Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Ronald de la Rosa on Monday warned that the police will also go after the other “narco-politicians” on President Rodrigo Duterte’s drug matrix.
He issued the warning after the police raided several areas in Ozamiz City early on Sunday, resulting in the killing of 15 persons, including Mayor Reynaldo Parohinog and his wife.
“There are more, you just have to wait for it. Again, to be fair with these people, that should serve [as]a warning to everyone that the PNP will not be considering anyone when it comes to law enforcement,” de la Rosa said.
“As far as law enforcement is concerned, we have no fear or favor. If you will be operated, then you will have to face it,” he added.
Parojinog was the third local chief executive killed in connection with the intensified war on drugs under President Rodrigo Duterte.
His daughter Nova Princess, who was arrested with brother Reynaldo Jr., had reportedly been in a relationship with high-profile Bilibid inmate Herbert Colangco.
The Parojinogs have denied any links to drugs.
The police, who were serving search warrants for illegal firearms in six Parojinog properties in Ozamiz City at 2:30 a.m on Sunday, claimed clan members opened fired on them, prompting them to shoot back.
Last year, the President said Parojinog was included in his list of local officials involved in illegal drugs.
The first mayor to be killed was Samsudin Dimaukom of Saudi Ampatuan town. He was shot dead at a checkpoint for allegedly squirreling illegal drugs out of his town in October last year.
In November, Albuera mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr. was killed inside his cell at the Baybay City Jail during the serving of a search warrant by the police. Espinosa was arrested for alleged possession of illegal drugs.
Supt. Marvin Marcos, who led the police operation in Albuera, was briefly suspended but was assigned to head the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Central Visayas upon the order of the President.
De la Rosa justified the serving of search warrants at the Parojinog residence at 2:30 a.m., saying warrants can be served anytime.
“Every time is a legal time to serve search warrants. There is nothing indicated in the search warrants that you should serve it only during office hours,” he told reporters.
CIDG director Roel Obusan said his unit in Northern Mindanao followed the law in the conduct of the Ozamiz operations.
“We planned these [Parojinog] operations for a long time. In fact, we followed all the procedures of the PNP as well as the law. We followed court legal processes, we applied for a search warrant,” Obusan told reporters in a news briefing.
“We followed all circulars of the courts to obtain a search warrant so I believe this is totally different [from happened in Espinosa’s slay case],” he added.
Obusan said the police did not mean to kill the mayor.
“We arrested eight others, especially armed members who surrendered so it erases the doubt or claim of their lawyer that [the family]was meant to be liquidated, because if that’s really our intention, all of them would have died,” he stressed.
“We really intended to bring them to justice alive but their private army fought us, which sometimes happen [during our operations),” he added.
Obosan urged those who will be subjected to drug operations to surrender to avoid being killed.
"Do not fight us. Heed the President’s order, surrender,” he said.
Malacañang on Monday said it was assuming "regularity” in the Ozamiz raids.
Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the police operations should be deemed aboveboard unless an investigation proved otherwise.
"What should be investigated? The incident. There’s a presumption of regularity in all of these. If there’s anyone who will complain that something irregular happened, then, an investigation will have to be done. For now, we presume regularity,” Guevarra said.
The Palace official maintained that Duterte was not involved in any way in the deadly raid, apart from his "general” orders to security forces on catching drug suspects.
"The President need not be involved in things like this. These are police matters and the police will have to take care of that. They have their own internal procedures for dealing with matters like this,” Guevarra said.
Guevarra also said he saw no need for the Palace to form a special task force to probe the Ozamiz incident.
"There’s no need because existing structures are operating anyway. So we don’t find any need to create any ad-hoc or task force to investigate these matters because the structures are in place,” he said.
Sen. Francis Escudero on Monday said Parojinog’s links to drugs did not merit him a "death warrant” amid speculations he was murdered by policemen.
He said he would not be surprised if one of his colleagues would file a resolution to investigate the incident, noting similarities between Parojinog’s and Espinosa’s deaths.
"They were both suspected of having drug links. But that often by itself does not merit a death warrant. Search warrant, yes. Arrest warrant, yes. But not a death warrant,” Escudero said.
He reminded policemen not to abuse their authority in pursuing Duterte’s war on drugs, warning them they would not enjoy the President’s protection forever.
"This will all be shortlived. The term of the incumbent administration is only for six years.”
"So, whatever it is they’re enjoying right now, if they violate any of our existing laws, they would have to face it anyway after six years, in this case after five years,” the senator said in a television interview.
"So, huwag sila masyadong mag-isip na protektado sila habambuhay [They should not entertain the idea that they will be protected for life],” he said.
Escudero however said that the deaths of Parojinog and two other former mayors during police operations “shows the seriousness of the administration” to pursue its war on drugs.
“I am sure President Duterte and Mayor Aldong (Parojinog) knew each other. I mean they’re both in Mindanao. In fact, in one of the speeches of the President, he admitted that he knew the mayor but he was in the (drug) list. He called them out to surrender and to report to the police otherwise he will issue a warrant for his arrest through the courts,” he said.
Rep. Gary Alejano of Magdalo party-list said the police operation in Ozamiz was “suspicious” and could result in more senseless killings.
“On one hand, the once considered untouchables in Ozamiz were made to account for the countless crimes that they have committed in the past. This is one I count as big fish in the war on drugs of this administration. On the other hand, the raid was highly suspicious. Reminiscent of what happened to Albuera, Leyte Mayor [Rolando] Espinosa som[Rolando]back,” Alejano said.
“It is just right that the long arm of the law caught on them [Parojinogs], but what[Parojinogs]here is following the law. There should be sensitivity in executing operations. While it may look like a success on the surface like the thousands killed under the war on drugs, its impact to the due process of law, human rights, and professionalism of the police can’t be underestimated,” the lawmaker added.
CATHERINE VALENTE AND LLANESCA PANTI