After four years of no justice

Family and kin of slain botanist Leonard Co to DOJ: Enough waiting, act now

Kalikasan PNE Press Release

November 19, 2014

Family, friends and supporters of the slain botanist Leonard Co and two
others held a dialogue with officials of the Department of Justice (DOJ)
today, asking for the immediate resolution of Co’s killing and the
punishment of the military perpetrators.

“Four years is too long a wait. The DOJ under Secretary De Lima should
do its job and hasten the resolution of the case, as there is clear
evidence and the perpetrators are known. If Co’s case continues to drag,
the DOJ would be responsible for delaying justice, and consequently,
denying justice to families and friends of the victims,” said Kalikasan
People’s Network for the Environment (KPNE) National Coordinator
Clemente Bautista.

Simultaneous with the dialogue, KPNE together with AGHAM Advocates of
Science and Technology for the People held a picket in front of the DOJ
in support of Co’s family and the call for justice for Co and his two
co-workers.

Co, forest ranger Sofronio Cortez and the peasant guide Julius Boromeo
were killed by members of 19th Infantry Battalion under the 802nd
Infantry Brigade of the Philippine Army last November 16, 2010 in
Kananga, Leyte. Co and his company were conducting a biodiversity
assessment for the reforestation project of the Energy Development
Corporation (EDC) when the military fired indiscriminately on the three.

“In the last four years, all that the DOJ and the court have managed is
to insult families and friends of Co with their inefficiency and absurd
rulings,” said Bautista. A recent decision by the Supreme Court denied
the request of Co’s family’s legal counsel to move the venue of the case
from Kananga, Leyte to Metro Manila, to ease the burden and expenses of
the aggrieved family and expedite the hearing of the case.

Meanwhile, a resolution issued by the DOJ investigating panel last
December 20, 2012 stated that it only found probable cause to charge the
military respondents with reckless Imprudence resulting in multiple
homicide and attempted homicide. Co’s family has filed for a petition
for review, asking DOJ to file murder charges instead.

“The case of Leonard Co is not an isolated case; this is not the first
time that a military man is implicated in crimes like this. Unresolved
cases of killings and harassment of environmentalists and environment
defenders continue. This proves that the culture of impunity persists in
our country even under Aquino’s ‘tuwid na daan’,” added Bautista.

The Philippines ranked 3rd , following Brazil and Honduras, in the list
of deadliest countries for environmentalists, according to a 2014 study
by Global Witness, a London-based research organization. Global Witness
reported a total of 63 environment-related killings from 2002-2013, 39
of which were committed under President Aquino’s term.

Reference: Clemente Bautista, 09228449787

Clemente Bautista, National Coordinator
Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment
26 Matulungin St. Central District, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines, 1100
Tel: +63 (2) 924 8756 | E-mail: secretariat@kalikasan.net | Site:
www.kalikasan.net

———————————–

Call for justice for botanist Leonard Co resound at the DOJ four years
since his murder

AGHAM- Advocates of Science and Technology for the People Press release

19 November 2014

Colleagues, friends and family of slain botanist Leonard Co trooped to
the Department of Justice to call for the urgent resolution of his case
and to hold accountable the state military forces responsible for his
murder.

It has been four years since November 15, 2010, the day when the
country’s foremost botanist Leonard Co and his team were
indiscriminately fired upon by members of the 19th Infantry Battalion
under the 802nd Infantry Brigade of the Armed Forces of the Philippines
(AFP) in Upper Mahiao, Lim-ao, Kananga while they were conducting
biodiversity research for the Energy Development Corporation (EDC). Co
and two of his companions, forester Julius Borromeo and farmer Sofronio
Cortez, were killed.

“Almost four years have passed since the killing and not a single
perpetrator has been charged and arrested. We are here because we worry
that the DOJ and the Aquino administration are not up to the task of
bringing justice to Leonard Co and other victims of state military
forces. We are here to manifest that we will not stop holding them
responsible along with the perpetrators,” said Giovanni Tapang,
co-convenor of Justice for Leonard Co (J4LCo) campaign.

On December 20, 2012, the Investigating Panel of the Department of
Justice (DOJ) issued a resolution stating that it only found probable
cause to indict nine (9) members of the 19th Infantry “Commando”
Battalion of the Philippine Army (19th IBPA) for the crime of Reckless
Imprudence Resulting in Multiple Homicide and Attempted Homicide. Cause
was found for 27 other members of the 19th IBPA to be charged for
Obstruction of Justice.

“We maintain that the cold-blooded killing of humans, especially by
state forces whose task is to protect the people, constitute murder and
should be charged as such. The judiciary should be at the forefront of
human rights protection, but on top of reducing the charges, it is
actively delaying the resolution of the case,” said Tapang.

The Co family submitted a Petition for Review of the said resolution
issued by the DOJ investigating panel.

Testimonies from survivors and findings of prior investigations, such as
the fact-finding mission (FFM) led by Agham Advocates of Science and
Technology for the People on December of 2010, reveal that the military
fired upon Co’s group for almost 15 minutes even after they pleaded for
the shooting to stop. There was no encounter with communist groups as
earlier claimed by the AFP.

The FFM also determined that one of the fatalities, Julius Borromeo,
could have survived his gunshot wounds had the military not denied
immediate medical attention and hospital treatment that he badly needed.

“It has been more than a year since we have submitted the petition to
review the DOJ recommendation and elevate the case to murder. Since the
accused did not file any comments 15 days after they have received the
petition, the case should be considered submitted for resolution.
However, from follow-ups with the DOJ, nothing is happening to the
case,” explained Atty. Irish Tobiano, legal counsel of the Co family.

The post office return card shows that the accused received a copy of
the Petition for Review on 11 April 2013. Per the Department of
Justice’s Circular No. 70, an adverse party to a Petition for Review is
given a non-extendible period of fifteen (15) days from receipt of the
petition to comment. The case should be considered submitted for
resolution since the accused, members of the 19th Infantry Battalion
under the 802nd Infantry Brigade of the Armed Forces of the Philippines
(AFP), have not filed their comment to the Petition according to Atty.
Tobiano.

On 28 October 2014, the legal counsel filed a Manifestation with Urgent
Motion to Resolve the Urgent Petition. As of today, the petition is
still pending and awaiting the DOJ’s resolution.

“Years of delay on the case of Leonard Co, among other human rights
cases, present a challenge to those who believe in justice and respect
for human rights to persist and intensify our calls and efforts in
condemning the culture of impunity in the country,” ended Tapang.

Reference: Giovanni Tapang, chairperson, AGHAM- Advocates of Science and
Technology for the People, co-convenor of Justice for Leonard Co (J4LCo
Movement), 09173087832.


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T: +63 2 998 4226

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