Bishop calls for calm after deadly Mindanao drug raid

Police vow more raids as questions fly over tactics used in operation that left Ozamiz mayor, dozen more dead
Bishop calls for calm after deadly Mindanao drug raid

Nova Princess Parojinog-Echavez (center), vice mayor of Ozamiz City, and several members of the Parojinog family, are presented to the media following their arrest during the July 30 anti-narcotics raid. (Photo by Divina Suson)


An archbishop in the southern Philippines has called for sobriety following the death of more than a dozen people, including a city mayor, in an anti-narcotics raid this week.

On July 30, authorities raided the home of the mayor of Ozamiz in Mindanao, killing more than a dozen people allegedly linked to the drug trade.

Police said they entered the home of Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog with a search warrant, prompting a gunfight with the politician's "private army."

The shooting left Parojinog, his wife Susan, his brother and provincial board member Octavio Jr., sister Mona, and 11 other people dead. 

While expressing "sadness" over the deaths, Archbishop Martin Jumoad of Ozamiz said, "justice and the rule of law should prevail."

The prelate called for "sobriety" even as he urged authorities "to look for ways to facilitate justice for those who died."

"We should live in peace and respect the rule of law," he told 

Archbishop Jumoad said the situation in his diocese "is calm," but he added that the mayor "has supporters who are not happy about what happened."

He said despite allegations against the politicians "I refuse to judge the mayor who was earlier tagged as among those with links to certain drug groups."

The prelate expressed hope that the death of the mayor and members of his family who have ruled the city for almost two decades, "pave the way for a peaceful city."

The archbishop said the southern Philippine region of Mindanao has always been ruled by "politicians who have a lot of guns [and] private armies."

"If we don't stop them, there will be no peace," he said, adding that it is the reason why he supports the imposition of martial law across the region.

President Rodrigo Duterte declared martial law across Mindanao on May 23 following a terrorist attack in Marawi City.

Archbishop Jumoad said only a military rule can stop the proliferation of illegal firearms.

He stressed, however, that martial law, which has been extended by Congress until the end of the year, "should be limited to avoid possible abuses that might be committed by the military."

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He said what happened in Ozamiz "most probably justifies martial law because the rule of law has to prevail."


Questions about police raid

Following the raid, Human Rights Watch, said "questions arise around the reliability of the police account" of drug-related raids and killings.

Opposition Senator Francis Pangilinan questioned why the raid was carried out past two o'clock in the morning and why police "paralyzed" close circuit television cameras.

The mayor's daughter, Nova Princess Parojinog-Echavez, who is also the city's vice mayor, accused police of "planting" drugs at the scene. 

Police also arrested Nova with her brother Reynaldo Jr. during the raid. 

But even critics of Duterte's one-year old anti-narcotics war, which has killed close to 10,000 suspected drug users and dealers, lauded the Ozamiz raid.

Representative Gary Alejano, a former Marine captain, said the government should intensify its campaign in neutralizing the "big fish" in the illegal drug trade.

"The once [notorious and] considered untouchables were made to account for the countless crimes that they have committed in the past," said the legislator in a statement.

He questioned, however, the manner of the drug raid, describing it as "highly suspicious."

"While it may look like a success on the surface, like the thousands killed under the war on drugs, its impact on the due process of law, human rights, and professionalism of the [police] can not be underestimated," said Alejano.

National Police chief Ronald dela Rosa said more police operations against "narco-politicians" would be conducted in the coming days.

He said the raid in Ozamiz "should serve as a warning to everyone," saying that, "as far as law enforcement is concerned, we have no fear or favor."

Shortly after he assumed office last year, Duterte announced that over 100 local government officials nationwide were involved in the illegal drugs trade.

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