The Killing of the Kananga 3:

Scientist Leonardo Co, Peasant Guide Julius Borromeo and Forest Guard Sofronio Cortez

 

Posted: December 27, 2010

 

   

■    Press Conference on the killing of Leonardo Co and the Kananga 3, Nov. 19

   
   

■    Tribute by colleagues and friends, Nov. 19

   
    ■    Leonardo Co returns to the UP for the last time, Nov. 20    
   

■     Fact Finding Mission to Kananga, Leyte, Nov. 26-28

   
   

■     Reporting on the results of the Fact Finding Mission, Dec. 8

        Download reports here: www.justiceforleonardco.org  or directly from http://bit.ly/hMDhFs

 
   

■     Lenard's ashes on UP soil, Dec. 8

   
   

■     Rallying for Leonardo Co and the Kananga 3 on Human Rights Day in Manila and Tacloban, Dec. 10

   

■     Rallying for Leonardo Co and the Kananga 3 at the UP Lantern Parade, Dec. 17

 
   

■     Planting 40 seedlings on the 40th day of Leonardo's death, Dec. 23

   
   

■     Some of the works of Leonardo Co

   
   

■     News reports about the killing of the Kananga 3

   
   

■     Ariicles and notes about Leonardo Co

   
         
    TRIBUTES TO LEONARDO CO    
    ■     Leonard Co: Naming the plants, planting the sees by Dr. Giovanni Tapang    
    ■     Remembering Leonardo Co by Rey Claro Casambre    
    ■     A revolutionary tribute to a true people's scientist: Leonardo Co By SIMON "Ka Filiw" NAOGSAN  
    ■     CPP honors Leonardo Co    
    ■     The genius of Leonardo L. Co: The people's scientist and professor by Dr. Perry Ong  
   

■     Leonard Co: Scientist for the People by Bulatlat

   
   

■     A tree is Born, a tree Dies, the forest lives Forever bu Tony Henderson

   
   

■     Leonard Co, son of UP, is home by Inquirer

   
         
    POEMS:    
    ■   Dalit sa Kabundukan ni Leonard Co    
    ■   A Poem for Leonard Co by Nonilon Queano    
    ■   Eye Witness by Pia Montalban    
         
    BONUS TRACKS    
    ■   AGHAM's 10-10-10 Tree Planting    

 

 

           

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

Quite clear who killed the Kananga 3:

 

No crossfire in Leyte - INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filipinos

newsinfo.inquirer.net

 

MANILA, PhilippinesThere was no crossfire, and the shots coming from where the soldiers were positioned were trained directly on the area where noted botanist Leonardo Co and his companions were working, leading to their deaths.

---------------------------------------------

 

Scientists: Army's bullets killed top Filipino botanist Leonard Co - Nation - GMANews.TV - Official

www.gmanews.tv

 

(Updated 7:06 p.m.) The Philippine Armys bullets killed top Filipino botanist Leonard Co in Leyte province in November, a group of scientists said on Wednesday.

---------------------------------------------

 

Editorial:

No crossfire - INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filipinos

opinion.inquirer.net

Some old habits die hard; in the case of the countrys security forces, the excuses they learned under Marcos and military rule (in those dark days, the police was integrated into the Armed Forces) were reinforced during the ascendancy of the military in Gloria Macapagal-Arroyos latter years in o

 

 

 

   
   

 

DALIT SA KABUNDUKAN

ni Leonard Co
-12 Abril 1978


At narito ang isang bundok: mandi’y tapat sa pangalan,
Matikas at matayog, naghahamon sa kalangitan;
Ang suson niyang mga tuktok, hanay-hanay ang salansan
Waring sa aki’y tumatawag: kapatid ko at at kaibigan!

Balikat niya’y tinapik ko at binati ng may sigla:
Sa ‘ki’y ano ang nagpadpad upang kita ay magkita?
Hayaan mong ang iyong gulod, mga tuktok, isa-isa
Ay mabigyan ko ng ngalan at bilang na tanging kanya.

Waring ako’y itinuring na malaong kaibigan
Ngayo’t muling nagkaniig salubong niya’y anong ringal:
Pinatugtog yaong hangin, nag-alpombra’ng damong ligaw
Wari‘y alak namang hain ang tubig sa kanyang bukal.

Sa iyo kayang katayugang kahit sino’y humahanga
Papa’no ko ihahambing ang diwa ko’t maging tapang?
Sa hamon mong binabadya at lakas mong mapangmangha
Ako kaya’y di alangang matawag mong kasamahan?

O mabunying kalupaan! Nasaan pa ang iyong dangal
Kung bundok mo’y mababa at ilog mo’y matutumal?
Taglay ko ay isang pusong tuwi-tuwina’y nag-aasam
Sa dantay ng kalinga mo at init sa iyong himlay.

 


Taluktok mo’y kadalasang tinatakpan ng alapaap,
Talampas mo’y yuta’t angaw ang tanawing nakalahad,
Humuhugong, sumisipol ang taglay mong mga gubat,
Habang doon sa ibayo’y naglalaro ang iyong ulap.

Kabundukan, kabundukan, sa akin nga ay ituran
Kung ilan ang iyong bangin, taluktok mong ‘pagyayabang;
Kung ilan ang higante mong mga bato, puno’t baging
Kung ilan ang saluysoy mo’t mga sapang gumagapang.

Pumipintig yaring puso habang kita’y minamasdan
Sumusulak yaring dugo sa pagdama ng iyong damdam
Kabundukan, larawan ka ng mahal na Inang Bayan
Asahan mong namumundok ang bantay mo kahit saan!

Lungsod ng Baguio , Matapos bumaba ng Mt, Pulog.
 

-----------

 

"Hindi trabaho ng mga intelektwal na magmemorya ng mga walang kuwentang bagay. Tungkulin ng intelektwal na gamitin ang utak para pag-isipan ang mga bagay.”

 

--- Leonardo Co

/p

/p

Photos courtesy of Arkibong Bayan, Agham Nasyunal, Bobi Austria, Enteng Bautista,

Jerome Cabansag, PNPCS and Thess Dollaga as indicated  by the filenames

           
     

 

Leonard Co: Naming the plants, planting the seeds
BY GIOVANNI TAPANG, Ph.D.
Manila Times

Thursday, 18 November 2010 00:00

I would have written about the Lotto for this week’s column had not a text from a friend told me that leading botanist Leonard C. Co was reportedly killed in a supposed crossfire between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the New People’s Army (NPA) in Leyte. They were doing research work for the Energy Development Corporation (EDC) in Upper Mahiao, Lim-ao, Kananga, in Leyte province with a security clearance when an Army patrol that responded to NPA sightings in the area chanced upon them.
Two other members of the EDC research team were reportedly killed together while two others survived.

I never got to have a long discussion with the famed biologist. I only gave casual greetings when I chanced upon him inside the University. Yet older members of AGHAM had profound interactions with him in the course of his work. In the mid-1970s, Leonard and other activists, mainly from the then Departments of Botany and Zoology of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, compiled and published the first authoritative manual on medicinal plants in the country. They did this with a clear aim of providing the majority of Filipinos in the countryside a guide from which they could get ready access to cheap medicines from sources that are present in their surroundings. The lack of access to medical facilities and supplies at that time especially in the provinces (still very much a reality today) made that compilation a very important contribution to many communities.

According to friends, the group worked on this diligently, meeting at Leonard’s residence almost weekly for at least five years. At the end, they published a mimeo-graphed 8 1/2" x 13" pamphlet entitled “Philippine Medicinal Plants Manual” in 1978. The manual was released by the UP Botanical Society, of which many in the group were members.

He was one of two expert field botanists in that group. As many would attest, Leonard was the one who could identify with certainty which medicinal plants that were catalogued in other countries are also found in the country, and in which particular area or forest in the Philippines. Friends would recount his encyclopedic memory from which he could recount the names and medicinal properties of all the plants that he encountered. Other friends tell us that there was never a dull moment when he was around. His heart and mind was always at work: laughing with friends, worrying about his lovelife, or eating delicious Chinese food as his family owned and ran a Chinese restaurant in Caloocan.

The demise of Leonard Co is a big loss since we only have a few taxonomists in the country. What is more disturbing is the circumstances of his death. According to news reports, the Army said that the EDC informed them of the presence of the rebels in the area. The team got clearance from the military to do their research in the area and was informed of their work at that time. Given the situation and based on the rules of war, the Army should have prioritized first the protection and safety of the civilians that were present in the area before doing any operations. We have also not heard about any description of the supposed NPA group that the Army engaged that day. These and other circumstances lead us to ask whether the killing is a case of mistaken identity. To clear things up, an independent civilian investigation of this incident that resulted in the loss of Co, forest guard Sofronio Cortez and Julius Borromeo should be initiated.

The death of the three has put the number of environmentalists killed in the country to a total of 36 since 2001. The three are the first under the new Aquino administration. Based on the monitoring of Kalikasan People’s Network for the Environment, most of the killings of environmentalists occur in areas where there are controversial projects which are environmentally destructive such as commercial logging and large-scale mining coupled together with the high presence of government forces and intensive militarization.

One poet friend of Leonard tells us that he can even give the local names of these plants in different places in the country. Praising him for his memory, the same friend recounts a very moving quote from the esteemed biologist, “ . . . hindi trabaho ng mga intelektwal na magmemorya ng mga walang kuwentang bagay. Tungkulin ng intelektwal na gamitin ang utak para pag-isipan ang mga bagay.” It is not the task of an intellectual to remember useless things. It is the task of the intellectual to use his brain to think about things.

We add one more, taking cue from the seeds that Leonard Co’s example has planted: It is also the task of the intellectual to change these things for the betterment of all.

Dr. Tapang is the chairperson of AGHAM-Advocates of Science and Technology for the People.
 

November 19, 2010 - Press Conference, at UP Institute of Biology

with  Institute Director Dr. Perry Ong  ▼ 

 
 
 
           
   
     
 

 

Fact-finding mission for Leonard Co
By Giovanni Tapang, Ph.D.

The Manila Times
Thursday, 09 December 2010

Leonardo Co, renowned Filipino conservationist and botanist, along with forester Sofronio Cortez and farmer Julius Borromeo, was killed on November 15, 2010, allegedly by troops of the Philippine Army, while conducting research on tree biodiversity in the Manawan-Kananga Watershed in Leyte. On the day of his death, Co and four of his companions were pursuing research work for the Energy Development Corporation: surveying and collecting specimen seedlings of endangered trees for replanting.

The Army unit involved in the incident, the 19th Infantry Battalion, reported that Co was killed in a crossfire with the New People’s Army. However, accounts from the survivors said that there was no firefight that happened.

The Samahan ng Nagtataguyod ng Agham at Teknolohiya para sa Sambayanan (AGHAM—Advocates of Science and Technology for the People), in coordination with friends and families of the victims, organized a fact finding mission to pursue the truth behind the circumstances of the killing of the three men.

The Fact Finding Mission on the Killings of Leonard Co, Sofrono Cortez and Julius Borromeo in Kananga, Leyte (FFM) had the following objectives: to establish facts and gather relevant information on the November 15, 2010 incident in Kananga, Leyte; to gather testimonies and observations from the people involved in the incident and to identify possible parties and individuals responsible for the incident. The following are excerpts from the findings of the fact finding mission.

The main tools of the FFM were the photo and video documentation taken and recorded during the site visit and key informant interviews. The FFM paid a courtesy call to the Mayor of Kananga town and conducted meetings with the Philippine National Police, the 19th IB, the Energy Development Corporation (EDC) staff and the families and neighbors of the survivors and victims. Other documents obtained during and after the FFM was also used to complete the report.

