Mindanao Mafia: Kuratong Baleleng and the Parojinogs


Who are the Parojinogs of Ozamiz?

The apparent paradox of the Parojinogs' notoriety and popularity does not exist in vacuum. It traces its way back to the Kuratong Baleleng, a vigilante group led by their patriarch Octavio "Ongkoy" Sr.

BIRTH OF THE KURATONG BALELENG GROUP

Kuratong Baleleng was organized by Army Maj. Franco Calanog in the 1980s to quell communist insurgents from certain parts of Mindanao.


The rise of the group was well-documented in "The Making of a Mindanao Mafia," an award-winning Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) piece by Jose Torres Jr.

Citing a briefing paper by the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP), the report noted the group's immediate success, with Ongkoy as the leader.

Another 2001 report from news magazine Newsbreak revealed that the group was even issued firearms by the military for its important role in the anti-insurgency drive.

"The KB was issued firearms by the military ranging from pistols to M-16s and M-203 grenade launchers," wrote journalist Earl Parreno in "The Parojinogs: Brothers in Crime."

RISE OF THE KURATONG BALELENG GANG

In just a couple of years after Kuratong Baleleng was organized, insurgency in Misamis Occidental, Zamboanga and Zamboanga del Sur started to wane.

This was when the vigilante group, armed with military-issued firearms, shifted to crime, engaging in engaging in robbery and extortion among others, according to the report.

In 1988, the Kuratong Baleleng was disbanded by the military, with its members listed as wanted, the PCIJ reported. Despite this, the group proceeded with its illegal activities.

Just a couple of years later, the Parojinog patriarch was killed in an ambush by a joint team of soldiers and local police.

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The group splintered into three: the elder Parojinog's group continued operating in Ozamiz, while brothers Aldong and Renato, also known as Nato, concentrated in robberies in Metro Manila.

Meanwhile, Ongkoy's nephew, Carmelito Calasan, formed a group that "engaged in extortions, holdups, and bank robberies in Iligan, General Santos City, Cebu City, and Metro Manila."


PAROJINOG BROTHERS' FALL, RISE AGAIN

It was not long after Ongkoy's death that his son Nato was arrested. He was found by the defunct AFPCIG and CAPCOM in Cainta, Rizal in 1993, the PCIJ report said.

After Nato's capture, Aldong, along with another Parojinog brother, Ricardo, surrendered to the ISAFP. They faced charges of assault and bank robbery.

Crimes attributed by ISAFP to the Kuratong Baleleng include: "the P2 million robbery of Solid Bank in Tangub City in 1988, the P12 million Monte de Piedad armored van robbery on Roxas Blvd. in 1990, the P5 million heist at an RCBC bank in Pampanga, and the P12 million Traders Royal Bank robbery in Buendia in 1991."

The cases were dismissed due to lack of evidence. Aldong, Nato and Ricardo all held government positions later on, the PCIJ noted.

Nato became a provincial board member of Misamis Occcidental in 2001 but was killed a year later by unidentified gunmen.

Aldong was elected and re-elected mayor of Ozamiz City and was on his fifth term before he was slain in a police raid on Sunday.

Ricardo, meanwhile, is an incumbent councilor of Ozamiz City. He was also a board member of Misamis before his current post.

'ROBIN HOODS' OF OZAMIZ

The success of the Parojinogs in politics, despite a history with crime, was attributed to their "Robin Hood" image, according to an investigative piece by Newsbreak in 2002.

"Kuratong Baleleng members gained the trust and admiration of some residents by sharing their loot with them," wrote Jet Damazo in "Kuratong Baleleng Gang: From Friend to Foe."

The PCIJ piece by Torres also reported the same phenomenon, quoting from personal encounters by a local journalist with citizens of Ozamiz.

"One local journalist says the Parojinog family 'would help everybody in need.' He describes the Parojinogs as 'simple people' who are 'approachable' and have a 'soft heart,'" Torres wrote.

This image of the Parojinogs is rooted to the patriarch. Ongkoy, was reportedly known for his generosity and was dubbed the "Robin Hood of Lawis" at the height of Kuratong Baleleng.

Torres noted in his article that this image "is partly why Aldong Parojinog won the 2001 mayoral elections by a landslide."

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