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

November 20, 2014

After four years of no justice

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

By Kalikasan PNE
Fellow scientists and relatives of slain botanist Leonard Co and other victims of state military forces protest at Department of Justice.

Fellow scientists and relatives of slain botanist Leonard Co and other victims of state military forces protest at Department of Justice. Image by AGHAM

 
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, National Coordinator, Kalikasan PNE, 09228449787