Chief Insp. Jovie Espenido recounts operation vs Parojinogs
OZAMIZ CITY — “We wanted them alive and to show the people how they are being subjected to the grind of justice. It is better to have them in prison and await the reckoning of the law.”
That was the objective, according to Chief Insp. Jovie Espenido, of the police raid on Sunday that left Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog Sr., tagged by President Rodrigo Duterte as a drug lord, dead, along with 14 others, including his wife.
Espenido, the Ozamiz City police chief, recounted to reporters that the Philippine National Police team moved before dawn to avoid more casualties, as the mayor’s compound was under heavy guard for 24 hours.
“There were children and women inside their house because the food was free. It looked like they were there as human shields if something happens,” he said.
“And we observed that at 2:30 a.m. there were fewer people. So if we carried out the raid that time, there would be fewer casualties,” he added.
Espenido was the police commander of Albuera, Leyte, in 2016 when Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. was killed in an alleged shootout inside the subprovincial jail in Baybay City.
“I was not the one who presided over the operation that killed him inside the prison,” he said, in stressing his desire to avoid a bloodbath in Ozamiz.
Espinosa was killed inside his detention cell on Nov. 5, 2016, a month after Espenido caused his surrender to authorities after the mayor was accused by President Duterte of being a drug lord.
Sunday’s predawn raid in Ozamiz, done amid a brownout, killed Parojinog Sr. and 13 others. One more was killed in a raid on Parojinog’s farm house in a hinterland barangay later in the day.
It was the bloodiest police operation in the recent history of the city, which has been at the forefront of the government’s counterinsurgency war since 1986. The campaign used civilian militias, the main one being the Kuratong Baleleng that counted Parojinog as among its members.
The raid on Parojinog’s house was done simultaneously with those on the houses of his daughter, Vice Mayor Nova Echaves, and son Reynaldo Jr. Each raiding team consisted of 16 officers.
Parojinog’s house is located in a corner; some 25 meters to the northwest is Nova Echaves’ house, and about 200 meters to the east is Reynaldo Jr.’s house.
Espenido said that the raid in the house of Reynaldo Jr. went well, “meaning no one was hurt because they showed no resistance.”
“The bodyguard in the house [of Reynaldo Jr.] opened the gate and the door to authorities,” Espenido related.
Authorities claimed to have recovered some firearms and crystalline substance suspected to be “shabu” (crystal meth) from the house, leading them to arrest Reynaldo Jr.
But this was not the case in the houses of Parojinog and Nova Echaves, Espenido stressed. “The raiders have to force their entry into these houses.”
Espenido related that when they arrived at the vicinity of Parojinog’s house, they were immediately met with a volley of gunfire.
Echaves was flown to Manila on Monday to face inquest proceedings.
The PNP identified 15 fatalities in the operation: Reynaldo O. Parojinog Sr., Susan E. Parojinog, Octavio Parojinog Jr., Mona Parojinog, Edwin Rusiana, Corlito Ayaay, L. Millanar, alias “Lando,” alias “Iting,” Eldred Requiron, Nestor Cabalan, Miguel de la Victoria, Daniel Vasquez, Jennirey Manon and Ryan Reguera. —Reports from Richel V. Umel, Allan Nawal, and Inquirer Mindanao
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