The FFM was divided into three groups. Team 1 interviewed the EDC personnel and primarily conducted the ocular visit of the site to gather more information, establish facts and gather possible evidence. Team 1 marked the locations with GPS units for proper geotagging. Team 2 made the courtesy call to the mayor and visited the communities where the families of the victims and survivors were. They also visited the family of Cortez in Baybay, Leyte. Team 3 visited the local PNP and was able to talk to Chief of Police Sr. Insp. Camacho and informed them of the plans to visit the site. They also visited the 19th IB headquarters and met with Lt. Col. Federico Tutaan at the gate.

The team observed the following from its interviews and incident site visit: The direction of bullet marks on the trees originated from a vantage point on the ridge above Leonard Co and his team. These bullet marks indicated that the direction of fire was bearing downwards towards Co’s team.

The tree (Tree No. 4) that Co’s team was studying was hit three times. A larger tree where one of the survivors hid had six bullet marks on it. The FFM team did not observe any bullet marks on the trees from the ground looking up to the ridge nor from any other side except from the vantage position.

The only consistent explanation for these key observations would be that the military was positioned on top of the ridge and firing towards Co and company. There was no indication of any crossfire. The failure of the military unit involved to provide immediate medical attention and hospital treatment to Julius Borromeo prolonged his agony and ultimately led to his death. The military waited at least one hour after they approached the position of Co’s team before bringing down the bodies and the survivor Gibe despite his repeated requests, as well as those of the then-alive Borromeo.

Supposing that the military indeed had intelligence information that there were NPA sightings on November 12 and that this was communicated to the EDC, what were the precautions taken to inform LC and his team who were already in the LGPF complex since November 9? Likewise, was the military informed of the team’s activities prior to the day of the incident?

These questions and others are still unanswered. Justice for Leonard and his companions remains elusive. The military should give a full accounting of what happened during that day and the names of the squad or platoon members that were involved in the shooting. The EDC should make public its records and protocols with regard to its security relationship with the military.

Tomorrow is International Human Rights Day. The deaths of Leonard Co and his companions are a reminder that we still have a long way to go with regard to attaining the free exercise of our rights in the country.


 

     
 
           
   
           

 

On a Chance Encounter with a Friend:
A Poem for Leonard Co
 Nonilon V. Queano/


“LEONARD CO’S life (which lasted a few weeks short of 57 years) was much too brief, but it was a life that overflowed with professional accomplishments and friendships. "Friends are ephemeral, ships passing by in the night as the saying goes. Leonard built friendships that spanned the years.”
- Michael Tan, “Pinoy Kasi, Leonard Co,”
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 12/01/2010.

I would have thought I knew
Bright days from dreary dark
And seen red dawns
Breaking but clearly
Upon forests and greening trees;
I would have thought
There always would be singing,
Even from voids of blue
Though roads creep out
As chance meetings come and go.
It was even perhaps with bravado
That I regarded contradictions
And struggles, inevitable
Oh I could project them all
Confidently,
With the palmate light of wisdom,
Until it happened.

We met in a crowded mall
(Of all places),
I tagged him on the shoulder
As he walked past,
Instantly, he beamed,
His chinky eyes cusped behind glasses
(I had always looked at him amusedly,
Like I would at some strange soul
I’d meet every now and then)
We hardly talked but connected
As old friends who knew so little of each other,
Briefly, sealed our friendships in some half-hug,
At parting,
Then walked our separate ways so nonchalantly
I had not even had time to think
How long it would take us to meet again.

But it was quick
A few days, his bullet riddled body was splashed
On the front page of the dailies,
With the story of how soldiers
Allegedly mistook him for an NPA rebel,
Shot him then and there.
The look of horror drawn on his face,
His arms covering up as he begged for mercy.
Leonard Co, the much- respected, much-loved
Lead botanist in the country,
The great scientist taxonomist who wiith fellow scientists,
DiscoveredRafflesia leonardi, the plant that bears his name.
Leonard Co, the poet-friend I hardly knew.

What arrogance had I to believe that I understood fully:
That I could explain the contradictions in capitalism,
The struggle against imperialist plunder,
Life and death and the romance of split selves,
The sun, the moon, greenfields, forests, and mountains;
Yet through it all, hard put to making out
The idiocy of the band of killer soliders
Who murdered my poor friend.
And I had not even time to think
Of when or if ever we would meet again.

*Three or four days before the murder of Leonard Co, I bumped into him at SM North Mall on that heavily congested narrow corridor bridge between D’Block and the old, main building.

 

 

Eye Witness
by Pia Montalban


Hindi makasigaw, kahit pa pumapagaspas,
dahong nakalambong-payong
nagnanasang isumbong
ang salarin sa buhay na inutang
dugong pinatagas.

Hindi makasusulat ng pahayag
ang mga hintuturong sanga
upang duruui't idiin ang mga may-sala:
Militar at estadong walang mga bayag!

Hindi makatatakbo ang mga ugat
na sa lupa'y gumagapang ng maingat
naisin man nitong tumawag ng kasamang
magtatanggol sa lingkod-bayang siyentista.

Saksing-pipi, walang kamay,
walang paa, walang bibig, ngunit tiyak--
na may mata at taingang nakadadama,
nakamamasid,
sa bangungot ng digma.

Paano pa nga ba ipapaliwanag
tinamong bala ng kanilang
matitipunong katawan
na sa punglo'y sumalo't siyang
natamaan?

Paano pa nga ba itatago ng mga salaring
tanga
ang katotohanang
inihihiyaw
ng mga balang tumagos sa mga puno?

Paano pa nga ba
pasisinungalingan
na ang pamamaslang
ay di engkwentro ng militar
sa mga NPA
kundi kaso ng bobong
military-intelligence ng estado?

Testigo
ang mga puno
sa naganap na
masaker
kina Leonard, Julius at Sofronio.

 

 

 

No crossfire when botanist Leonard Co was shot, witness says - Nation - GMANews.TV - Official Websi

www.gmanews.tv

 

           

Tribute to Leonard Co by colleagues and friends

Nov. 19, 2010

           
           
     
Satur Ocampo and Bobbie Malay BAYAN's Renato Reyes Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares
     
     

 

Fact finding mission for Leonard Co (2)
December 16, 2010 - 8:10pm — chiechie
BY GIOVANNI TAPANG, Ph.D.

Conclusion

Last Monday, the Department of Justice (DOJ) withdrew its charges against the “Morong 43.” The 43 health workers were arrested in Morong, Rizal last February 6, 2010 and were detained for more than 10 months. Their eventual release (if the court approves it) puts in the forefront the case of Leonard Co and his companions as a human rights issue that squarely falls under the watch of the current administration.
We hope that this case is resolved in the end with a similar favorable outcome as the “Morong 43’s” case.

We continue with some excerpts from the report of the Fact Finding Mission (FFM) on the Killings of Leonard Co, Sofronio Cortez and Julius Borromeo. A summary of these documents are available at www.justiceforleonard co.org Internet site.

Aside from the conclusion that the team was shot on one side from a ridge, another striking issue was the failure of the military unit involved in the shooting to provide immediate medical attention to Julius Borromeo. He was shot only once in his chest and could have lived had he been brought to a hospital immediately. Borromeo actually lived on for around two hours after he was shot. It was only at around two in the afternoon that they were brought down to the nearby working pad 403 of the Energy Development Corp. (EDC) together with the bodies and the survivor. Borromeo eventually expired as he was brought to the pad.

Another important point was that nearly 20 hours elapsed after the incident before the police SOCO team was able to access the site. The police was not allowed to go to the site immediately since the military said that there was a “hot pursuit operation” ongoing. The police SOCO team was only able to go up to the site at around eight of the following morning. Prior to this, only the military had access to the incident site since the shooting. According to our interviews, no one from the staff of the EDC was able to join the SOCO team. This failure of the police to secure the site early is a glaring error and puts the reports of the SOCO and the military into question. What happened during the 20 hours between the incident and the arrival of the SOCO team?

Another point that the FFM team raised was that the EDC considers the area around the pads as part of their regular work area. Co included the site near pad 403 since he had visited the area already. In fact, the area where the incident happened has been already part of a previous wildlife survey done with the EDC. Since the EDC considers the site as part of the work area, they do not usually inform the military about activities in these places. However, the EDC claimed that they did inform the military of Leonard Co’s itinerary on the day of the incident. On the other hand, there is the claim of the military that they also informed the EDC about their operations in the area. What kind of coordination did the EDC and the military have in such situations?

As such, whether the incident site is still within the EDC work area is still unclear. One of the FFM’s recommendations is for the EDC to make public its security team’s spot report. They should clarify the protocols for their communications and coordination with the military especially that there are other research and survey activities that the EDC are still conducting. The EDC, the 19th Infantry Battalion and the police should make documents that would further shed light to the incident.

The FFM team is also concerned with the security and safety of the two witnesses. As such, they should be provided safe sanctuary and be free from harassment by those involved in the shooting.

Yesterday (December 15) marks one month of the killings in Kananga. We lost a top caliber botanist who has given his talents for the Filipino. The families of those who died lost their loved ones. In an article on taxonomy entitled +gReviving the Lost Art of Naming the World+h by Carol Kaesuk Yoon which appeared in The New York Times last August 10, 2009, it was said that +gwithout the power to order and name life, a person simply does not know how to live in the world, how to understand it.+h Although we lost Leonard, who can put order to plants by naming them, we will not lose sight of making sense of their death by seeing through this case to obtain justice not only for Leonard but also for Sofronio Cortez and Julius Borromeo.

Dr. Tapang is the chairman of AGHAM-Advocates of Science and Technology for the People.

Prom.bound@gmail.com

 

----------------------------------------

Fact Finding Mission Report - Press Conference
December 8, 2010 - 6:11pm — chiechie

At the press conference held this morning at the UP Institute of Biology, the FACT-FINDING MISSION-KANANGA KILLINGS, revealed that

* the direction of the bullet marks on the trees originated from a vantage point on the ridge above Leonard Co and his team * the direction of fire was concentrated on the area where Leonard and his 4 other companions were standing * tree no.4 was hit three (3) times and the large tree were Ronino Gibe hid had six (6) bullet marks in it, and * that there are no bullet marks on the trees from the ground looking up to the ridge nor from any other side except from the vantage position.

The report and the powerpoint we presented earlier can be found at www.justiceforleonardco.org  or directly at http://bit.ly/hMDhFs


 

Dr. Tapang of AGHAM and Dr. Leni  Jara of CHD
     
Rey Claro Casambre of Philippine Peace Center
           
     
  Dr. Leni Jara of CHD Dr. Romeo Quijano
     

 

Agham calls for independent probe into Co's killing
http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/regions/11/19/10/agham-calls-independent-probe-cos-killing


MANILA, Philippines - A scientists' group Agham has condemned the killing of distinguished ethno-botanist Leonardo Co and two of his assistants and called for an independent civilian investigation into the incident.

Co and 4 companions were conducting research work for the Energy Development Corporation (EDC) in Upper Mahiao, Lim-ao, Kananga Leyte when they were allegedly caught in the crossfire between an Army patrol and New People's Army (NPA) guerrillas last Monday.

However, Agham chairperson Giovanni Tapang said the statements of the survivors lead them to believe that no exchange of gunfire took place. Given the vantage point and prior information of the soldiers, Tapang thinks the killing resulted from the indiscriminate firing of troops without any verification of their targets.

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has insisted that a legitimate encounter with the NPA took place. Lt. Col Federico Tutaan, commanding officer of the 19th Infantry Batallion operating in Kananga Leyte, also said that the rebels fired the first shot.

International Humanitarian Law (IHL) states that all parties to a conflict must ensure at all times that civilians are protected. This includes the responsibility to distinguish between combatants and civilians.

Republic Act 9851 or the Philippine Act on Crimes Against International Humanitarian Law, Genocide, and Other Crimes Against Humanity, which took effect this year, penalizes violations of IHL.

Agham hailed Co as one of a few remaining high-caliber taxonomists in the Philippines.

