MANILA, Philippines – The death of Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog early Sunday, July 30, makes him the third mayor on President Rodrigo Duterte's drug list to have been killed following an encounter with police.
The circumstances of his death are similar to that of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa Sr, said Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon.
Like Parojinog, Espinosa was also tagged by the President in the illegal drug trade. Police were also attempting to serve a search warrant before dawn when the alleged drug lord supposedly fought back.
An aide of the Parojinogs has disputed the police's claim that the mayor's camp initiated the shooting. In the Espinosa case, the National Bureau of Investigation called the Albuera mayor's death a "rubout."
Senator Francis Pangilinan also cast doubt on the police's narrative.
"Serving warrants of arrest past 2 am. Disabling the closed-circuit television cameras (CCTVs) prior to entering the premises. All 15 suspected drug lords at the scene of the crime and their 'armed to the teeth' bodyguards are killed. No injuries or casualties on the side of the PNP. Hindi makatotohanan (Unbelievable)," he wrote in a Facebook post.
For a group of ex-government officials, the Duterte administration "has dropped the pretense that there are no extrajudicial killings (EJKs) in the Philippines."
"The murder of Albuera Mayor Rolando Espinosa is, by classic definition, an extrajudicial killing," the group Former Senior Government Officials (FSGO) said in a statement.
The FSGO laid out a chronology of events which showed the President's own statements against Espinosa, the mayor's surrender and subsequent death in his detention cell, and what happened to the police operatives involved in the incident.
What went before
In August 2016, the President named Espinosa as among those in his list of officials with links to the drug trade.
Espinosa was one of those who surrendered to police. Duterte said the mayor was lucky he reached Philippine National Police chief Director General Ronald dela Rosa.
"'Yung mayor ng Albuera, mabuti nakaabot siya doon kay Bato na pinahanap ko – 'shoot on sight' parang aso. Eh ginagawa mong aso ang taong bayan eh. Mga anak namin, gunggong na," said the President.
(The Albuera mayor, good thing he reached Bato. I had an order to shoot him on sight like a dog. Because he is treating the people of this country like dogs. Our children have become witless.)
In October 2016, Espinosa was arrested for alleged possession of illegal drugs and firearms. A day before his arrest, the President openly admitted that he had ordered the mayor killed.
Former Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Region 8 chief Superintendent Marvin Marcos was relieved of his post in mid-October, after Espinosa's son Kerwin told police Marcos received drug money in exchange for protection.
Weeks later, the elder Espinosa was killed following a pre-dawn operation to serve a search warrant on him while he was in his detention cell.
But while the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) recommended murder charges against Marcos and the CIDG cops involved in the killing, Duterte continued to defend them.
In May, the justice department downgraded the charges against the cops from the non-bailable offense of murder to homicide.
Meanwhile, the chief of police in Albuera, Leyte – Chief Inspector Jovie Espenido – was transferred to Ozamiz City last year.
Espenido's last assignment led to the arrest of Espinosa, although it was a different unit that led the operation against the former mayor.
For its part, the FSGO slammed the reinstatement of the cops, saying that Duterte's flagrant violation of political and legal processes showed "corruption at the highest level."
They also said that the reinstatement demonstrates that "EJK is practiced and condoned by this government."
"It displays Mr Duterte's contempt for national and international law and warns against expectations that the thousands of deaths from the drug war will undergo any credible investigation. It also justifies the elevation of the EJK cases to the International Criminal Court (ICC)," the FSGO said.
The group urged other government officials to speak up on the issue.
"We ask Filipinos representing other institutions in the country to send Mr Duterte the message: he is crossing a line that no president should be permitted to transgress. We do not elect kings or dictators." – Rappler.com