The Parojinogs and the tangled webs they wove

He was one of two second-generation leaders of a vigilante group that was both feared and valued at the height of its existence.

He was also father to a daughter who fell in love with a Bilibid convict and supposed drug lord, and uncle to a niece who was married to an alleged drug dealer.

The life of Reynaldo Parojinog, late mayor of Ozamiz City, reads almost like a movie script.

His father, Octavio Sr, founded the Kuratong Baleleng Gang (KB), which started off as an anti-communist vigilante group and later morphed into a group that “[resorted] to crime and other illegal activities,” according to a 2002 Newsbreak report.

Reynaldo Parojinog's gradual rise to power – and legitimacy – came to an abrupt halt early morning Sunday, July 30, when police served several search warrants against properties owned or linked to the Parojinogs. Because they supposedly fought back, police fired at the Parojinogs, killing several family members and aides.

“All hell broke loose,” said Ferdinand Topacio, lawyer for two Parojinogs who are now in police custody.

Dead as a result of the pre-dawn operations were the mayor, his wife Susan, his brother and provincial district board member Octavio Jr, sister Mona, and 11 others.

A crackdown on the powerful Parojinogs – who allegedly ran a drug business and had a private armed group – was a long time coming. Reynaldo, after all, was part of President Rodrigo Duterte’s infamous list of so-called narcopoliticians. 

While no drug charges have been filed against the mayor, he has always been in the radar of the police. Chief Inspector Jovie Espenido, the same cop who was tasked to chase after another alleged narcopolitician, was assigned Ozamiz police chief with the mission of bringing the mayor to task. 

Espenido was the police chief of Albuera town who launched operations against Mayor Rolando Espinosa, who was accused of coddling his son, alleged Eastern Visayas drug lord Kerwin.

While Espenido was able to convince Espinosa to surrender, the mayor died at the hands of Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Region 8 police during the service of a search warrant against him in jail. 

The tragic end of the two mayors – both at the hands of police – have been drawing comparisons from critics of the drug war. 

Of marriages and networks

Octavio Sr was married to Rosalinda Ozamiz and had 8 children, including Renato and Reynaldo. Several of their children – Renato, Reynald, and Octavio Jr – would go on to win elected posts in the city and province.

According to an intelligence report from the Philippine National Police (PNP), at least two Parojinog daughters were romantically involved with alleged drug personalities.

Maychell, Renato’s daughter from a live-in partner, was married to Remy “Waway” Gumapac Jr, an alleged drug dealer who was among Misamis Occidental’s biggest crime targets. Gumapac died in late 2016 while he was being transferred from the Ozamiz City police office to the Baliangao police station.

Reynaldo’s daughter Nova Princess, who also happens to be Ozamiz City vice mayor, was romantically involved with Herbert Colanggo, a crime gang leader who allegedly continued drug operations while detained inside the New Bilibid Compound. Colanggo was among the inmates who testified against former justice secretary Senator Leila de Lima in Congress.

Reynaldo himself was married to a woman with her own links to the Kuratong Baleleng Gang. According to police, Susan is the daughter of one of the gang’s original members.

Several other members of the family, according to the police’s intelligence reports, have alleged links to illegal activities as well.

Daisy Parojinog Salas and her husband, Arthemio Salas, were once charged for violating the country’s drug laws but these charges were dropped. Arthemio is described as the “personal close-in security” of Reynaldo and brother of the late Rodrigo Salas, a wanted person in the 80s, according to the police.

Links to more groups

The Parojinogs, to say the least, are notorious not just in Ozamiz and nearby areas, but even in police circles.

Octavio Sr died in 1990, after he fought back against police trying to serve an arrest warrant against him. But the team of cops who carried out the operation paid a heavy price. After his son Renato took over leadership of the KB, the members of the arresting team died one by one.

The team lead eventually quit the police force early.

Vengeance wasn’t the only thing on the Parojinog son’s mind.

According to intelligence reports quoted by Newsbreak in 2001, Renato and future Ozamiz mayor Reynald would “continue what their father earlier planned.”

The PNP’s latest intelligence report lists the following as breakaway groups of the original Kuratong Baleleng Group: Kuratong Baleleng 1 or the Wilson Soronda Group, the Kuratong Baleleng II or the Robert Ramos/Edla Liver Group, the Socrates Aguilar Group, the Joedisil Siong Group, the Ozamiz Boys Group, the Alferez Criminal Group, the Alvin Flores Group, the Colanggo Group, the Ozamiz Robbery Hold-Up Group, and the Tayrus Criminal Gang, among others.

Colanggo of the Colanggo Group, Manuel Franciso and Rick Cadevero of the Ozamiz Group, the late Alvin Fores of the Martilyo Gang, and Glenn Tayrus of the Tayrus Group are among the major crime personalities associated with the family.

“Everything goes back to Ozamiz,” said PNP chief Ronald dela Rosa during a press briefing a day after the operation against the family.

“All of the big cases in Metro Manila – bank robberies, the Martilyo Gang, [kidnap for ransom], rescuing of Chinese drug lords, all investigations go back to Ozamiz City. The Ozamiz Group, a remnant of the Kuratong Baleleng, goes back to Ozamiz,” he said.

And while the extent of the Parojinog family’s links to illegal drugs and crime is well-known, Dela Rosa uncharacteristically downplayed the long-term effect of the police operation on the war on drugs and in the criminal world. 

“We’ll see,” he said.

Dela Rosa's reaction isn't surprising. After all, over 3 decades ago, a Parojinog patriarch fell. And from his ashes emerged a stronger and even bigger network. – Rappler.com