"The loss of a scientist like Leonard Co, who has stayed in the country despite other opportunities abroad, is saddening, but the circumstances of his death makes it doubly worse," said Tapang.

--
AGHAM National Secretariat
T +63.2.4343173
F +63.2.9209099
E info@agham.org
URL: www.agham.org
P.O.Box 268 Araneta Center 1135 Cubao Quezon City Philippines

 

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Statement from CHESTCORE on Dr. Leonard Co

COMMUNITY HEALTH EDUCATION, SERVICES AND TRAINING
IN THE CORDILLERA REGION
( C H E S T C O R E )
Resurrection Cathedral Compound, 362 Magsaysay Avenue, Baguio City 2600
Tel. (074) 4422572/ Email: chestcore81@yahoo.com


The Cordilleras cry out with grief over the loss of Leonard Co, a great scientist who devoted a major part of his life to documenting the Region’s medicinal plants and indigenous knowledge about their use in the book Medicinal Plants of the Cordilleras. During the decade of the 1980s, Leonard served as staff of the Community Health Education, Services and Training in the Cordillera Region (CHESTCORE).

Leonard helped build community-based health programs among indigenous peasant communities in the Mountain Province, Ifugao, Benguet, Abra and Kalinga. He endured treacherous rides along rocky mountain roads and trekked up many steep trails on foot to reach communities suffering centuries of government neglect and lack of social services. He trained local health workers on the use of medicinal plants and the practice of acupuncture so they could attend to their community’s health needs.

Leonard was a living example of the practice of ‘science and health for the people’. He refused to be confined to the university or the laboratory. He patiently interviewed elders and traditional healers, learning local culture and traditions. Drawing on his knowledge and skills, he recorded and systematized the people’s collective knowledge and practice on medicinal plants. He did not use this body of work for his own personal career or economic advancement but instead offered it back for the communities’ benefit and use. In fact, his contribution benefits not only the Cordilleran communities but enriches the body of science and health knowledge we can all draw upon.

It is but unfortunate that Leonard’s years of service to the people was suddenly cut short by a few minutes of gunfire.

What happened to Leonard is not an isolated case. Many health professionals working in farflung communities have been accused of aiding or being members of the New People’s Army or the Communist Party of the Philippines. Instead of being lauded as heroes for choosing to devote their lives to community service and for opting to give up opportunities for career advancement abroad or in private practice, many of them have been harassed, arrested on false pretenses and even killed. Most prominent examples include the killing of Dr. Bobby de la Paz in Samar, the summary execution of Dr. Johnny Escandor who served in Bicol, the attempted assassination of Dr. Chandu Claver in Kalinga and the arrest and continued detention of the Morong 43.

We strongly condemn the killing of Leonard Co and two of his staff at the hands of the Philippine Army’s 19th IB. We demand that justice be served and those responsible not be allowed to hide behind the guise that Leonard and his companions were “caught in the crossfire”.

We salute Leonard for being a people’s scientist and a health worker for the people. Whenever a community health worker in the Cordilleras prescribes medicinal plants or gives acupuncture treatment, we shall remember Leonard and pay him the highest tribute by continuing his work and his legacy. #
 

 

Lily Co-Austria, sister of Lenard
Emelina, mother of Lenard
Glenda, widow of Lenard
Lian Seng, father of Lenard
           
           
     
     
     

x

Widows of Other Victims in Kananga ‘Murders’ Call for Justice

 

Nov. 15 began like any other day for the families of Julio Borromeo and Sofronio Cortez. Borromeo was even excited because his work with Leonardo Co would be his highest paying job so far. But by the afternoon of that day, the lives of their families changed forever.

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

KANANGA, LEYTE – It was not only Glenda Co, wife of killed botanist Leonard Co, who lost a husband when soldiers from the 19th Infantry Battalion (IB) allegedly fired at Co’s team on that fateful day of Nov. 15 while Co was conducting work inside the compound of the Lopez-owned Energy Development Corporation (EDC). Teresa Borromeo, 45 and Arsenia Cortez, 52, also lost their husbands.

In a fact-finding mission led by the progressive scientists’ group Agham held last Nov. 26 to 28 in Kananga, Leyte, the wives of the two other victims, Julio Borromeo and Sofronio Cortez, demanded justice. “We want justice. We cannot accept that they died just like that,” Arsenia said.

Teresa said she does not believe  that her husband and the rest of Co’s team were caught in a gun battle between the New People’s Army (NPA) and the 19th IB. “It is impossible. All those who work for the EDC have their IDs and some have their uniforms. How could the military mistakenly identify them as NPA?” said Teresa.

Their lives were never the same again, especially for Teresa. Her husband Julio is the only breadwinner of the family and they have six children, the youngest is six years old.


Teresa Borromeo, 45 is not only grieving for the loss of her husband; she does not know how to provide for the needs of their six children. (Photo by Anne Marxze D. Umil / bulatlat.com)

For now, the EDC is supporting the family. The company gave the family sacks of rice, said Estelita Bayo, their godmother in their wedding. They live in barangay Tongonan, Ormoc, Leyte.

Sofronio, on the other hand, was a just bit well off. He was a regular employee of EDC for 26 years and worked as a forest guard. He has three children, two of whom already finished college and the youngest, 16, is already in fourth year high school. The family lives in Baybay, Ormoc City.

Nov.15 was Julio’s first day working with Co; it was also his first day to have a more gainful sideline. “His work is per job order and is not regular. His work with Dr. Co was the highest income that he would supposedly take home,” said Bayo. Julio was supposed to bring home P200 ($4.46) a day for working as assistant to Co’s team for five days.

It was an ordinary day for Julio and Policarpio Balute, a local farmer. They were fetched by Danny Vituella, an employee of EDC. Teresa said it was their usual routine whenever Borromeo would receive a job order from EDC.

“He left early in the morning, around seven o’clock. He did not even eat his breakfast. He was only wearing a T-shirt and pants with his EDC identification card. He brought his umbrella and a sack for the leaves they would supposedly gather,” Teresa said.

Sofronio, on the other hand, was wearing long sleeves polo with an EDC logo and a raincoat also with EDC logo. Arsenia said her husband was always wearing a uniform whenever he worked in the forest within the EDC complex.

The Bad News

What seemed to be an ordinary day became a day of terror.

At about 4:00 p.m. of Nov. 15, Teresa was fetched by Vituella. “He just said that there was a problem.”


Arsenia Cortez, 52, widow of Sofronio Cortez (Photo by Anne Marxze D. Umil / bulatlat.com)

Arsenia, who just recovered from sickness at that time, was fetched at about past 6:00 p.m. from their house in barangay Hilapnitan, Baybay. “We were fetched here by two EDC employees and a doctor because I just recovered from my illness at that time and they thought that I would collapse upon hearing the news.”

After two hours of traveling, Teresa saw the body of her husband at V. Rama Funeral House in Kananga. Her husband’s body had gunshots in the chest.

Arsenia arrived at Kananga hospital at about 8:00 p.m. but no one could tell her the news. “When we came, nobody said anything and they were pointing at each other. Then I just said, ‘What? Is Ponyong dead?’ Then I started crying and then we proceeded to V. Rama where his body was.”

The EDC shouldered the funeral expenses for the dead. The company also donated cash and has been giving them food supplies.

Teresa is not only grieving for the loss of her husband; she does not know how to provide for the needs of their six children. “They are pitiful, especially the children,” said Bayo, almost crying now.

Justice

Cortez’s family does not want to comment on the case. They said they would only comment when the result of the autopsy and forensic examination being conducted by pathologist Dr. Raquel del Rosario-Fortun is released. But they demand justice and said that  the perpetrators should be punished.

“My husband was a kind man,” Teresa said. “We want justice. We want the perpetrators to be held accountable for killing my husband and his companions.”  (http://bulatlat.com)

 

     
     
     
Leonard;s book: Some Medicinal Plants of the Philippines
     
           
     
     
     
 

 

Remembering Leonard Co
by Rey Claro Casambre


(Leonard Co, one of the finest, if not the finest, botanists this country has produced was killed yesterday while doing field research in Leyte in what the military described a "crossfire" between the 19th IB of the Philippine Army and the New People's Army (NPA). A survivor who witnessed the shooting and barrio residents in the vicinity have since disputed the army's claim, saying there were no NPAs in the area, and no one was shooting back at the soldiers.)

I first met Leonard in 1975, when he was still in his third year as a botany major in UP. He belonged then to a group of bright and dedicated activists who were either undergrad majors or graduates of botany or zoology. This group in turn was part of a larger network of Filipino scientists and technologists who were all committed to using their scientific and technical knowledge and skills to serve the Filipino people. At that time, it meant being part of the Filipino people's resistance against the Marcos dictatorship, and of their struggle for an independent, genuinely democratic and just society.

The group to which Leonard belonged had decided to undertake a study of medicinal plants in the Philippines, with the aim of eventually contributing to the popularization of local herbal medicines and the production of medicines from readily available and accessible materials. This would greatly benefit the majority of Filipinos in the countrysides where doctors and western medicines are scarce.

To this end, Leonard played a key and major role in the group's compiling and publishing the first authoritative manual on medicinal plants. The group worked on this diligently for at least five years, publishing the mimeographed 8 1/2 x 13 "Manual on Some Philippine Medicinal Plants" in 1977. The manual was published in the name of the UP Botanical Society, to which many in the group belonged.

As far as we know, this was a pioneering and seminal work. Not long afterwards some botanists published printed and glossy books on Philippine medicinal plants. But none of them could compare to the wealth of material in the original 1977 Philippine Medicinal Plants manual.

Leonard was one of two highly expert field botanists in that group and was the only one left after the other went abroad to study and work. He was perfect for the job. While still an undergraduate doing field research, Leonard had already discovered new species and varieties of Philippine plants which were eventually credited to and named after the professors

under whom he worked. Even then, few could match, much less surpass, Leonard's mastery of Philippine flora. Needless to say, Leonard was the one in the group who would identify with certainty which medicinal plants

that were catalogued in other countries are also found in the country, and in which particular area or forest in the Philippines. Undoubtedly, this was his passion.

There was never a dull moment when Leonard was around, with the enthusiasm with which he performed his duties in the group, his intense and ever-active mind and his frequently troubled heart. In the groups meetings and while working, there was always seriousness, punctuated with laughter, interspersed with discussions of his courting woes, and garnished with delicious chinese food (the family owned and ran a chinese restaurant in Caloocan then).

After the Marcos dictatorship was overthrown, I met Leonard again only a couple or so times. The last one was a few years back when my wife and I chanced upon him outside his workplace at Pavilion 4 of Palma Hall at UP, and he eagerly invited us in to a cup of excellent brewed coffee. While showing us his bottled and catalogued collections, he related how he had concentrated on his scientific endeavors, working with various NGOs and at UP, and intimated how his constant field work and exposure to the countryside has kept his aspirations for a just and free society alive and burning.

 

     
 
           
   
=          
           
     

Leonard\o Co returns to UP for the last time

November 20, 2010

All photos in this section are by Dr. Anthony Arbias

of the Philippine Native Plants Conservation Society, Inc.

           
           
     
Leonardo Co at the Oblation Plaza

UP Diliman Chancellor Sergio Cao and UP Institute of Biology Director Dr. Perry Ong

with the widow and only child of Leonard Co, Glenda and Linnaei Marie

           

 

Leonard Co, son of UP, is home

First Posted 04:08:00 11/21/2010

MANILA, Philippines—Botanist and plant taxonomist Leonardo Co may have trekked mountains, climbed trees and hiked through woods throughout the country as he studied plant life, but there was one place he considered home.

 

Co returned home Saturday—the University of the Philippines in Diliman—accompanied by members of his family, friends and coworkers who cried for justice as they celebrated his life and his works, through which he would continue to live.

 

Co in his coffin was conferred the honor of being displayed in front of the UP Oblation, the iconic university statue depicting a naked man facing upward with his arms outstretched.

