Dear Members of the Justice for Leonard Co Movement,
Warm greetings. We hope that you are in good condition amidst the pandemic.
We apologize for this late sending of activities in commemoration of the 10th year death anniversary of Leonard Co. Attached herewith are the J4LCo commemoration activities and also the poster invitation to share quotes about Leonard Co.
Justice for Leonard Co Movement
Concept Note for 10Yrs Justice for Leonard Co Campaign
(Kindly see 2020 J4LCo Case Update file for more info) 10 years ago in November 15, 2010, ethnobotanist Leonard Co and his team which included forester Sofronio Cortez and farmer Julius Borromeo were conducting biodiversity research for the Energy Development Corporation (EDC) in Upper Mahiao, Lim-ao, Kananga, Leyte
when they were fired upon by the 19th Infantry Battalion under the 802nd Infantry Brigade of the Armed Forces Philippines. Two members of the research team survived, while Co, Cortez and Borromeo did not.
In December 2010, a Fact Finding Mission (FFM) led by AGHAM-Advocates of Science and Technology for the People and participated by various organizations was held to unveil the truth behind the deaths of Co and colleagues. The findings of the FFM corroborate the statements from the two survivors that there was no crossfire and that the shots came only from one direction towards the victims. The FFM findings also reveal that one of the victims, Borromeo, could have survived the gunshot wounds that he bore during the shootout but the military denied him timely medical attention and hospital treatment that led to his death. The Commission on Human Rights also deployed a Quick Investigation Team in December 2010. In December 2012, the CHR published its report based on their investigation which found:
◦ The Charlie Company of the 19th IBPA committed gross human rights violations and violations of International Humanitarian Law in the unlawful killing of Co, Cortez, and
◦ Borromeo could have survived had he been immediately taken to hospital by the military for treatment instead of being interrogated although wounded.
◦ Criminal and administrative charges were recommended against the 19th IBPA for:
▪ Violation of RA 9851 in relation to the Revised Penal Code, to be filed against the squad of CPLMarlon Mores
▪ Obstruction of justice, to be filed against Lt. Col. Federico Tutaan as Battalion Commander of the 19th IB, for failing to submit all the firearms used by them on 15 November 2010.
Contrary to the findings of the FFM and CHR investigations, the Department of Justice found probable cause only for the cases of Obstruction of Justice and Reckless Imprudence Resulting in Homicide and Attempted Homicide being charged against the elements of the 19th IBPA. It sided with the AFP in finding that they only committed gross negligence and that they were justified in what they did because they mistook Co and his team to be NPA rebels.In 2013, the family of Leonard Co filed a Petition for Review contesting that the Accused be charged for Murder. Despite testimonial and documentary evidence submitted by lawyers, including the findings of the CHR, in December 23, 2019 a promulgation signed by DOJundersecretary Emmeline Aglipay Villar found that the Petition lacked merit and was thus
Another petition was filed in August 2013 by the Cos’ legal counsel for change of court for the cases filed in Kananga, Leyte and in Ormoc City. Both cases were requested to be
transferred to Quezon City, however the petition was denied by the Supreme Court.
In July 16, 2018, the Obstruction of Justice case against 35 members of the 19th
IBPA was dismissed by presiding judge Marcelino F. Malate, Jr. of the Kananga RTC. According to the dismissal order, “Nowhere in the evidence of the prosecution can this Court find[s] that the accused committed the crime charged.”
Following the DOJ’s resolution dismissing the Petition for Review, the case of Reckless
Imprudence Resulting in Homicide was started to be heard by the Municipal Circuit Trial
Court in Kananga, Leyte. Currently it is in its pre-trial stage, and a hearing has been set for
this December where witnesses will be presented.
Co is not the only scientist to have been the victim of violence. There have been at least 3
other cases in the last 10 years.
