, Nestor Cabalan, and Daniel Vasquez.
Intensified drive vs drugs
Parojinog was the third town mayor killed in a police operation under President Duterte’s bloody war on drugs.
Sunday’s raid in Ozamiz was part of an intensified government campaign against illegal drugs, according to presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella.
“The Parojinogs, if you would recall, were included on [Mr. Duterte’s] list of personalities involved in the illegal drug trade,” Abella said.
The Parojinogs repeatedly denied accusations that they were involved in the illegal drug trade.
Chief Supt. Timoteo Pacleb, chief of the Northern Mindanao Police Regional Office, said the raids, backed by search warrants, were conducted on several houses owned by Parojinog and his relatives.
He said the search warrants were for banned drugs and illegal firearms.
‘Met with gunfire’
But Pacleb said that while the Philippine National Police team, which included elements of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), was serving the warrant, they were met with gunfire from inside the houses.
“The serving PNP personnel were met with a volley of fire from their (Parojinogs’) security, prompting the PNP personnel to retaliate,” Pacleb said in a statement.
Initial police reports also said several firearms and suspected “shabu” (crystal meth) were seized from the houses owned by Mayor Parojinog and that of his daughter.
Law enforcers also raided Councilor Ricardo Parojinog’s house at Barangay Bagakay, where the raiding team seized assorted firearms and ammunition including a shotgun, three rocket-propelled grenade launchers, M-79 rifles, two hand grenades and eight M-79 bullets.
Also taken were alleged illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia.
Pacleb said the raids were conducted at dawn so as not to alert the target.
In August last year, simultaneous raids by combined forces of the police, the Philippine Army and narcotics agents were conducted on 13 of 16 houses owned by the Parojinogs.
The 13 individuals whose houses were raided were not around when law enforcers served the warrants.
Also in August last year, the Parojinogs surrendered a hoard of 20 firearms to the police.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson said “at least” the Parojinogs were not killed while in government custody, unlike in the case of Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr., who was gunned down by a CIDG team inside his jail cell in the Baybay City subprovincial jail in Leyte last November.
Espinosa was under detention on drug charges.
“Whatever the circumstances of the deaths, at least this time, the mayor and the others killed were not under detention in a government facility. They were reportedly in the mayor’s farm/residence and capable of shooting it out with the authorities,” Lacson said of Sunday’s killing in Ozamiz.
Lacson’s Senate committee is investigating the killing of Espinosa, which the former PNP chief has described as “premeditated murder.” SFM /atm