 

UP officials and personnel, including chancellor Sergio Cao, welcomed UP’s son home and paid tribute. UP President Emerlinda Roman was also present earlier in the day.

 

“Leonard is a true son of UP,” said Perry Ong, a wildlife biologist and Co’s friend. “One of your sons has returned, fulfilling the exhortations of the Oblation to serve the people.”

 

Volley of gunfire

 

The 56-year-old Co and companions Sofronio Cortes and Julius Borromeo were killed after allegedly being caught in a volley of gunfire between soldiers and rebels in the forests of Kananga, Leyte, on Monday.

 

But doubts have cropped up about this version of events, especially after a witness said he did not hear answering gunfire. Investigations are expected.

 

Ong said Co always went back to the university, no matter where he went.

 

“Since he entered UP in 1972, he never left. No matter where he worked, he always went back to the herbarium,” Ong said, referring to the greenery of plants and herbs for which Co had essentially stood as the curator.

 

To signify that Co will always be a part of UP, a third of his ashes after cremation would be given to the UP Institute of Biology and scattered under one of UP’s trees.

 

Book on medicinal plants

 

Another third would be scattered in Palanan, Isabela, the site of the forest that he had studied so ardently. The rest would be with his family.

 

Co did not get his degree until 2008 since he was always out in the field. He also holds the distinction of being the only BS Botany graduate who did not submit a thesis. In lieu of a thesis, he submitted his book on the medicinal plants of the Cordilleras.

 

Throughout the years, he was a constant presence in UP. Even without any formal appointment papers, he worked there and attended faculty meetings, and no one questioned his presence.

Colleagues still laud his expertise, saying that he could point to any plant and handily give its scientific name and species.

 

He was so dedicated a taxonomist that he named his young daughter Linnaei Marie after the father of taxonomy, Carl Linnaeus.

 

Van Gogh of botany

 

Co would also live on in the Rafflesia leonardi, an endemic parasitic plant species and one of the biggest flowers in the Philippines which was named after him.

 

Julie Barcelona, a botanist who had named “one of the most beautiful rafflesia” after Co, said that he had once told her that he felt like he was the Van Gogh of botany.

 

“My worth and the things I have done will be appreciated more after I’m dead,” Barcelona recalled Co as saying.

 

But she said she made sure to let Co know that he was very much appreciated.

 

And to hear his colleagues and friends tell it, the presence of the coffee-, cooking- and harmonica-loving Co was very valuable—as a botanist and as a friend—when he was still alive.

 

On Saturday, in tribute programs at the UP, they poured out their gratitude for being part of his life.

 

‘Love letter to the world’

 

Jim La Frankie, a scientist who had worked with Co, said the slain botanist reminded him of the Mother Theresa remark that she was a “little pencil in the hand of a writing God who is sending a love letter to the world.”

 

“When I think of Leonardo, I remember him as a love letter to the world,” La Frankie said.

 

He said Co wanted to help and be part of something bigger than himself, and was not a self-centered man.

 

As a scientist, Co was excellent, he added. He was always a “truth teller about plants, and everybody else was second place.”

 

Ang Pot, Co’s childhood friend, recalled that the botanist passionately wanted science to be relevant and to help people, hence his focus on the medicinal uses of plants.

 

He said that Co might not have gotten stellar marks in class, but what he set out to accomplish proved far greater than what his other classmates did.

 

Co was invited thrice to Harvard University, where his enthusiasm for studying the Philippine flora was commended as remarkable, as attested to by a letter from Emily Wood, senior collections associate of Harvard.

 

Stuart Davies, of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, also remembered Co as an industrious man who worked well into the night documenting the plants he harvested.

 

Vic Amoroso of the Central Mindanao University said Co always carried a long stick for collecting specimen and always shared whatever he had found.

 

‘Secret weapons’

 

Mundita Lim of the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau, wept as she recalled how Co, as well as botanist Daniel Lagunzad, were her “secret weapons” whenever she needed data about plants.

 

Emilio Sotalbo, retired director of the Campus Maintenance Office, said Co was so persistent in going after specimen that he once climbed up a tree quickly but once up, called for help in getting down.

 

Members of Co’s family recalled with amusement how the brilliant botanist had a penchant for losing or breaking things such as cameras or laptops, after which he would run to his family or friends for help.

 

But his family indulged Co and allowed him to pursue what he wanted, since he was the eldest and the only male among his siblings, according to his brother-in-law Bobby Austria.

 

“You will all agree that genius thrives best in a nurturing environment. That environment was his family,” Austria said.

 

Austria shared the family’s grief and frustration at the apparent lack of action over the death of Co and his companions. He said what was being reported were all “press releases.”

 

The family wanted nothing less than justice, he said.

 

 
Conference delegates at Pavillon 4, Herbarium  welcome Leonardo Co to the UP
 
 
Tribute to Lenard by the UP Instittute of Biology 
 
 
           
     
     
     

Press Conference to present the report of the Fact Finding Mission to Kananga, Leyte

UP Institute of Biology

Dec. 8, 2010

           
==          
     
     
           

 

A revolutionary tribute to a true people's scientist: Leonardo Co

By SIMON "Ka Filiw" NAOGSAN
Spokesperson, Cordillera Peoples' Democratic Front

The Cordillera People's Democratic Front mourns with the family of slain botanist Leonard Co and condemns in the strongest possible terms the 8th Infantry Division (Armed Forces of the Philippines) for the killing of the brilliant scientist and two other civilians in Kananga, Leyte.

Leonard Co is remembered by the people of the Cordillera as a brilliant scientist who utilized his expertise to unselfishly respond to the needs of the masses. During the many years he spent in the Cordillera, he lived among the people of many communities and trekked through numerous mountains and forests to gather, document, and study medicinal plants.

With his photographic memory, Leonard Co was like a walking encyclopedia. Tribal elders remember his keen insights and immense contribution to their knowledge, as well as his humor and exemplary humility in learning from and teaching the masses.

One tribal elder recalls that Leonard Co urged him and other tribal elders to "protect and defend your ancestral lands because it is not only rich in gold and other mineral wealth but is also a vast source of indigenous medicinal plants and other forest products." A tribal herbalist and elder who usually accompanied Leonard Co to Mount Sisipitan once said, "the usual two-hour hike from the nearest barrio to Mount Sisipitan took us a whole day because Dr. Co would name all the plants along the way up to the mountain. It was like being in a walking class room."

The results of Leonard Co's labor have greatly advanced community-based rural health care in the Cordillera.

He worked with non-governmental development organizations and people's organizations in addressing the health needs of the masses. He promoted self-reliance and enriched tribal herbal medicinal knowledge with scientific means. He helped pioneer the community-based processing of herbal medicines into tablet and capsule form. With these, communities were able to treat common diseases without relying too much on expensive and not readily available prescription drugs.

His death at the hands of the military is a great loss to the Filipino people. The CPDF extends to him the highest accolade and vows to continue to defend the Cordillera ancestral lands in line with his call to preserve the source of indigenous medicinal flora.

We join the family, colleagues, friends and the rest of the indigenous people who had the privilege of working with Leonard Co, in demanding immediate justice for the slain people's scientist. We demand the immediate dismissal and criminal prosecution of all the officers and men of the 8th ID, the 802nd Brigade and the 19th Infantry Battalion who are responsible in the brutal murder of Co and his two companions.

With the murder of one of the country's top botanists and specialist in plant taxonomy and ethno-botany, the challenge falls on his fellow patriotic and pro-people scientists to follow in the footsteps of Leonard Co and make science and technology truly serve the Filipino masses.
Comments

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CPP honors Leonardo Co

 

The CPP honored Leonardo Co for his great contribution to the classification of local plant species and their medical benefits. Since the 1980s until his death in the hands of the military, Co led the compilation of data for the first authoritative manual of indigenous medicinal plants in the Philippines. This compilation serves as an invaluable reference for revolutionary and progressive health workers in providing training and services to the masses, especially in the countryside.

 

Co was one of the founders of Community Health, Education, Services and Training in the Cordillera Region (Chestcore) in 1981. This organization conducted valuable work among the national minorities in Cordillera and other places and in systematizing the knowledge of the masses in the region about medicinal plants for basic health care. It was able to document 122 medicinal plants in the region complete with their scientific and common names, descriptions, illustrations and their nutritional and medicinal values.

 

From:

http://www.philippinerevolution.net/cgi-bin/ab/text.pl?issue=20101121;lang=eng;article=07

 

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CPP condemns Nov. 15 Leyte massacre, urges investigation by joint GRP-NDFP committee
Communist Party of the Philippines
November 18, 2010
 

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) condemns in the strongest possible terms the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and its Philippine Army 19th Infantry Battalion for the Nov. 15 killing in Kananga, Leyte of one of the country's leading botanists and two of his assistants.

University of the Philippines lecturer Dr. Leonard Co and his assistants Sofronio Cortez and Julius Borromeo were killed after forces of the 19th IB mistook them for armed guerrillas of the New Peoples' Army (NPA) and fired at them while they were doing fieldwork at the edge of a forested area of Kananga in cooperation with the Energy Development Corporation (EDC). Two members of the team, Policarpio Batute and Ronino Gibe, survived the massacre, while three others--students undergoing internship--remain missing as of this writing.

To cover up for their crime, the 19th IB claimed that Co and company were caught in an AFP-NPA crossfire. The 19th IB also claimed that they sent their forces to the area in response to reports by the EDC about the presence of NPA members--an allegation denied by EDC officials. Batute, a local peasant who served as guide to Co's group and survived the carnage, disputed the military claims, saying that there were no NPA guerrillas in the vicinity and that the gunfire came only from the position of the AFP forces. He said that the AFP soldiers did not even verify their targets before shooting as soon as they arrived at the area and fired indiscriminately for more than 15 minutes.

The CPP demanded the immediate pullout of the 19th IB from the area and disciplinary measures for its officers and forces behind the massacre. The CPP also demanded more severe measures against the 19th IB for past crimes against humanity, pointing out that the same military unit was responsible for several fascist atrocities in the past ten years, including the April 2003 mass torture and massacre of nine peasants in Kananga, Leyte and the Nov. 21, 2007 massacre of ten peasants in Palo, Leyte.

"The officials and men of the 19th IB should immediately be demobilized, disarmed and confined to barracks to ensure that the investigation of the Nov. 15 massacre can be carried out smoothly and its perpetrators subjected to criminal prosecution and punishment," said the CPP.

The CPP urged Co and his assistants' families, colleagues and friends to file their complaints before the Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC) of the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). The Aquino government should instruct the AFP to allow the JMC unimpeded access to the area in order for it carry out a thoroughgoing investigation into the massacre. The investigators should also determine what became of the missing student-members of Co's team.

The CPP extended its deepest condolences to the family, collegues and friends of the victims of this dastardly crime. It also paid tribute to Co's work as one of the leading plant taxonomist in the Philippines.

"Since the early 1980s up to his killing, Leonard Co had been leading in the painstaking work for the first authoritative compilation of information on indigenous medicinal plants in the Philippines. The compilation he had been coming out with has served as an invaluable reference for revolutionary and progressive health workers in giving medical training and services to the masses, especially in the rural areas," said the CPP.

Co was the founder of the progressive community-based primary health care organization Community Health, Education, Services and Training in the Cordillera Region (Chestcore), way back in 1981. This organization significantly helped in the medical training and primary health services given to national minority communities in the Cordilleras and elsewhere and in systematizing the indigenous communities' knowledge about medicinal plants for their own primary health care. One of their achievements under his leadership and tutelege was the listing and and documentation of 122 medicinal plants in the region with their scientific and common names, descriptions, illustrations and nutritional and medicinal values.

