An urgent appeal to President Benigno Aquino III and the Philippine Legislature to effect a thorough, independent, and transparent investigation on the killing in Kananga, Leyte of Leonardo Co, a renowned Filipino scientist, and his two companions
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We, the undersigned scientists, environmentalists, human rights defenders, friends, relatives and concerned citizens appeal to President Benigno Aquino III to effect an immediate, independent, transparent and thorough investigation on the killing of ethno-botanist and taxonomist, Leonard Co, forester Sofronio Cortez and farmer Julius Borromeo.
Leonardo Co, along with four companions, was doing research work for the Energy Development Corporation (EDC) in Upper Mahiao, Lim-ao, Kananga in Leyte province. On November 15, 2010, the research team was reported to have been caught in the crossfire between the Armed Forces of the Philippines 19th Infantry Batallion and the New People's Army in the area. Co, Cortez and Borromeo were killed, while the two others, forester Ronino Gibe and farmer Policarpio Balute escaped.
Families and friends have raised doubts on the report, as the research team got the required clearance from the EDC, which in turn got clearance from the military, to carry out their work in the area at that time. Given this situation, and based on basic duties of the military, they are expected to act with due diligence to protect and ensure first the safety of civilians.
The statements of the survivors seem to belie the reported exchange of gunfire. There were accounts that the shots came only from one direction. Questions similarly linger as to why the victims have been riddled with so many bullets.
This senseless loss of lives, with a scientist and environmentalist like Leonard Co, who has selflessly offered so much for the promotion and conservation of the country’s vast floral wealth, is truly saddening. The circumstances of their death make it doubly worse.
We, the undersigned, call on the Aquino administration to order an immediate, thorough, transparent investigation of the incident by an independent civilian team. We call for the protection and safety of the survivors, witnesses and their families, for the prevention of any whitewash, to render justice to the victims, and to stem a growing culture of impunity in the country.###