Editorial: Narco-politics and living in fear and denial

WE WOKE up to tweets and status updates about a past-midnight raid on the house of Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog Sr. and other residences of suspected drug operators in the city.

We later learned that the mayor and his wife Susan, Board member Octavio Parojinog Jr., and two identified only by their names as Lydia and JR of Lumad TV were among those killed. A simultaneous raid led to the arrest of Vice Mayor Nova Parojinog Echaves and the death of four Barangay Peacekeeping Action Team (BPAT) members, namely, Miguel del Victoria, Nestor Cabalan, Daniel Vasquez, and one other unidentified BPAT member.

From an outsider's view, it's chilling enough that among those killed and raided were elected government officials. More chilling are the comments of Ozamiz residents. While as expected, many were extending their condolences and outrage, what's disturbing is that more are heaving a sigh of relief as Ozamiz residents repeatedly refer to Kuratong Baleleng and hinting at its end with this latest news.

Kuratong Baleleng first came to our collective attention after an alleged shootout in Quezon City in May 1995 with the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission led by now Senator Panfilo Lacson, who was at that time the Philippine National Police chief. There were accusations that it was a shootout, that the syndicate members were helpless when they were peppered with bullets as the suspected gang members were arrested in a safehouse at Superville Subdivision in ParaƱaque City on May 17, 1995, and were brought to Camp Crame in Quezon City the following day before the alleged shootout along Commonwealth Avenue. Lacson has since been cleared of such accusations.

But as far back as 1995, Kuratong Baleleng has already been acknowledged as a crime syndicate whose bailiwick is in Ozamiz City. In fact, its original leader was one Ongkoy Parojinog. That Kuratong Baleleng enjoyed protection by the military, police and local officials in Ozamiz is an open secret. The fact that the city's mayor and vice mayor are likewise implicated should give us an idea.

A police investigation member in Davao Region, the identity of whom we are withholding, said that as far back as ten years ago, they were deployed to conduct an investigation into the drug syndicates in Misamis Occidental. They even had a nickname for the drug operators, "Paroparo" (for Parojinog repeated several times). As they have closed in on the main operator, the police officer said, they were ordered to back off and "lie low".

"Nahilom na lang dayon," our source said.

More disturbing is the acknowledgement by the residents that Ozamiz has long been a stronghold of shabu, that that is a fact of life.

Living under the leadership of crime syndicates can be scary, this must be the reason the residents who know of this chose to keep quiet, for decades.

Imagine, how many more mayors and governors are into or targets of criminal operations? We have heard President Rodrigo Duterte repeatedly tells us that narco-politics has already grabbed a handhold in the country, but many refuse to listen. The opposition are even chiding him for only cracking down on the small fries. Now, a mayor is dead, in a drug raid. Guilty or not guilty, he can no longer be tried. It could be that he indeed led the syndicate or he was getting in the way of the syndicates; the fact remains that he was the mayor, and he died in a drug raid. That should tell us a chilling story about our country.

By the way, let's not forget that war is still raging in Marawi City.
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