WE ARE not comfortable seeing the Philippine National Police investigating themselves in the aftermath of last Sunday’s drug-related raid that took down Ozamiz City Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog and 15 others.
The PNP Region-10 Crime Lab and the Scene of the Crime Operatives unit have competent members. It is unfair to them, and to all parties affected, to have them investigate and document a massacre (16-0 kill ratio) where the police seem to have made a judgment already.
Skeptics say Crime Lab technicians are “sure to find” nitrate traces on Parojinog and his companions supporting the official line that they battled the police. (This is independent of the fact that a person can have nitrate powder burns without firing a gun.)
The PNP Internal Affairs Service is conducting a separate investigation, but only to see if the warrant-servers followed standard operating procedures.
To save the integrity of the police investigation of the police operation that has attracted wide attention, it might be best to entrust the delicate inquiry to an independent composite panel.
But even a truly independent inquiry could be problematic. The police have not preserved the scene of the crime, thereby compromising, or allowing the tampering with, evidence. Also, vital witnesses have not been given adequate protection.
Before President Rodrigo Duterte commends and promotes the officers who managed that July 30 operation on Parojinog – whom he had tagged as a drug lord — he may want to at least note some statements disputing the police version.
There is, for instance, the testimony of a certain “Cesar,” a survivor who claimed in a TV interview having witnessed the execution of Mayor Parojinog after he, together with his wife Susan and brother Octavio, were rounded up.
The witness said that after grenades that were thrown at them exploded, he played dead with the other bloodied victims. The wounded mayor was about to be finished off by the raiders, he said, but Octavio stepped in and got killed with his brother.
The police version of the incident, which police investigators are likely to validate, is that the fatalities were killed after the mayor and his men met with a “volley of fire” the officers who showed up at 2:30 a.m. to serve search warrants for unlicensed guns.
On the other hand, others like Jeffrey James Ocang, legal officer of the Ozamiz City government, noted that “there was no exchange of gunfire.” Based on pictures that had gone viral, he pointed out, “all the wounds of the victims are head shots. Wala nang chance na manlaban sila.”
The emerging contradictory scenarios are cast in the background of (1) the Parojinogs’ notoriety since the mayor’s father Octavio (“Ongkoy”) led the “Kuratong Baleleng,” an anti-dissident creation of the military in the l980s that metamorphosed into an organized crime syndicate, and (2) the Duterte administration’s ruthless campaign to eliminate drug traffickers.
In the contest for adherents, the police have the upper hand – mainly because of the support of their superiors – including President Duterte — and their actions’ enjoying a presumption of regularity.
Would this edge be blunted by the disturbing fact that the police are the ones investigating themselves?
• PCGG plan recalls Lindenmere days
JUST as Malacañang moved to abolish the 30-year-old Presidential Commission on Good Government, the New York Post featured last Tuesday the luxurious Lindenmere mansion that the Marcoses once owned on Long Island.
The PCGG was created in 1987 by then President Cory Aquino to recover assets looted by the dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his cronies from the public coffers and private victims.
That same year, then Marcos crony Antonio Floirendo agreed in a compromise with the PCGG to turn over titles to three Marcos properties in the US and $3.5 million in cash in exchange for the government’s dismissing cases against him and lifting the freeze on his assets.
The Marcos properties were (1) the Lindenmere estate in Center Moriches, Long Island, then valued at $3.5-$4 million; (2) three apartments at the Olympic Towers on Fifth Avenue, valued at $2-$3 million; and (3) a Makiki Heights mansion in Honolulu, valued at $1.5-$2 million.
When the 1986 EDSA Revolt toppled the ailing Marcos, he was flown by the US Air Force to Clark Field in Pampanga, then to Hawaii, where he was exiled until he died on Sept. 28, 1989, at age 72. Upon their arrival in Hawaii, their cargo of valuables was seized by US customs.
In her article in The Post, Zachary Kussin described Lindenmere:
“The Lindenmere — an 8.2-acre Long Island estate in Center Moriches once owned by the deceased kleptocratic Filipino President Ferdinand Marcos and his shoe-loving first lady, Imelda, 88 — has hit the market again, this time for $4.99 million.
“The property stands at 16 Sedgemere Road, some 10 miles west of Westhampton Beach and roughly 70 miles east of Midtown. This listing update marks a price reduction and a brokerage switch. Last year, the spread was available for $5.99 million.
“The Marcos family bought this Moriches Bay-facing pad for an unknown sum in 1981. In 1987, the Filipino government put it on the market for a then-sky-high $4.5 million in an effort to recover Marcos monies taken from the Asian nation.
“That year — after nine years on the market — it sold to a married couple named Jennie and Peter Magaro, who are not the current owners, for the way-below-asking sum of $1.6 million.
“Though Ferdinand and Imelda seldom visited this manse, it’s said that workers would jump hurdles to make them feel at home — especially Imelda. In one instance, they ran out about purchased, then planted, thousands of dollars’ worth of flowers.
“Though time has passed and the home has undergone renovations since the Marcos’ tenure, their traces remain.”