On the sixth anniversary of the killings of famed ethno-botanist Leonard Co and his colleagues, Julius Borromeo and Sofronio Cortez, Co’s family, friends and scientists under the Justice for Leonard Co Movement trooped at the Department of Justice to call for an end to the six years of injustice and impunity.

“Until now, not a single perpetrator has been convicted and imprisoned to date. The Duterte administration must not replicate the Aquino administration’s ineptitude to solve Leonard Co’s case. Impunity reigns as members of the military responsible for the killings of Co and his companions during that fateful taxonomic study in Kananga, Leyte are still active in service,” said Feny Cosico, secretary general of scientist group AGHAM (Advocates of Science & Technology for the People) and spokesperson of the Justice for Leonard Co Movement.

In 2012, DOJ recommended the filing of a case of reckless imprudence resulting to homicide, which the Movement saw as a downgrade of charges. In 2013, the family filed a petition for review to elevate the case to murder, but it was left on the back burner. Succeeding efforts, such as the petition to the Supreme Court requesting a change of venue for hearings from Leyte to Metro Manila for the safety and access of the Co family, have also been bogged down.

“The Aquino administration had done only tokenistic move as the recommendation for reckless imprudence to the perpetrators, bargaining justice due to the victims”, said Cosico.

For six years, the Co family, together with the members of the Justice for Leonard Co Movement, have been trooping to the Department of Justice (DOJ), Commission on Human Rights (CHR), and the House of Representatives seeking dialogue with the agency heads and legislators to hasten the case.

The persisting injustice over the Kananga killings have demonstrated how even scientists working on communities were easily targetted by the military by just mere suspicion. The case was not the first in a growing trend of state negligence over the plight of local scientists.

“The unresolved case of the deaths of Leonard Co and colleagues under the hands of the state forces is among the long list extrajudicial killings in the country. We have various cases of Filipino scientists killed in the line of duty, such as development worker Engr. Delle Salvador, who, like Leonard Co, was killed by the military while she was in the middle of community-based disaster risk management activities in the Cordillera region. Physicist Kim Gargar was also a victim of the repressive state when he was arrested and filed ith trumped-up charges while helping in the rehabilitation of the typhoon-pablo disaster areas. He is currently attending hearings for the charges he did not even commit. ” noted Cosico.

We demand the Duterte administration to end the culture of impunity involving the state forces to the innocent civilians who are rendering services to the country and the communities. The likes of Leonard Co and other activist who valiantly fought the oppressive regime even during the time of Marcos until the present government  must be laid to rest by making their perpetrators faced accountabilities for the crimes they have committed.#


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