Press Release

November 15, 2015

Five years of injustice for Leonard Co, a proof of PH as dangerous place for scientists – AGHAM

On the fifth anniversary of the killings of famed ethno-botanist Leonard Co and his colleagues, forest guides Julius Borromeo and Sofronio Cortez, Co’s family, friends and fellow scientists under the Justice for Leonard Co Movement decried that not a single perpetrator has been convicted and imprisoned to date, and that the Philippines thus continues to be among the most dangerous places in the world for scientists.

“The Aquino administration’s ineptitude to solve Leonard Co’s case is unbearable. Impunity reigns as members of the military responsible for the killings of Co and his companions during their taxonomic study in the forest of Kananga, Leyte are still active in service,” said Feny Cosico, Secretary General of scientist group AGHAM (Advocates of Science & Technology for the People) and spokesperson of the Justice for Leonard Co Movement.

“The Philippines is certainly among the most dangerous places for scientists as the Aquino government is unable to protect local scientists in their field studies,” lamented Cosico.

For five years, the Co family, together with the members of the Justice for Leonard Co Movement, have been trooping to the Department of Justice (DOJ), Commission on Human Rights (CHR), and the House of Representatives seeking dialogue with the agency heads and legislators to hasten the case.

After conducting its own investigation, the DOJ recommended the filing of a case of reckless imprudence resulting to homicide, which the Movement saw as a downgrade of charges. In 2013, the family filed a petition for review to elevate the case to murder, but it was left on the back burner. Succeeding efforts, such as the petition to the Supreme Court requesting a change of venue for hearings from Leyte to Metro Manila for the safety and access of the Co family, have also been bogged down.

The persisting injustice over the Kananga killings have demonstrated how even field scientists can also be easy targets by the military by just mere suspicion. The case was also the first in a growing trend of state negligence over the plight of local scientists.

“We have various cases of Filipino scientists killed in the line of duty, such as development worker Engr. Delle Salvador, who, like Leonard Co, was killed by the military while she was in the middle of community-based disaster risk management activities in the Cordillera region,” noted Cosico.

AGHAM also noted the tragic plane crash of Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) staff Leilani Nega and Melvin Simangan in Bagabag, Nueva Vizcaya while conducting a cloud seeding operation, and the case of PAGASA Leyte weather forecaster Salvacion Avestruz, who went missing after the wrath of Typhoon Yolanda while transmitting weather information.

The government’s limited supported to local scientists also resulted to the mass exodus of science experts to find opportunities abroad. According to the Center for Trade Union and Human Rights, about 9,877 science and technology workers left the country in 1998. This has doubled in 2009 with 24,504.

“This is a great loss of human resources for the country and the government must take action to abate this continuing ‘brain drain’ of scientists. Though we have a Magna Carta for scientists, technologists and engineers, the absence of a national program for science and technology that would develop our own industries and in turn absorb many scientists would always lead to an increasing number of scientists leaving the country and make use of their expertise abroad,” explained Cosico.

“Aquino is slowly killing off the brethren of the likes of Leonard Co and Engr. Delle Salvador by abandoning the scientific community in the Philippines. We will continue to demand accountability from the Aquino government in exacting justice from the perpetrators of the Kananga killings, as well as in addressing the worsening plight of Filipino scientists, in general,” ended Cosico.#

Reference: Feny Cosico, 998-4226

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