Shortcut

IT SEEMS TO ME that the trouble began with shortcuts. With both the Parojinogs and the Bureau of Customs, things might have turned out differently had everyone respected the rule of law.

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There’s no question about the Parojinogs’ shady past. Their deep connection with the notorious Kuratong Baleleng is well-documented, belying claims that their criminal heritage is rumor or “gawa-gawa lang ng tao.” 

The Parojinogs’ saga began in the ’80s when patriarch Octavio Sr., then a logging company “guard,”  was recruited by the military to fight the NPA.  Encouraged and equipped, Octavio Sr. organized what became the Kuratong Baleleng and successfully carried out missions. Happy with the outcome, the military armed the KB to the teeth and set them loose. By the late ’80s, NPA numbers in the area had substantially dwindled. With time on their hands and a full armory, the KB turned to robbery and kidnapping, earning the fear or favor of the people, depending on who you talked to. They became a sort of Robin Hood, it’s said; people who had been victimized by thieves and extortionists turned to them for help, and they were happy to oblige – never mind that the people’s victimizers were actually members of KB “chapters” to begin with. 

Octavio Sr. died in a police encounter in 1990. While being served a search warrant, he allegedly threw a grenade at the cops, leaving them “no choice” but to shoot him down. This scenario was ironically re-enacted last week when several of his children and others were killed in the bloodiest search warrant service the country has ever seen.

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Mayor Reynaldo Parojinog and Vice Mayor Nova Princess Parojinog (Photo: ABS-CBN News)

Octavio Sr.’s death did not end the KB. Leadership passed to his son Renato, who was himself killed in 2002, and then to his other son, Reynaldo, who later turned to politics. The KB has since broken into splinter groups led by the likes of Wilson Soronda and robbery gang leader cum recording artist Herbert Colanggo. The question now is whether the spate of criminality will end with the deaths of Mayor Parojinog and his relatives and the arrest of his children. Or did the military create a modern hydra that multiplies heads with each decapitation?

EXPEDIENCY

Also in the news last week was the Bureau of Customs’ bungling of a raid on 600 kg of shabu with a street value of over P6B. I waded through the House and Senate hearings and, believe me, there’s no need for a blow by blow here. Most of the BOC’s testimony was incomprehensible. Why they did what they did might have a foul backstory still to be revealed, but in a nutshell, the reason supplied for the screw-up was simply that they wanted to save time. Because they were rushing, the government’s case against the principals is in jeopardy and what would have been the Duterte administration’s largest haul to date is going up in smoke.

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Comm. Nicanor Faeldon with other BOC officials at the Senate. (Photo: CNN Philippines)

In both the BOC and Parojinog cases, the priority seems to have been expediency. Officials saw a problem and they addressed it in the easiest way possible. Never mind the proper processes, never mind the law: don’t go the long route when you can take a shortcut.

This appears to make sense, but it has serious repercussions.

In the BOC’s haste, it cut several corners and violated the law that required PDEA’s primacy in the crack-down. This was either a case of incompetence or corruption and to determine which, it is fitting for Congress to marinate Faeldon, et al. in their folly.

As for the Parojinogs: had the Marcos military not empowered Octavio Sr., the story might have taken a different turn. He already had a felonious reputation as a henchman of logging lords; security forces should have arrested him. Instead, they took a shortcut in their fight against the communists – they recruited him and birthed a monster. They viewed him as a weapon, but he was an edge that turned against them. Now the police have a problem. How does one effectively defang a mafia clan? That grisly raid last week – it purportedly followed legal processes, but was it another shortcut?

There is an eyewitness who survived the carnage; he alleges executions and overkill and the manipulation of evidence. Ozamis police chief Jovie Espenido says that the Parojinogs have the right to claim whatever they want. This is a democracy, he says; he’ll see them in court. Sounds good. But the eyewitness also reported that while he was in the hospital, a cop who was supposedly critically wounded miraculously stood when the orderlies left and peeped into his cubicle, as if searching for him. This caused the eyewitness inordinate alarm, with reason. Is he on the list of shortcuts?

We have serious national problems and this is high among them: officials blithely take shortcuts and many of us don’t mind. In Bato dela Rosa’s terms, as long as the “bad guys” are “on the pavement” and not the “good guys,” all is well. There is a “presumption of regularity.”  Anyway, they were all criminals; where’s the harm? Here it is: The Bill of Rights that protects us protects them as well. If their rights are violated with impunity, so can ours. And when shortcuts are taken to bring them down, we all sink with them.

The rule of law bolsters our nation. When we ignore it or allow it to be ignored, we erode our democracy. We’ve got to honor values over expediency, principles over personalities. That vaunted shortcut may well lead to a dead end. When will we ever mature?

“Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.” – Ephesians 5:11

They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved. – 2 Peter 2:19 

So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted. – Habakkuk 1:4 ESV

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