Night falls on the Parojinogs

By: Joshua Fidel Feria
September 03, 2017

The story told is of fallen tyrants.

Columns in national dailies say they have ravaged the people of Ozamiz, and have amassed wealth and influence by preying on the lives of innocent civilians. Reports from ABS-CBN have documented the family patriarch’s involvement in crimes of robbery in Manila. Furthermore, despite having been disbanded by the military in 1988, its then anti-Communist Kuratong Baleleng group based in Mindanao which later became known as an organized crime outfit, heading into extortion and robbery along with other crimes.

One July morning, sixteen implicated individuals, including the head honcho in Ozamiz City Mayor ‘Aldong’ Parojinog, were made corpses in the name of the administration’s anti-illegal drug crusade.
So goes the story of the Parojinogs of Ozamiz City, and their final hours in Rodrigo Duterte’s Philippines.

It was a scene that began in the darkness. It was after 2 A.M. on the 30th of July, and the city of Ozamiz, over a rare and abrupt power outage, was cloaked pitch black. By all indications, it appeared to be a quiet evening. It wouldn’t be for long.

Drawing near was talk of six search warrants to be served on a total of four Parojinog houses. As per the account of Chief Inspector Jovie Espenido, it was in this pre-dawn effort of serving these warrants that he and his men were met with gunfire from the Parojinog outfit.

The shoot-out lasted for two hours. When the sun rose, the Parojinogs of Ozamiz, who had for decades been invincible to the force of law, were no longer. The corpses of Mayor Reynaldo Sr., his wife Susan, his brother Octavio Jr., and a bevy of armed bodyguards, ran the pavement red with blood, lying dead on the very streets they had once roamed as the most powerful people in Ozamiz.

Rodrigo Duterte was propelled to the presidency on a promise of spilled blood. In the time since his notorious presidential campaign, leading up to his oath of office on June 30, 2016, the narrative had altogether been lodged, burned, and carved into the collective Filipino conscience: heed the warning, all you crooks, junkies, and lowlifes who threaten posterity in the land of his birth, for you shall meet the strong arm of his wrath, one way or another, in the form of a bullet to the temple. We had but little else to take the man at his word.

It has been a year since, and that promise has been kept— close to 3,000 Filipinos that have since been made “fish feed” in the name of the anti-criminality, anti-illegal drug purge should prove that much to be true.

For the Parojinogs, the alleged criminal ties that envelop the family are glaring. Reynaldo Sr. had been involved in robbery cases in Metro Manila with the Kuratong Baleleng Group in the 1980’s. His daughter, Nova-Princess, had been romantically involved with alleged drug kingpin and high-profile Bilibid inmate Herbert Colanggo. Furthermore, in the book ‘Modern Warlordism in the Philippines’, author Roland Simbulan wrote of the Parojinogs: “These people took advantage of the fact that they had weapons, and were backed by the military to engage in criminal activities.”

When this President so brazenly tagged Ozamiz Mayor ‘Aldong’ as a “narcopolitician” in August of 2016, it was said neither in bravado nor in anger, which he has for both a proclivity. Duterte was blunt, but he was calm. It was a declaration of edict.

A week before the Parojinogs were gunned down, the Commission on Human Rights was again at the mercy of Digong’s storied irreverence. Over fear of an inquiry to the government intervention in Marawi, Duterte, in his bluster, said the commission would be “better (off) abolished.” (The death toll in Marawi as of writing has breached the 500 mark--39 of which were innocent civilians.)
The war on drugs, as he has maintained throughout his presidency, is for the benefit of children in the country. If by chance you become a number in a tally of carcasses, then all he has to offer, he said, are his apologies.

He pays no mind to the violence, the disdain for the rule of law and basic human rights, and the needless culture of impunity that is emboldened by his rhetoric.

What hope we had of unearthing any semblance of truth on the criminal underworld laid on the prospect of a trial in a court of law, that which could have been achieved from a peaceable serving of search warrants to the Parojinogs.

Instead, we have 16 corpses, varying accounts from both the Parojinog camp and the local Police force, and clarity--to the ultimate defeat of the public-- amounting to absolutely nothing.

This is a disturbing state of affairs, for it is neither a conscionable or functional society that does away with its criminals with bullets to the head. Human rights, to criminal or no, are an inalienable privilege of the Filipino, as it is part and parcel of the promise of this democracy.

The day we cheer for spilled blood will be the day we forfeit our humanity. There is time yet to change that.