Press release

15 ​November 2014

Four long years of injustice

Friends, kin mark death anniversary of slain botanist Leonard Co

Friends and family of renowned botanist Leonard Co gathered to mark his fourth year death anniversary and the continuing injustice under the Aquino administration.

On November 15, 2010, Leonard Co was conducting a biodiversity research for the Energy Development Corporation (EDC), when members of the 19th Infantry Battalion under the 802nd Infantry Brigade of the Armed Forces of the Philippines indiscriminately fired upon his team of five, killing Co and two of his companions, forester Julius Borromeo and farmer Sofronio Cortez in Upper Mahiao, Lim-ao, Kananga, Leyte.

“Four years have passed and yet there is no indication that perpetuators will be held accountable and that justice will be served. But we remain resolute in our demands, we have fought for four long years and will fight for as long as necessary just to prove that the life of Leonard has not been in vain and his killing will not be left unresolved,” said Glenda Co, widow of botanist Leonard Co.

The testimonies of survivors and the findings of Fact Finding Mission (FFM) that was led by Agham and participated by various organization on December of 2010 revealed that the military officers fired upon the victims for almost 15 minutes even after Co’s group pleaded for the shooting to stop. There was no encounter with the communist groups, as earlier claimed by the AFP.

The FFM findings also documented that one of the victims, Julius Borromeo, could have survived the gunshot wounds that he bore during the shootout but the military denied him of medical attention and hospital treatment that led to his death.

However, on 20 December 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, 81D, Philippine Army (PA) for the crime of Reckless Imprudence Resulting in Multiple Homicide and Attempted Homicide and twenty-seven (27) military officers for Obstruction of Justice.

The Co family submitted a Petition for Review of the resolution issued by the DOJ investigating panel charging only reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide and attempted homicide. The contention of the Co family is that the perpetuators be charged with murder. The post office return card shows that the accused received a copy of the Petition for Review on 11 April 2013.

“Per to 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. However, from follow-ups with the DOJ, it appears that until now, the accused have not filed their comment to the petition. Therefore, the case should be considered submitted for resolution,” explained Atty. Irish Tobiano, legal counsel of the Co family.

On 28 October 2014, the legal counsel filed a Manifestation with Urgent Motion to Resolve the Urgent Petition. As of 07 November 2014, the petition is still pending for the DOJ’s resolution.

“The Justice for Leonard Co (J4LCo) Movement calls for the speedy resolution of the case to hold accountable the state military forces for murder. However, four years after, our calls and demands have increased since the number of human rights violations have increased, not only against scientists but against the Filipino people at large,” said Dr. Giovanni Tapang, co-convenor of J4LCo and chairperson of AGHAM – Advocates of Science and Technology for the People.

“Four years of seeking justice, the challenge remains for families, friends and those who believe in justice and respect for human rights to persist and intensify our calls and efforts in condemning the culture of impunity and seeking protection for the scientists and those from other disciplines such as journalists and community leaders who chose to work on the field and among the communities they serve,” ended Tapang.

Reference: Dr. Giovanni Tapang, chairperson AGHAM- Advocates of Science and Technology for the People, 09173087832

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