Philippines raid kills mayor, 14 others
ZAMBOANGA, Philippines — Police in the southern Philippines said they fatally shot 15 people Sunday, including a city mayor who was among the politicians President Rodrigo Duterte publicly linked to illegal drugs, in the bloodiest assault so far in Duterte’s anti-drug crackdown.
Officers were to serve warrants to Ozamiz Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog Sr. to search his houses for the suspected presence of unlicensed firearms when gunmen opened fire on the police, sparking clashes that killed the mayor and at least 14 other people, Ozamiz Police Chief Jovie Espenido said.
“He’s a high-value target on illegal drugs,” Espenido, who oversaw the simultaneous, post-midnight raids on the mayor’s residence and three other houses, said at a news conference.
“We enforce the law to protect the people who want peace in this country,” he said. “How can we enforce the law if … we’re scared of the drug lords? That cannot be, they should be afraid of people who do good for all.”
At least five people, including Parojinog’s daughter, who serves as vice mayor of Ozamiz, a port city, were arrested during the raids. Police were approaching the mayor’s house when his bodyguards opened fire and hit a police car and wounded a police officer, sparking a firefight amid a power outage, Espenido said.
A grenade held by one of Parojinog’s bodyguards exploded during the clash inside his house and it remains unclear if he and his wife were killed by the blast or police gunfire or both, Espenido said, adding that assault rifles, grenades, suspected methamphetamine and cash were seized in the raids.
“The administration vowed to intensify the drug campaign,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said in connection with Sunday’s raids in Ozamiz. “The Parojinogs, if you would recall, are included in [Duterte’s] list of personalities involved in the illegal drug trade.”
Parojinog, who also faced corruption charges, had denied any links to illegal drugs.
Vice Mayor Nova Echaves, Parojinog’s daughter, was arrested and was to be flown to Manila for security reasons, regional police Chief Superintendent Timoteo Pacleb said.
Parojinog and his daughter were among more than 150 Philippine officials, including mayors, judges and police officers, who Duterte accused of being involved with illegal narcotics in a televised speech last August.
Parojinog was the third mayor to be killed under Duterte’s crackdown on drugs, which has left more than 3,000 dead in reported gunfights with police and thousands of other unexplained deaths of suspects.
In October, Samsudin Dimaukom, mayor of the small town of Datu Saudi-Ampatuan in the southern Philippines, was gunned down at a checkpoint by police officers, who said his guards had fired at them. In November, another mayor, Rolando Espinosa Sr., was shot and killed by police officers in his jail cell.
The drug killings have been widely criticized by Western governments and human rights groups that have called for an end to what they suspect were extrajudicial killings related to the anti-drug campaign.
Duterte has vowed to defend policemen who would face criminal and human rights charges while cracking down on illegal drugs. He recently ordered a police officer charged in connection with Espinosa’s death to be reinstated after briefly being charged and suspended after the jail killing.
The raids Sunday came just days after Duterte, in his annual speech to Congress, pledged to continue his bloody crackdown on drugs
“I have resolved that no matter how long it takes, the fight against illegal drugs will continue because it is the root cause of suffering,” Duterte said, asking the United Nations, the European Union and other critics to educate people about drugs rather than condemn him. He said that those involved in drug trafficking would face “either jail or hell.”