◦ In September 2014, engineer Fidela “Delle” Bugarin Salvador was caught and killed
during a military operation against revolutionary groups in Lacub, Abra. She had
been working as a consultant on socio-economic projects in areas devastated by
Typhoon Ondoy and Pepeng.
◦ In October 2013, physicist Kim Gargar was detained by the army for being suspected
as an NPA member while doing rehabilitation study on Pablo-affected villages i
Davao Oriental. He was eventually allowed to post bail because the regional court
found testimonies against him to be weak.
◦ On January 24, 2011, veterinarian, environmentalist and journalist Gerry Ortega was
shot along a highway in Puerto Princesa. His assassination is thought to be
politically-motivated since he had been vocal about the Malampaya gas funds and
other environmental issues in Palawan at the time of his death.
There are also many incidents of scientists and researchers being harassed in the conduct of
their research in the field. These include harassment from both local government officials and armed state troops. This places the security and well-being of field scientists at risk.
More recently in July 2020, President Duterte signed into law the Anti Terror Act (ATA). The
draconian law gives the government and its armed forces power to surveil, detain, arrest, and restrict the movements of what it vaguely and broadly defines as terrorists. Scientists and science workers who already face insecurity in the field are placed at greater risk as the ATA is very prone to abuse by its implementers, especially in the field. It also worsens the culture of impunity and violence that we are already seeing in government, especially among the armed forces.
Given the above context and situation, it is thus proposed that the Campaign for Justice for Leonard Co be renewed with the following objectives:
- To highlight the slow wheels of justice and lack of resolution in the deaths of Leonard
Co, Julius Borromeo and Sofronio Cortez at the hands of the AFP.
- To seek accountability from the Department of Justice, Supreme Court, and the
Duterte administration in justly and impartially hearing the case and the Co family’s
petitions, and from the AFP in the violent and unwarranted killings of the Kananga
- To demand justice for other victims of extrajudicial killings in the hands of State armed
- To demand protections for field researchers and scientists, who are vulnerable to
harassment, vilification, as well as unjust arrest and violence especially under the Anti
- To strengthen the unity of scientists, technologists, and advocates seeking justice,
upholding democratic freedoms, and against tyranny and fascism.
Proposed Program of Activities
Date Activitiy / Details
Nov.5 to Nov.14 Remembrances of Leonard: 10 Days of Commemoration of Leonard and his work
To mark 10 years since his untimely death, quote cards will be posted daily for ten days
consisting of remembrances from friends, colleagues, and family. They will be asked to send in
1-2 sentences to remember Leonard, concerning his legacy as a scientist for the
people, his dedication as a researcher, and continuing calls for justice.
Nov.1-15 Articles on Leonard At least two (2) full-length articles will be written
about Leonard Co: commemorating his life and work, describing the events surrounding his and his companions’ murder and the slow wheels of justice, and the continuing calls for justice among friends, colleagues, and the science community
Nov.1-15 Change DP A profile pic will be designed and disseminated in social media, with the call Justice for Leonard Co, Justice for the Victims of Extrajudicial Killings!
Nov. 14 Videos for Leonard Online watch party of multimedia about Leonard: Walang Hanggang Buhay ni Leonard Co by Nannette Matilac, GMA’s Born; Biographies of his early life, GMA’s Investigative Documentaries on his case,
Kwento ng Kagubatan (song) by Luisito Queano, The Palanan Plot of Isabela, etc.
Nov.15 Light a Candle for Leonard; Online gathering to remember Leonard Co. Afterwards participants will be asked to change their profiles to a candle with the call Justice for Leonard Co.
Campaign Machinery and Conduct
The main campaign machinery will consist of the Scientist and Technologists Say No to
Tyranny alliance as well as previous/current members of the Justice for Leonard Co
- AGHAM Advocates of Science and Technology for the People and its chapters
- Agham Youth
- Computer Professionals’ Union
- Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment
Coordination and communication will be done through email, chat, and video conferencing.