More than a decade without justice, the criminals behind the deaths of Leonard Co and companions must be held accountable

Leonard Co was killed on November 15, 2010 in the forest of Upper Mahiao, Lim-ao, Kananga, Leyte by members of the Armed Forces' 19th Infantry Battalion.

AGHAM-Advocates of Science and Technology for the People decries the failure of the justice system in the country to put behind bars the criminals  that are responsible for the brutal deaths of  ethnobotanist Leonard Co and his companions, Julius Borromeo and Sofronio Cortez.

On November 15, 2010, Leonard Co led his technical team to conduct an ethnobotanical study in the forest of the Upper Mahiao, Lim-ao, Kananga, Leyte that was commissioned by the Energy Development Corporation (EDC) when they were fired upon by the members of the 19th Infantry Battalion of the Armed Forces that led to their demise. AGHAM’s Secretary General, Jona Yang says, “the families of the Kananga victims and the science community have been longing for this case to be resolved. But until the culprits remain at large, we feel unsafe from this present culture of impunity.”

The military claimed that an encounter had ensued and that the three were caught in the crossfire. But the Fact Finding Mission conducted by AGHAM and other members of the multisectoral organizations refuted this and said that that military amiss  their duty to verify the identity of the technical team before shooting them. The Commision on Human Rights was also convinced that there was violation of human rights. They also recommended the filing of criminal and administrative charges and obstruction of justice against the members of the 19th IB headed by Lt. Col. Federico Tutaan.

But the court has denied the petition filed by Ms. Glenda Co in 2013 to elevate the case of Reckless Imprudence in Homicide and Attempted Homicide to Murder stating that there is no probable cause for murder as the accused acted under a mistake of fact. At the moment, the Municipal Circuit Trial Court in Kananga, Leyte is reviewing evidence for the Reckless Imprudence case.

The call to bring justice to the Kananga killings is timely with the fourth UN Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Philippines being held this year. This is an important event to raise the issue of human rights violations in the country. Yang emphasizes, “we demand the present government to acknowledge the extrajudicial and political killings specially those that are state sponsored. It should be stopped and that the criminal must pay for their crimes that they have committed. The unsolved case of the Kananga killings will only deepen the mistrust of the people to the government on how they value human rights in bringing justice to the victims of the heinous crimes.”#