[1]Information Bureau, Communist Party of the Philippines, Press Release, November 18, 2010
 

From:

http://philippinerevolution.net/

 

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From:

http://philippinerevolution.net/

 

     
     
     
     

At the press conference held this morning, Dec. 8,  at the UP Institute of Biology, the FACT-FINDING MISSION-KANANGA KILLINGS, revealed that


• the direction of the bullet marks on the trees originated from a vantage point on the ridge above Leonard Co and his team
 

• the direction of fire was concentrated on the area where Leonard and his 4 other companions were standing
 

• tree no.4 was hit three (3) times and the large tree were Ronino Gibe hid had six (6) bullet marks in it, and
 

• that there are no bullet marks on the trees from the ground looking up to the ridge nor from any other side except from the vantage position.
 

The report and the powerpoint we presented earlier can be found at www.justiceforleonardco.org

 or directly at http://bit.ly/hMDhFs

--
Make science and technology serve the people!

ADVOCATES OF SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY FOR THE PEOPLE (AGHAM)
P.O. Box 268 Araneta Center 1135 Cubao
Quezon City Philippines
T: +63 2 4343173
F: +63 2 9209099
URL: www.agham.org
 

     
 
     
 
     
 
           
   
           
 

 

Inquirer Opinion/ Talk of the Town


HOW IT HAPPENED
Death of a botanist
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 18:43:00 12/25/2010
 

(Editor’s Note: This is a reconstruction of events that led to the killings of University of the Philippines botanist Leonardo Co, forester Sofronio Cortez and farmer Julius Borromeo on November 15 allegedly by troops of the Philippine Army.
 

Co and four of his companions were conducting research on tree biodiversity in the Manawan-Kananga Watershed in Leyte for the Lopez-owned Energy Development Corp. They were collecting specimen seedlings of endangered trees for replanting.


The reconstruction of events was made by a 33-member fact-finding mission organized by Agham-Advocates of Science and Technology for the People, a group of mostly UP teachers and graduates. The mission gathered testimonies and observations from people involved in the incident.
An Army unit claimed that Co, Cortez and Borromeo were killed in a crossfire with the New People’s Army. But Agham said there was no firefight, basing its conclusion on accounts of survivors.)
 

DAY OF SHOOTING
NOVEMBER 15
 

7 a.m.: Sofronio Cortez left his home wearing a long-sleeved shirt and an Energy Development Corp. (EDC) ID. He brought a backpack with him. Julius Borromeo (who was wearing a brown T-shirt and yellow raincoat) and Policarpio Balute, a guide, were fetched by a driver from EDC before breakfast at around 7 a.m. Borromeo brought a sack with him (where food and collected samples are placed). This was his first day for this job order.
Leonard Co and forester Ronino Gibe had breakfast at the canteen of the Leyte Geothermal Plant Facility (LGPF) staff house.
 

8 a.m.: Co and Gibe were fetched by a brown pick-up service vehicle and brought to the Environmental Management Division (EMD) office where they talked to Leonita P. Sabando. Co notified Sabando of the plan to go to Pad 403. [A pad is a source of steam which a geothermal plant uses for electricity generation.]
Pad 403 is a good forest site for collecting samples, according to the forest guards. Gibe went to the Community Partnership Department (CPD) and asked about ilang-ilang seedlings and informed Ali Sulla about the trip to Pad 403.
 

8:30 a.m.: Co, Gibe and Cortez visited the nursery at the LGPF from the EMD site. They were joined here by Balute and Borromeo. At around this time, EDC said that it informed the military through various channels about the team going to Pad 403.
 

9 a.m.: The team left the nursery and went to Pad 403 using the service vehicle.
At about 9:15 a.m.: The team went to Pad 411d from Pad 403 since Co was not sure that this was the site he earlier visited.
 

At about 9:30 a.m.: Co and his team went back to Pad 403 upon checking the map of Gibe.
At about 9:50 a.m.: The team reached Tree 5-01 (mayapis), recorded its location and marked the tree with orange paint as 5-01. Three meters away was Tree 5-02 (Syzigium spp.) and Balute marked it 5-02. About 59 meters away, the team found Tree 5-03 (tanguile) and walked around it.
At about 11 a.m.: It rained hard and Co decided to stop the survey. They then planned to go back to the nursery. Cortez then texted the driver to fetch the team.
 

At about 11:15 a.m.: Cortez received an SMS from the driver informing them that he was already at Pad 403. However, the rain abated and Co suggested that they continue to measure and survey the trees.
 

Balute was the one measuring the diameter of the trees, Gibe was the one recording the data, and Borromeo was in charge of bringing their food and other implements. Cortez and Co were examining the trees and leaves and identifying the species.
 

At about 11:30 a.m.: The team walked a few meters to Tree No. 4 and was in the process of deciding on its species by looking up at the leaves. The team had just finished recording the statistics of Tree No. 4. Balute noticed that there were fruit seeds on the ground. He also sensed that there were other people in the area but continued with his work.
 

Minutes before noon: On Gibe’s left was Borromeo. On Gibe’s right was Co then Cortez with Balute at the back of the tree (in reference to Gibe). Gibe had just taken the picture of the tree on his cell camera while Balute was about to scrape the bark of the fourth tree to have it numbered when gunshots were fired from where they were facing. The team was positioned at the front of those who were shooting.
 

One by one, they dropped to the ground and pleaded for the shooting to stop. Co shouted: “Maawa kayo. Hindi kami kalaban.” Balute yelled “Hindi po kami kalaban. Tama na po.” Gibe seconded these pleas by shouting the same.
 

But the gunfire did not stop. They were sure that whoever was firing heard them as they also heard one man from the group shooting at them saying: “Dia lang diay mo!” (“Nandito lang pala kayo!”) As Balute described it, there was rapid fire and some big explosions, causing the ground to shake.
At around noon: Balute decided to run away from the place and tried to convince the others to follow him. He was thinking that if he would not run, he would eventually die there. The four were still lying face down on the ground with only tree branches and roots for cover.
 

Balute was able to run away from the site because he was positioned at the back of a big tree, unlike the others who had nothing for cover.
 

Co was crying and complaining about his back. Cortez was still able to ask Co about his condition, to which Co replied that he was shot in the back. Gibe crept toward a large tree in front of him and hid behind its buttress. Gibe tried to call for help from his cell phone but was not able to. The gunfire lasted for 15 to 20 minutes.
 

The military said that a 19th Infantry Battalion unit led by First Lieutenant [Ronald] Odchimar chanced upon a unit of the New People’s Army (NPA) and exchanged fire with it. The “crossfire” lasted for some 10 to 12 minutes. Asked to characterize the exchanges, Lt. Col. Federico Tutaan said M16s were used by the NPA. The firing was continuous for that period. He did not say if there were other firearms used.
 

12:17 p.m.: Shortly before this, Balute reached Pad 403 where he caught up with the driver and had himself brought to the EDC office of the EMD. EDC received an SMS from Gibe at 12:17 p.m. From Gibe’s affidavit, the SMS was: “2long pinagbabaril po kami near 411d.” This was sent to Ali Sulla of the CPD in the LGPF.
 

12:30 p.m.: An SMS from Sulla was received on Co’s phone saying “Sir gud am, may encounter daw dyan ali muna kayo.” At around this time, Balute arrived in the EMD office and informed EDC about the shooting. This was EDC’s first confirmation of the incident. EDC then dispatched a vehicle to go to Pad 403.
 

12:38 p.m.: Another SMS was received on Co’s phone from Sabando, “Sir Lenard, Nino ds s lps. per security advise, pull out fr area immediately.”
 

The troops advanced closer to Co and the others who were then still lying face down on the ground. They approached the team from both sides. The soldiers were wearing camouflaged uniforms. Some of them approached Gibe who was then behind the buttress of a big tree.
 

At around this time, the EDC vehicle would have arrived at Pad 403. Gibe decided to break cover and identify himself. A soldier ordered him to come out while pointing a gun at him and saying: “May isa pa palang buhay dito.” Gibe raised his arms while asking for help for his companions. The others were not responding, except for Borromeo who was lying down and moaning.
 

One soldier said, “Wala na. ’Di na aabot sa ospital kasama mo.” This soldier then asked him about his two other armed companions and asked Gibe to show his weapons. Gibe denied that he or any of his four companions had arms. He said that one was able to escape and he knew that he had no weapons with him.
 

One soldier said: “P... ina, natalay tayo!” The soldier talking to Gibe ordered him to lie face down and close his eyes. Gibe complied as the soldier said that the former should not look at him and his companions. They saw the GPS unit and cell phone and took these from Gibe. The soldier ordered him to be still and silent while Gibe was continually asking for pity and help for his companions.
The soldiers then asked Gibe to identify himself and his group’s purpose in the area. Gibe answered that they were employees of EDC and he showed them his identification card. “Ako po si Ronino Gibe, taga Los Baños, Laguna, taga-EDC po ako at kasama ko po si Sir Leonard Co, UP professor po siya. Si Kuya Ponyong po EDC employee dito sa Leyte Geothermal.”
 

The soldier then asked Gibe about his engineer’s notebook, Co’s notes, GPS unit and map. Gibe answered that the team was doing a survey of the location of the trees. The soldier asked him further about the sketch that Co’s team had of the area. Gibe explained that they were marking the areas where they can get seeds, seedlings and wildings, and pointed to the group’s sack with the collected samples.
 

The soldier asked Gibe about his group’s contact and Gibe replied that he was part of EDC and his contact was Sabando from the EMD and Sulla from the CPD. The soldier stopped his interrogation but Gibe continued to plead. The soldier told him to keep quiet: “Wag kang maingay! Ligtas ka na!”
Minutes before 1 p.m.: Gibe saw Borromeo bleeding and heard him say that he was hit near the heart. Borromeo was asking the soldiers that they go down. Gibe shouted for help but no one from the soldiers answered. Borromeo was still able to ask Gibe about the latter’s condition before the soldiers berated Gibe to stop talking.
 

1:44 p.m.: At this point, Tutaan received an SMS from his higher ups to do a medivac immediately. Upon his receipt of the ground report, Tutaan said that he had already ordered a medivac.
At about 2 p.m.: For about two hours, Gibe was lying face down. He saw some soldiers meeting at a distance. He was then asked to stand up. A soldier then repeated the earlier questions posed to Gibe on his group’s purpose and coordination. The soldier asked Gibe if he knew of the military’s operation in the area and mentioned that the military had two companions who were killed [“at nalagasan kami ng dalawang kasama”].
 

Gibe answered in the negative and said that the team was with Cortez who was an EDC employee and that he knew that they had prior coordination with EDC. The soldier asked again about his contact and Gibe repeated that he was part of EDC and his contacts were Sabando and Sulla.
A soldier asked Gibe: “Imposible naman na hindi nyo nakita yung tatlong tao na may mga armas? Thirty minutes na kaming nagoobserba na palakad-lakad sila!”
 

Gibe said that his group did not see anyone and kept on asking for help for Borromeo.
The military then gave first aid to Borromeo, who heard them call his condition peklat. Gibe asked for his cell phone and this was when he got to talk to Sabando and relay details of the incident.
The soldiers then ordered Gibe to get up and proceed to Pad 403 near the Mahi-aw plant. Borromeo was laid down on a sack and brought down by the soldiers. Gibe was showing the tree markings they made along the way down to Pad 403.
 

At about 3 p.m.: Gibe saw the vehicles of EDC arrive together with an ambulance at Pad 403. He boarded a service vehicle of EDC and was brought to Osfa Hospital in Ormoc City. He heard that Borromeo died at the pad. The soldiers then brought down the bodies of Co and Cortez to Pad 403. EDC then brought the bodies to V. Rama Funeral Homes.
 

At about 4 p.m.: Tutaan declared the site a “no-crisis zone” but mopping-up operations by the military continued after that.
 

4:30 p.m.: The chief of police, a certain Senior Inspector Camacho, learned of the event from the Kananga vice mayor. He confirmed the information from the 19th IB but the police were not allowed access to the site “kasi may hot pursuit operation.”
 

