Before the series police raids that led to his death, Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo “Aldong” Parojinog has been linked to the illegal drug trade by no less than President Rodrigo Duterte.
He and his daughter, Vice Mayor Nova Princess Parojinog, were also facing graft charges for an allegedly anomalous contract for the building of a public gymnasium.
The mayor, in a Philippine Daily Inquirer report, also admitted that his daughter has a relationship with high-profile New Bilibid Prisons inmate Herbert Colanggo but denied business ties with him.
Despite the allegations, the Parojinogs, who have been at the seat of power in Ozamiz City for years, remain popular among their constituents.
“He’s been very good to us, to everyone,” Geraldine Signar, a resident, told ABS-CBN News when Mayor Aldong and Vice Mayor Nova Princess posted bail for the graft charges.
The apparent paradox of the Parojinogs’ notoriety and popularity does not exist in vacuum. It traces its way back to the Kuratong Baleleng, a vigilante group led by their patriarch Octavio “Ongkoy” Sr.
Birth of the Kuratong Baleleng Group
Kuratong Baleleng was organized by Army Maj. Franco Calanog in the 1980s to quell communist insurgents from certain parts of Mindanao.
The rise of the group was well-documented in “The Making of a Mindanao Mafia,” an award-winning Philippine Center for
Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) piece by Jose Torres Jr.
Citing a briefing paper by the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP), the report noted the group’s immediate success, with Ongkoy as the leader.
Another 2001 report from news magazine Newsbreak revealed that the group was even issued firearms by the military for its important role in the anti-insurgency drive.
“The KB was issued firearms by the military ranging from pistols to M-16s and M-203 grenade launchers,” wrote journalist Earl Parreno in “The Parojinogs: Brothers in Crime.”
Rise of Kuratong Baleleng
In just a couple of years after Kuratong Baleleng was organized, insurgency in Misamis Occidental, Zamboanga and Zamboanga del Sur started to wane.
This was when the vigilante group, armed with military-issued firearms, shifted to crime, engaging in robbery and extortion among others, according to the report.
In 1988, the Kuratong Baleleng was disbanded by the military, with its members listed as wanted, the PCIJ reported. Despite this, the group proceeded with its illegal activities.
Just a couple of years later, the Parojinog patriarch was killed in an ambush by a joint team of soldiers and local police.
The group splintered into three: the elder Parojinog’s group continued operating in Ozamiz, while brothers Aldong and Renato, also known as Nato, concentrated in robberies in Metro Manila.
Meanwhile, Ongkoy’s nephew, Carmelito Calasan, formed a group that “engaged in extortions, holdups, and bank robberies in Iligan, General Santos City, Cebu City, and Metro Manila.”
Parojinog brothers’ fall, rise again
It was not long after Ongkoy’s death that his son Nato was arrested. He was found by the defunct Armed Forces of the Philippines Counter Intelligence Group (AFPCIG) and CAPCOM in Cainta, Rizal in 1993, the PCIJ report said.
After Nato’s capture, Aldong, along with another Parojinog brother, Ricardo, surrendered to the ISAFP. They faced charges of assault and bank robbery.
Crimes attributed by ISAFP to the Kuratong Baleleng include: “the P2 million robbery of Solid Bank in Tangub City in 1988, the P12 million Monte de Piedad armored van robbery on Roxas Blvd. in 1990, the P5 million heist at an RCBC bank in Pampanga, and the P12 million Traders Royal Bank robbery in Buendia in 1991.”
The cases were dismissed due to lack of evidence. Aldong, Nato and Ricardo all held government positions later on, the PCIJ noted.
Nato became a provincial board member of Misamis Occcidental in 2001 but was killed a year later by unidentified gunmen.
Aldong was elected and re-elected mayor of Ozamiz City and was on his fifth term before he was slain in a police raid on Sunday.
Ricardo, meanwhile, is an incumbent councilor of Ozamiz City. He was also a board member of Misamis before his current post.
‘Robin Hoods’ of Ozamiz
The success of the Parojinogs in politics, despite a history with crime, was attributed to their “Robin Hood” image, according to an investigative piece by Newsbreak in 2002.
“Kuratong Baleleng members gained the trust and admiration of some residents by sharing their loot with them,” wrote Jet Damazo in “Kuratong Baleleng Gang: From Friend to Foe.”
The PCIJ piece by Torres also reported the same phenomenon, quoting from personal encounters by a local journalist with citizens of Ozamiz.
“One local journalist says the Parojinog family ‘would help everybody in need.’ He describes the Parojinogs as ‘simple people’ who are ‘approachable’ and have a ‘soft heart,'” Torres wrote.
This image of the Parojinogs is rooted to the patriarch. Ongkoy, was reportedly known for his generosity and was dubbed the “Robin Hood of Lawis” at the height of Kuratong Baleleng.
Torres noted in his article that this image “is partly why Aldong Parojinog won the 2001 mayoral elections by a landslide.”
After a long and successful political career, Aldong was killed, along with at least 11 others in a series of raids his own turf, early morning Sunday.
The police were supposed to serve search warrants when they were met with violent resistance, Supt. Lemuel Gonda, spokesperson of the Northern Mindanao police, claimed.
The search warrants were for Mayor Aldong, his daughter Nova Princess, son Reynaldo Jr. and and brother Ricardo, police said.
His wife, Susan, and another brother and namesake of the Parojinog patriarch, Octavio Jr., were confirmed killed in the raid.
Ricardo, meanwhile, is missing.
“There was a gunfire coming from the Parojinogs, that’s why the police retaliated,” Gonda told DZMM.
Nova Princess and Reynaldo Jr. are currently under police custody.
Malacañang said the series of raids of the Parajinog residences is part of the administration’s war on drugs. — with reports of Carolyn Bonquin, Rod Bolivar and Dynah Diestro, ABS-CBN News