The Justice for Leonard Co Movement calls on Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Leila de Lima to junk and review the report of the DOJ’s fact-finding team, which inexplicably cleared the 19th Infantry Battallion of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the November 15 killing of reknowned ethno-botanist Leonard Co, forest guide Sofronio Cortez and farmer Julius Borromeo in Kananga, Leyte.

The DOJ report released is riddled with jumps in logic, omissions of fact, and twisted statements. It has employed selective means and double standards to deduce conclusions from the witnesses’ statements and the evidence made available by the military.

The report disregarded the fact that the military was the only armed group seen by survivors in the area at the time of the killing. Instead, it gave undue credence to the military’s claim that there was a crossfire; concluding that there were indeed New People’s Army (NPA) members in the area and there wa a firefight without independently verifying these claims.

The DOJ report’s double standard is also evident in its unsound analysis of the bullet marks left on the trees in the site. It said that “thirty three (33) trees had bullet marks on their trunks…with more than thirty (30) bullet trajectories” coming from the higher vantage position of the military and only “four (4) bullet trajectories from the lower grounds up to the higher grounds.” The DOJ panel cleared the military despite the fact that it was the 19th IB troops who had a higher probability of hitting Co’s group due to the sheer number of bullets which they have fired.

Furthermore, the AGHAM-led independent fact finding mission last November 26 to 28 did not see any trajectory from the lower ground to the higher vantage point of the military. The volume of fire from the ridge area was directed mainly towards the direction where Leonard Co and his group was standing. The trees bear witness that they were shot from the military side, as there was no bullet marks from the alleged NPA side. The direction of the gunfire from the alleged NPA side is not supported by the testimony of the survivors. If their testimonies are to be scrutinized, their testimonies will indicate that the firing came  from the direction of the military. 

The DOJ team should have exerted more effort in ascertaining that the firearms turned over to them are the ones that were actually used. There should have been an inventory of the firearms assigned to each of the member of the platoon involved in the incident. 

The report is silent on the fact  that the military had the opportunity to clear and control the site for a full19 hours after the shooting. The PNP SOCO team was able to gain access to the site only at 8 a.m. of the following day. The burden is on the military to show that nothing happened to the evidence during this intervening time. Where are the rest of the 245 bullets that the military has fired from their own admission?

The DOJ report has only yielded more questions than answers. It seems to have one-sidedly taken the military’s word and took the other evidence to fit this story.

In the interest of justice and truth, this report must be junked.#


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