SOCO VISIT
NOV. 16: The police Soco team was able to do a site visit only at this time. EDC did not join the police team.
NOV. 17: EDC was able to access the site.
From:

http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropinion/talkofthetown/view/20101225-310935/Death-of-a-botanist


 

     
 
     
     
     
     
     
     

▼  Lenard's ashes on UP soil  ▼

December 8,  2010

     
     
     
     
           
     
     
     

 

Kung ano ang sinasabi ng mga puno ng Kananga sa pagpatay kina Leonardo Co
Posted By Kenneth Roland A. Guda
www.pinoyweekly.org

December 8, 2010

Nakatingala sila sa isang puno, pinagmamasdan ang mga dahon, tanghaling tapat ng Nobyembre 15.

Nasa isang masukal na gubat sa Kananga, Leyte ang field work team ni Leonardo Co. Isang tanyag na taxonomist – o siyentistang nagkaklasipika ng mga tanim at puno – si Leonard. Nangongolekta sila ng seedlings ng mga puno sa lugar. Pangkaraniwang gawain na ito ng mga siyentistang tulad niya.

Kasama niya ang kanyang mga guide at katuwang sa pananaliksik na sina Sofronio “Ponyong” Cortez, Julius “Oyong” Borromeo, Policarpio “Carping” Balute, at Ronino “Niño” Gibe. Nasa gitna sila ng munting palaisipan: Tanguile ba o isang specie ng Shorea ang punong tinitingala? Nalito sila, dahil may nakitang terminal bud ng Shorea sa ibaba ng puno. Pero mukha namang Tanguile, isang tanyag na hardwood, ang puno.

Nakatingala sila sa isang puno, pinagmamasdan ang mga dahon, nang magsimula ang pamamaril.

Interogasyon habang agaw-buhay
Nang matapos ang pamamaril, natagpuang patay ang tanyag na taxonomist na si Leonard. Gayundin sina Ponyong at Oyong. Nakatakas, pero may malalim na sugat sa kalooban, sina Carping at Niño.

Mula sa mga pahayag ni Carping sa midya, sinumpaang salaysay ni Niño na sinumite sa Commission on Human Rights, gayundin sa pag-aaral ng isang independiyenteng fact-finding team na pinamunuan ng grupong Agham (Science and Technology for the People), maaaring mabuo ang mga sirkumstansiya ng pamamaril.

Tatlong araw na silang nasa field work noong Nobyembre 15. Sakop ng operasyon ng isang geothermal plant ng Energy Development Corporation o EDC sa Kananga ang lugar ng pag-aaral nina Leonard. Dating pinatatakbo ng Philippine National Oil Company na pag-aari ng gobyerno, ngayo’y isang pribadong kompanyang pag-aari ng pamilyang Lopez ang EDC.

Tamang tama, konsultant ng EDC sa biodiversity si Leonard, kung kaya may akses siya sa kagubatang kinasasakupan ng operasyon ng planta. Nandoon siya para mangolekta ng seedlings ng mga matatayog na puno sa bahaging ito ng bansa.

Nakatingala sila sa isang puno, inaaral ang mga dahon, nang may magpaputok sa likod ng grupo. Agad na nakatago si Niño. Sa lumabas na mga pahayag niya sa midya, sinabi naman ni Policarpio na nakatakbo siya. Pero sina Leonard, Sofronio at Julius ang tinamaan. Mula sa mga pahayag nina Niño at Policarpio, mistulang pinaulanan sila ng bala. Parang umaangat ang lupa, anila, sa pagtalop ng bala sa lupa. Tumatalsik ang balat ng puno. Habang nakadapa, hindi maiangat ni Niño ang kanyang ulo sa takot na madaplisan ng bala.

Nang matapos ang pagpapaputok – 20 minutos iyon, bagamat ayon sa militar ay 10 hanggang 12 minuto lamang – lumapit ang mga sundalo. Kinuwestiyon si Niño: Nasaan na ang mga kasamahan n’yong armado? Bakit nandito kayo? Bakit may drowing kayo ng lugar? Bakit may GPS kayo? Lumalabas na tumagal mahigit isang oras ang pagtatanong.

Hawak ng isang miyembro ng FFM Team ang karatulang tumutukoy sa isang clearing sa ibaba bilang "Pad 403", ang lugar na pinagbabaan sa tatlong namatay matapos ang pamamaril. Ang tinutungtungang ito ng miyembro ng FFM Team ay ilang metro lang mula sa unang puno na minarkahan nina Leonard. Mahihinuha sa larawan kung gaano kalapit ang pinangyarihan ng pamamaril kina Leonard sa isang clearing, kung kaya lalong nakakapagduda kung bakit tumagal nang higit isang oras ang militar bago ibaba ang mga namatay. (KR Guda) [5]

Hawak ng isang miyembro ng FFM Team ang karatulang tumutukoy sa isang clearing sa ibaba bilang "Pad 403", ang lugar na pinagbabaan sa tatlong namatay matapos ang pamamaril. (KR Guda)

Ibinaba sila, alas-dos na ng hapon. Binitbit sila ng mga sundalo, at ibinaba sa nalalapit na pad (isang sementadong clearing na dinebelop ng EDC), tinatawag na “Pad 403,” at doon naghihintay na ang mga tauhan at sasakyan ng EDC.

Pumanaw na sina Leonard noon. Patay na rin si Ponyong. Ngunit sugatan pa si Oyong, ayon mismo sa militar. Dumadaing pa umano si Oyong, matapos ang putukan. Posibleng dahil isang oras pa ang lumipas, isang oras pang nagsagawa ng interogasyon ang militar, pumanaw din malaon si Oyong.

Mula sa Pad 403, sa pagitan ng alas-dos at 4:30 ng hapon, dinala ng sasakyan ng EDC at ilang sundalo ang tatlong bangkay sa himpilan ng pulisya para ipa-blotter ang kaganapan. Mula sa himpilan, dinala sa ospital para ideklarang patay, at saka dinala sa punerarya.

Di agad nakapag-imbestiga ang pulis at Leyte SOCO sa lugar ng insidente. Ayon kay Senior Insp. Joel Camacho, hepe ng PNP sa Kananga, kinabukasan ng alas-11 ng umaga na unang naimbestigahan ang lugar at nakapagsagawa ng forensic examination sa lugar ang SOCO. Dahil umano ito sa “hot pursuit operations” na ginagawa pa ng militar noong hapon ng Nobyembre 15, matapos mabaril sina Leonard.

Tanyag na tao
Tulad ng matatayog na puno ng Kananga ang reputasyon ni Leonard bilang siyentista. Ito marahil ang dahilan kung bakit nakuha ng pagkamatay niya ang atensiyon ng midya at publiko.

Nobyembre 17 na nang lumabas sa midya ang insidente, matapos ihayag ng militar sa midya ang kanilang bersiyon sa pangyayari. “Naipit” sa isang engkuwentro – isang “chance encounter” pa nga raw – ang grupo ni Leonard. Ayon kay Lt. Col. Federico Tutaan, kumander ng 19th Infantry Battalion ng Philippine Army na siyang may sakop sa operasyon ng militar doon, Nobyembre 12 pa lamang ay nakakuha na sila ng impormasyon na may mga rebeldeng New People’s Army (NPA) sa lugar na ito ng EDC.

“It was a battalion operation,” paliwanag ni Tutaan, nang kapanayamin ng naturang fact-finding team (kasama ang Pinoy Weekly) na pumunta sa Kananga sa basbas ng pamilya ni Leonard noong Nob. 27. Ayon kay Tutaan, nagsasagawa ng operasyon ang kanyang tropa sa lugar magmula Nobyembre 14. (Araw mismo ito na nagdeklara ang Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) ng “unofficial ceasefire” para mapanood ng mga sundalo sa telebisyon ang laban sa boksing ni Manny Pacquiao kay Antonio Margarito.)

Isang squad mula sa naturang batalyon ang nagkataong nakakita sa “di bababa sa 10” miyembro raw ng NPA.

Isang oras na umanong minamanmanan ng mga tropa ng 19th IB, sa pangunguna ng isang 1Lt. Ronald Odchimar, ang mga rebeldeng umaali-aligid sa isang lugar. Pumwesto sa isang “mataas, natatago, at superyor” na posisyon ang mga militar. Una pa raw na nagpaputok ang mga rebelde.

Hindi nakatitiyak si Tutaan na hindi mga tropa niya ang nakapatay kina Leonard. Pero matitiyak daw ito sa autopsy ng mga bangkay, gayundin sa ballistic at forensic investigation sa lugar at mga baril na isinumite ni Tutaan sa Scene of the Crime Operatives ng Philippine National Police at sa National Bureau of Investigation. Iyon ay kung mismong mga baril na ginamit sa operasyon ang isinumite ni Tutaan sa mga imbestigador.

“Isang playground kasi ng NPA ang lugar,” sabi ni Tutaan. Bagamat di umano makapagkampo ang mga rebelde sa lugar dahil sa lapit nito sa battalion camp ng 19th IB, “frequent” (madalas) umano na nakikita ang NPA doon – nanghaharas sa kanilang mga tropa, nagbabanta sa planta.

At bagamat nakikipag-ugnayan ang 19th IB sa mga operasyon nito sa lugar, hindi raw alam ng EDC na may operasyon ang militar sa panahong bago napaslang sina Leonard.

Pinabubulaanan ito ni Tutaan, dahil “shared information” naman daw sa pagitan ng militar at EDC ang mga tulad nito. Hindi man nila tuwirang sinabihan ang EDC sa kanilang aktuwal na operasyon sa lugar, nakatitiyak siyang alam ng EDC ito.

Sinabi naman sa midya ni Lt. Gen. Ralph Villanueva, hepe ng Central Command ng AFP kung saan nakapasailalim ang 19th IB, na nasa lugar ang tropa ng Army para “unahan” (preempt) ang NPA na ayon sa “intelligence sources” umano ng Army ay nagbabalak daw na atakihin ang mga instalasyon ng EDC.

Itinatanggi naman ito ng EDC. Hindi umano nila alam na may operasyong nagaganap sa araw na iyon.

Itinanggi rin ng EDC na may madalas na nakikitang NPA sa erya. Ayon kay Manuel Paete, plant manager ng geothermal plant ng EDC sa Leyte, taong 2005 pa huling nagkaulat ng presensiya ng NPA sa mga lugar na sinasakupan ng planta. May sariling puwersang panseguridad (pinamumunuan ng dating mga militar din) ang planta, at maraming checkpoint sa mga kalsada sa loob nito.

Noong mga araw at linggo bago ang pangyayari, wala silang nabalitaan, nalaman, o nakitang grupo ng mga rebelde sa kanilang lugar.

Ilegal na pagtotroso
Bakit nagsasagawa ng mga operasyong militar ang 19th IB sa lugar ng operasyon ng EDC, gayong may sarili namang puwersang panseguridad ang huli?

Ayon kay Tutaan, mahalagang instalasyon ang planta sa Kananga. Pangalawang pinakamalaking geothermal plant ito sa buong mundo, at nagsusuplay ng kuryente sa Leyte, Cebu, Bohol, Negros, Panay, Biliran, Siquijor, Samar at ilang bahagi ng Southern Luzon. Presidente at chief executive officer ng EDC si Paul Aquino, tiyuhin ni Pang. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III at nangungunang strategist ni Aquino noong panahon ng kampanya.

“Kasama sa mandato ng yunit (namin) ang pag-secure sa vital installations,” ani Tutaan. At bagamat may sariling puwersang panseguridad ang EDC, “we (Army) have to secure the general area of EDC.” Ibig sabihin, ang 107,625 ektaryang bundok at lupaing sakop ng operasyon ng planta.

