The Ozamiz Massacre is the Kuratong Baleleng rub-out part 2. Twenty-two years after the original Kuratong Baleleng rub-out in 1995, some of our PNP officials still have not learned their lessons.
Only painstaking police work and legitimate arrests and prosecution can put an end to notorious criminal organizations.
Rub-outs, the one in 1995, the fairly recent killing of Mayor Espinosa at Albuera, Leyte and this latest one in Ozamiz, only serve to cut a single hydra head, only for more heads, and more violence, to sprout in its place. This is the survival instinct of State-sponsored vigilante and anti-communist groups that might have served the purpose of the AFP in the past, but are now wreaking havoc on our society with their private armed groups and well-connected and influential protectors.
The Kuratong Baleleng of the Parojinogs is no different from the Alsa Masa and the DDS of Davao City, the Maute Group of Lanao del Sur, and the Ampatuan private army of Maguindanao. All were born in the violent underbelly of Mindanao, where vigilantes mix with paramilitary forces, which mix with the State’s armed forces versus the communist insurgents and Muslim rebels, and where these vigilante armed groups somehow gravitate to criminal activities as one of their sidelines to either fighting the rebels or executing petty criminals.
For the Kuratong, it was bank robberies and protection rackets. For the DDS, it was smuggling in the Davao ports and control over the Diwalwal Gold Mines. For the Alsa Masa, it was guns-for-hire. For the Ampatuan army, it was drugs. And so on and so forth. And all of these groups one way or the other co-existed in an informal network of Mindanao’s mafias.
We are not so naive as to believe that the Ozamiz Massacre was just another regular law enforcement operation. Duterte knew of the Parojinogs’ and the Kuratong’s illegal activities all throughout his reign as Davao Mayor. They were kindred spirits in the vigilante trade and brothers-in-arms in the network of Mindanao’s vigilante groups. It is the fortune or misfortune of the Mindanao mafias — depending on which side of Duterte they find themselves in — that Duterte happened to become President, and now has exclusive access to the national State machinery’s means of coercion and violence.
We should learn from our history of Mindanao that all these Mafia groups started under the pretense of fighting rebels and petty criminals, while becoming the biggest and most notorious criminal groups in Mindanao. But as these groups are reduced to criminal syndicates, the State must now reap the counter-violence that it has sown, and live with the fact that the Mafia bosses do become warlords and public officials, using the State’s legitimizing power as the cover for their criminal activities.
Let us be clear about this. None of them deserve being murdered. They deserve being brought to justice for all their crimes, but not being murdered in cold blood. Their being Mindanao’s warlords and mafia bosses does not justify their murder. The Parojinog’s and their Kuratong Baleleng’s crimes do not justify their murder, in the same way that Duterte’s and his DDS’s crimes in Davao City do not justify his murder.
What we need is the rule of law. But with Duterte — the founder of the most prominent vigilante group of Mindanao — as President, rule of law seems to be the last thing that will prevail. Let us not fool ourselves. The massacre of the Parojinog’s is not even street justice. It is the plain and simple extermination of former comrades in the cause of vigilantism who have outlived their relevance, now that one of them has captured State power.