Naiuulat din sa Kananga ang malaganap na ilegal na pagtotroso sa masukal na kagubatan dito. Ayon sa State of Local Government Report na inilabas ng Department of Interior and Local Government noong 2009 hinggil sa kalagayan ng forest ecosystems sa Kananga: “Forest resources and wildlife habitat are at risk; Incidence of large-scale illegal logging is high. Forest resources and wildlife habitat are severely at risk.”

Ayon kay Dr. Pacencia Milan, beteranong ecologist, dating presidente ng Visayas State University sa Baybay, Leyte, at kaibigan ni Leonard, laganap ang mga ulat ng ilegal na pagtotroso sa kagubatan malapit sa lugar ng insidente. Nababalita rin ng ilang impormante niya na may mga militar na nagpoprotekta umano sa mga operator ng ilegal na pagtotrosong ito. Pero wala siyang paraan para makumpirma ang impormasyong ito.

Gayunman, ilegal na pagtotroso rin kaya ang dahilan kung bakit nagsasagawa ng mga operasyong militar ang 19th IB sa lugar? Sabi ni Tutaan, wala siyang alam na nagsasagawa ng illegal logging sa mismong lugar ng pagkamatay nina Leonard. Gayunman, alam nilang may nag-oopereyt na illegal loggers “sa kabilang erya…sa bandang kanan.”

Katunayan, isang linggo bago ang pamamaril kina Leonard, may nahuli umanong ilegal na mga mangtotroso sa lugar na ito – pero di niya alam kung sino ang nahuli o ano ang nasamsam ng Department of Environment and Natural Resources at ilang elemento ng Army.

Pero sa pagkukuwento niya, mukhang maraming alam sa pagtotroso si Tutaan. Isinalarawan niya sa fact-finding team kung ano ang hitsura ng pinuputol na troso: “Pag puputulin ang puno, at tumayo ka, di ba bilog ang makikita mo? (Cross-section ng puno.) Yung bilog na yun, kasya [ang tao] dun!”

Samantala, sinabi ng mga kaanak ni Ponyong sa FFM Team na napag-alaman nilang may aabot sa 30 kataong rattan cutters (namumutol ng puno ng rattan) na diumano’y pinayagan ng EDC na gumala at mamutol ng puno ng rattan sa may lugar ng insidente, isang linggo bago ang mga pamamaslang.

Paliwanag ni Anthony Arbias, kapwa opisyal ni Leonard sa Philippine Native Plants Conservation Society at isa sa mga miyembro ng FFM Team, mahalagang bahagi sana ng conservation at reforestation sa mga kagubahatang tulad ng sa Kananga ang isinasagawa ng grupo ni Leonard. Iyong kinokolekta nilang seedlings ang maaaring magamit para mapatubo at mapalaki sa nursery at kalauna’y maitanim sa mga bahagi ng gubat na nakakalbo na.

Engkuwentro?
May engkuwentro ba talaga o wala? May rebelde ba talagang umaaligid sa mismong laylayan ng geothermal plant ng EDC sa Kananga, Leyte noong Nobyembre 15? Mahalagang sagutin ang mga tanong na ito, para malaman kung sino ang responsable sa pagkamatay nina Leonard, Ponyong at Oyong.

Sa pahayag ng National Democratic Front-Eastern Visayas (NDF-EV), ang pampulitikang organisasyon ng mga rebelde, sinabi ng tagapagsalita nito na si Fr. Santiago Salas na “improbable” (malayo sa posibilidad) na namatay sina Leonard sa palitan ng putok sa pagitan ng NPA at mga tropa ng 19th IB. “The NPA camps are well-hidden and highly secure areas inaccessible to most, and an NPA unit on maneuvers also stays away from civilians to maintain secrecy and to avoid endangering them,” ani Salas.

Pinuntahan ng fact-finding team ang mismong site ng insidente. Nakita ng team ang matatayog na mga punong pinag-aralan nina Leonard. Nakita nito ang marka na iniwan nina Leonard sa unang tatlong puno. Nakita rin nito ang punong hinahandang markahan at tinitingala ng lima bago pagbabarilin.

Nakita rin ng fact-finding team ang isang nalalapit na mataas na posisyon. Isang ridge ito na tinatayang aabot sa 40 metro ang layo sa punong tiningala nina Leonard. Sa pag-akyat sa ridge na ito, tanaw ang punong huling sinusuri nina Leonard. Bagamat may kalayuan (tantiya ni Tutaan, 30 hanggang 40 metro ang layo), kitang kita sina Leonard. May “clear shot” ang sinumang nasa puwestong ito, ika nga.

Sa mahigit isang oras ng pagmamasid at pagdodokumento, napansin din ng team na lahat ng nakitang pinaghihinalaang marka ng bala (pinaghihinalaang tama ng mga bala sa mga puno) ay galing sa isang direksiyon lamang. Ang kabilang bahagi ng mga punong may tama ng bala sa isang direksiyon ay walang tama.

“Sa ating initial findings mula sa fact-finding mission, (lumalabas na) isang side lang ang pinanggalingan ng mga bala doon sa pagpunta sa crime-scene. Isang indikasyon ito na walang crossfire na nangyari,” ani Dr. Giovanni Tapang, propesor ng physics sa Unibersidad ng Pilipinas, tagapangulo ng Agham at isa sa mga pinuno ng misyon. “Dito sa ating pagtantiya sa physical evidence na ito, makikita nating sina Leonard Co na gumagawa lamang ng isang tree survey sa malapit sa Pad 403 ng EDC ay tinamaan ng bullets na nanggaling sa ridge.”

Lumalabas na may ilang inconsistencies din sa kuwento ni Tutaan. Sinabi kasi niya sa fact-finding team, na “nasa harap ng mga tropa ang kalaban (NPA), nasa kanan (ng militar) sina Co.” Direktang nasa harap ng ridge ang punong iniimbestigahan noon nina Leonard. Kung sinasabi ng militar na nasa harap nila noon ang pinaghihinalaang mga NPA, mukhang sina Leonard iyong tinutukoy nila.

Napagkamalan?
Malakas ang posibilidad, kung gayon, na napaghinalaan ng mga militar na NPA sina Leonard kung kaya pinaputukan.

Dahil ba may dala ang dalawa sa kanila na mahahabang itim na payong na maaaring pagkamalang baril sa malayo? Dahil ba paboritong sumbrero ni Leonard ang isang sumbrerong may star sa gitna – sumbrerong karaniwang sinusuot ng mga lider-rebelde, at pinasikat ng mga rebolusyonaryong lider sa ibang bansa na sina Che Guevara at Mao Zedong? Ang mga sundalo lamang na mismong nagpaputok ang tiyak na makasasagot.

Pero sa ngayon, nananatiling nasa proteksiyon sila ng 19th IB. Iginigiit ng kanilang kumander na si Lt. Col. Tutaan na engkuwentro ang naganap. Samantala, kung mayroon mang rebelde sa maulang araw na iyon noong Nobyembre 15, walang ibang nakakita kundi sila.

Di nakita ng EDC, ng sanlaksang mga guwardiya nito, na nagbabantay sa mga checkpoint, at huling nakabalita ng di-kumpirmadong presensiya ng NPA noon pang 2005. Di rin alam ng mga manggagawa ng EDC, na nagtatrabaho sa geothermal wells na matatagpuan malapit sa lugar ng insidente. Di rin alam ng pulisya, sa pangunguna ni Senior Insp. Camacho, na tila ayaw magsalita ng taliwas sa sinasabi ng militar, nang kapanayamin ng fact-finding team.

Higit sa lahat, di alam nina Leonard, Ponyong, Oyong, Carping at Nino. Sa salaysay pa nga nina Nino at Carping, wala silang nakitang ni anino ng rebelde. Sa obserbasyon nila, mula sa iisang direksiyon ang mga bala.

Ayon sa ilang nakakilala sa kanya, makaranasang siyentista si Leonard. “Hindi siya nagte­-take ng risks,” kuwento ni Dr. Milan. Malamang daw na pumunta si Leonard sa kagubatang iyon ng Kananga dahil sigurado siya at ang kanyang team sa kanilang seguridad. Sigurado siyang ligtas siyang makakapagsarbey ng mga puno.

Posibleng magamit sana ang mga kaalamang nakuha ni Leonard doon para sa reforestation ng Leyte, na maraming beses nang sinapitan ng trahedya (Ormoc noong 1991 at Guinsaugon noong 2006) dahil diumano sa mga nakakalbong kagubatan doon.

Noong araw na iyon, tumitingala sina Leonard hindi lamang sa mga puno. Mistulang tumitingala sila sa kinabukasan ng Leyte, sa maaaring magawa para mapaunlad ang nanganganib na kagubatan dito. Tulad ng biglaang pagbuwal ng mga illegal logger sa mga puno ng Leyte, biglaang nabuwal ng bala sina Leonard, Ponyong at Oying noong tanghaling iyon ng Nobyembre 15.

 

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
           
     
     
           

Fact Finding Mission to Kananga, Leyte

November 26 - 28, 2010

           
     

 

Snapshot 2008-08-27 17-24-08.tiff
KALIKASAN PEOPLE’S NETWORK FOR THE ENVIRONMENT
26 Matulungin St. Central Dist., Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines, 1100
Tel./Fax; +63 (2) 924-8756; E-mail: kalikasan.pne@gmail.com
Website: www.kalikasan.org


Press release

19 November 2010

Scientists and environmentalists cry justice for slain renowned taxonomist Leonard Co

Colleagues, students, scientists, environmentalists and human rights workers held a tribute and symbolic action to call on justice for the killing of Leonardo Co, arguably the top plant taxonomist in the country, and his two companions allegedly by the elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

"We condemn in the strongest terms the killing of distinguished ethno-botanist Leonardo Co and his companions, Sofronio Cortez and Julius Borromeo. The foul up of the military has caused a great loss not only to the scientific community but also to the cause of environmental conservation in the country." said Giovanni Tapang, chairperson of AGHAM Advocates of Science and Technology for the People.

Last November 15, 2010, Leonardo Co was conducting a biodiversity research commissioned by Lopez-owned Energy Development Corp (EDC) in the Manawan Kananga Watershed in Leyte, along with four other companions when alleged members of the Philippine Army 19th Infantry Battalion (IB) under the 802nd Infantry Brigade shot at the team.

Leonard Co, Sofronio Cortez, a forest guard of the EDC-Environmental Management Division, and Julius Borromeo, a member of the Tongonan Farmers Association (ToFA) were killed while Policarpio Balute, a ToFA member, and Roniño Gibe, a contractual forester of EDC’s corporate social responsibility department, survived the assault.

"We hold the military under the command of Lt. Col. Federico Tutaan responsible for the killing of innocent civilians. Tutaan himself admitted that the soldiers have the vantage position and started the firefight. They did not conduct desired protocols to validate and secure the presence of civilians in the area, especially since the environmental research team was said to have gotten clearance from the military to conduct a research," said Tapang.

Earlier reports said that the team was caught between a crossfire between the New People's Army rebels and military. However, witnesses and survivors recount that the shots came only from one direction raising question to the real events surrounding the incident.

"We are calling on President Aquino and the Commission on Human Rights to conduct an immediate, thorough and independent investigation of the case and hold accountable the perpetuators," said Tapang.

Representatives of Bayan Muna Partylist and Anakpawis partylist have already filed a resolution for the immediate investigation of the killing of Leonardo L. Co and and his comapanions.

"it is saddening how a brilliant scientist, who chose to work in the country and advocated for the conservation of our environment despite the plenty of opportunities abroad met a fate such as this. We scientists and researchers always put safety first in our fieldwork. Leonard knew this and would not have gone there if there was a question on security, so the killing was definitely a fault of another party. We avow to pursue justice and the truth behind this killing," said Perry Ong, colleague of Co, director of the Institute of Biology, College of Science, UP Diliman.

The symbolic action and press conference was attended by various environmental and science groups, students, colleagues and friends of Leonard Co and was held in the Institute of Biology University of the Philippines Diliman.

They also launched a petition campaign to add pressure to concerned government bodies to address the issue immediately. Concerned individuals can sign the online petition at www.agham.org/justiceforleonardco.

The groups will be holding a tribute later in the evening at Funeraria de la Paz , where the body of Co lies and join the march tomorrow at UP Diliman.

Reference: Giovanni Tapang, chairperson AGHAM, 09275736714.
Dr. Perry Ong, director Institute of Biology, College of Science, 09189015677.
 

KALIKASAN People's Network for the Environment is a network of people's organizations (POs), non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and environmental advocates. It believes that the struggle for the environment is a struggle of the people, thus all environmental action shall have the interest of the majority at their core.

 

-------------------------------------

 

Tragic Loss Amid Climate of Impunity

By CAROL PAGADUAN-ARAULLO
Streetwise | BusinessWorld
Posted by
Bulatlat.com

 

Leonard Co, unarguably one of the country’s foremost botanists and biodiversity experts, as well as an indefatigable conservationist, was killed in a forested area in Kananga, Leyte last Monday, together with two of his companions, while undertaking scientific explorations under the auspices of the Energy Development Corporation. Two others survived.

 

The Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) immediately claimed that the three killed were “collateral damage” in a legitimate military operation against rebel New People’s Army (NPA) who had been sighted in the area.

 

More than seven years ago, also in Kananga town, nine civilians were reported by Tacloban human rights groups and people’s organizations to have been tortured and massacred by soldiers of the 19th Infantry Battalion under the command of Lt. Col. Oscar Lactao, dubbed the “Palparan of Leyte”. The AFP reported the incident as an “encounter with the NPA”.

 

Human rights groups decried that eight of the victims were shot in the head, at close range, and that there was evidence of torture as shown by scald burns found on the victims’ bodies. Among the dead were Eugenio Tazan, 54-year-old peasant leader of the San Isidro Small Farmers Association, and 24-year-old Rowena Superior of the Bagalungon Small Farmers Association, who was three months pregnant. Four others killed were minors with ages ranging from 13 to 17.

 

In another infamous case in Palo, Leyte on Nov 21, 2005, a group of farmers resting by a make-shift warehouse before they start work on their plots were viciously attacked by elements of the 19th IB.

 

Hurling five grenades and firing continuously for 30 minutes, the soldiers killed seven farmers, including a pregnant woman, and wounded several others. Not satisfied, the soldiers hit the survivors with rifle butts, forcing them to confess they were armed and members of the NPA. Failing to extract confessions, the soldiers brought in a sack of old rifles and claimed these belonged to the farmers, in the same fashion that the 16th IB PA planted firearms and explosives as evidence against the Morong 43 early this year.

 

As in most cases of human rights violations in the rural areas, the planners and perpetrators of the Kananga and Palo massacres remain unpunished despite numerous evidence and testimonies. The victims being ordinary folk have been consigned to oblivion, just another statistic in the government’s counter-insurgency drive, as “rebels” who had been properly “neutralized” or as “collateral damage”.

Apparently, this is what the AFP wants to happen in the case of Co and the two other victims, forest guard Sofronio Cortez, and farmer Julius Borromeo, who were acting as Co’s assistants. But since the military cannot impugn the character of Co nor raise questions about the legitimacy of his group’s presence in the virgin forest surrounding the EDC geothermal facility, their claim is that the victims were killed in the supposed crossfire between clashing soldiers and rebels.

 

Unfortunately for the AFP, such claims are being belied by the two survivors of the massacre. “I only heard a continued burst of gunfire. There was no answering gunfire. None. That was what I heard…,” said Policarpio Balute, a member of the Tongonan Farmers Association who served as Co’s guide.

According to Niño Gibe as recounted by Co’s wife, “(Gibe) said that when my husband tried to get up from the ground, another burst of gunfire hit him in the back.” “After the second volley of gunfire, Niño said he held up his hand as sign of surrender and shouted, ‘Tama na, tama na’ (Stop it), and the gunfire suddenly stopped,” the wife said.

 

Compare these eyewitness accounts to that of Lt. Col. Federico Tutaan, commanding officer of the 19th IB who, in a press conference held in Tacloban, claimed that before the shooting started, his soldiers saw a person wearing black and holding an M-16 rifle, prompting them to assume a combat formation. Denying earlier reports that he said a soldier fired the first shot, Tutaan now says, “There was a volume of fire. The bullets ricocheted to different directions.”

 

Tutaan added that since early November, the 19th IB was on “heightened alert and always on a combat mode” because of intelligence reports that NPA members were planning to attack the EDC complex. He claimed that it was the EDC that had tipped them off on the presence of the NPA yet he also claimed they were uninformed that there were EDC employees in the area.

 

CENCOM Commanding General Ralph Villanueva betrayed the AFP’s mindset and default mode of shifting the blame to the NPAs, if not to the victims themselves, when he said that investigations are being conducted to determine whether the bullets that killed Co and his companions came from the soldiers’ rifles or from the NPAs. Assuming without granting that the bullets did not come from 19th IB firearms, how could he tell that these came from the NPA minus ballistic tests on such rifles?

Meanwhile the family of Co has raised pointed questions about the AFP’s version of what took place. They want to know why Co was allowed to enter the area if rebel presence had been reported there. And if the military was in such close coordination with the EDC with regard to their ongoing operations, why was Co not forewarned about imminent danger to his group of being “caught in a cross fire”?

 

Most poignantly, Co’s wife, Glenda asks in disbelief, “Nangyayari pa rin ang ganito kahit na sa ilalim ni Pnoy, bakit?” (“This is still happening under Pnoy’s administration, why?”)

The climate of impunity that pervades the entire AFP and other state security forces evidently emboldens them to continue perpetrating atrocities against perceived or even imagined “enemies”. Surely, the impunity with which the 19th IB had perpetrated several massacres and gotten away with them is behind this most recent tragedy.

 

The AFP has of late been attempting to refurbish its tarnished image with grand claims of upholding human rights.

 

A day after the killings, General Ricardo David Jr, AFP chief, proudly announced that the AFP was setting up human rights offices in all three major services – the army, navy and air force – and would designate HR officers down to the battalion level. The aim was purportedly “to demonstrate the AFP’s resolve and enhance its campaign in ensuring observance of human rights, international humanitarian law and the rule of law.”

 

However, an objective appraisal of these welcome words of institutional commitment to human rights in light of the AFP’s most recent actuations and track record leads to the inevitable conclusion that this latest pronouncement is nothing more than a public relations move.

 

It is in line with the so-called security sector reform being flaunted by Malacañang, whose aim is not really to reform the military, police and other state security forces but to clean up and improve their public image and make them more acceptable and credible.

 

How President Aquino, AFP Commander-in-Chief, will deal with this indiscriminate and wanton slaughter of a brilliant scientist and his assistants will again test his willingness and capacity to uphold human rights over and above the military’s protestations of innocence.

 

Published in Business World
19-20 November 2010


 

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
           
     
     
           

Rally for Leonard Co and the Kananga 3 in Manila and Tacloban, Leyte

International Human Rights Day

December 10, 2010

           
     

 

Press Release -- 19 November 2010
Ref: Jigs Clamor, Acting Secretary General, 0929-862-1076

"Killing of the Philippines' top botanist, Leonardo L. Co: another case of shoot first, ask questions later?" -- KARAPATAN

THE KILLING of the country's top botanist, Leonardo L. Co, 56, in Tongonan, Ormoc, Leyte last Monday by Philippine Army soldiers who opened fire on civilians, may be "another case of shoot first, ask questions later," the human rights group KARAPATAN said.

"Even as we grieve and commiserate with the families of the victims, we are calling for a thorough, diligent investigation of the incident where soldiers of the 19th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army (IBPA) under their commanding officer Lt. Col. Federico Tutaan are involved. The incident led to the death not only of the country’s top botanist, Leonardo Co but also of two (2) others, namely Sofronio G. Cortez, a forest guard of EDC-Environmental Management Division, and Julius Borromeo, a member of the Tongonan Farmers Association (ToFA)," Karapatan acting secretary general Jigs Clamor said.

Leonardo L. Co was a specialist in plant taxonomy and ethnobotany. He was serving as a biodiversity consultant of Lopez-owned Energy Development Corp. (EDC) and was gathering specimen seedlings of endangered trees with a five-member team of civilians when shot at, according to Manuel Paete, EDC resident manager.

Co’s two other companions, Policarpio Balute, a member of ToFA, and Roniño Gibe, a contractual forester with EDC’s corporate social responsibility department, survived.

"How can Lt. Col. Tutaan call this a 'legitimate encounter' between his troops and supposed New People's Army rebels when the fatalities are clearly civilians? We doubt seriously that there was ever a crossfire," Clamor asked.

"Tutaan calls the incident unfortunate. We call it condemnable," Clamor added.

"Tutaan even tried to justify his men's actions by saying that the visibility in the area was hampered by thick foliage. But why shoot when their target is not even clear in the first place? That is simply ridiculous," Clamor said.

"The problem really is the orientation and training of Philippine soldiers given by US advisers. Obama and Aquino are turning the Philippines into another Iraq and Afghanistan. This goes to show that even if there are rules of engagement to follow in the conduct of war, the AFP has only paid lip-service to that in their so-called 'human rights' handbook," Clamor said.

Co was the president of the Philippine Native Plants Conservation Society, museum researcher at the University of the Philippines Institute of Biological Sciences (UP IBS), curator of the Jose Vera Santos Herbarium, worked with the Community Health, Education, Services and Training in the Cordillera Administrative Region (Chestcore) based in Baguio City and known for his selfless devotion in helping communities about medicinal plants for their own primary health care.

"First, they illegally arrested, tortured and detained 43 community health workers. Now they may just have killed a top-rate botanist and a forest ranger. This puts the AFP’s interest on taking care of the environment, people's health, or the most fundamental right to human life in very serious questions," Karapatan said. ###
 

----------------------

November 19, 2010
News Release
For Reference: Roy Morilla, KMP information officer (09074180098) and Jay Cuesta, UMA media officer (09291745511)

Groups urged De Lima to seek for justice for botanist, farmer killed by soldiers

The national farmer organization Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP, Peasant Movement of the Philippines) and Peasant Network for Land, Justice and Human Rights (Tanggol Magsasaka) called for justice for Philippine’s top botanist Dr. Leonardo Co, 50-year-old farmer Julio Borromeo and the rest of their group who were assaulted by elements of the 19th Infantry Battalion on November 15, 2010 at Bgy. Tongonan, Kanangga, Leyte.

Dr. Co is an expert botanist from University of the Philippines - Los Baños (UPLB) hired by Philippine National Oil Corp. - Energy Dev’t Corp. (PNOC - EDC) Environment Management Dept. (EMD). Dr. Co was with Sofronio Cortez, a forester of PNOC - EDC EMD, Borromeo, Policarpio Balute, farmer resident of Tongonan and a young forester who graduated from UPLB.

Based on a report of Katungod (human rights group in Eastern Visayas) and SAGUPA - SB (KMP Eastern Visayas), Dr. Co’s group was conducting a research on the vicinity of Mahi-aw Plant of PNOC - EDC about 9 o’ clock in the morning. They were on rain gears with two big umbrellas with “ENERGY” printed on it. The team was examining trees and attempting to get samples and seeds. The two farmers served as their guide while Dr. Co and Cortez concentrated on examining the trees and their leaves.

About 12 noon, Policarpio sensed that there were other people at the vicinity but continued to work on the tree. When he was about to scrape off a bark from the tree, gunshots began to be fired aimed at them. The victims fell one by one with Dr. Co shouting “maawa kayo, hindi kami kalaban,” (spare us, we’re not enemies) which Policarpio and the young forester repeated but the gunfire continued. They also heard one of the perpetrator to say “Dia lang diay mo!” (you’re just here). Policarpio was able to hide as he took cover at the tree and decided to run away and instructed others to follow him. The four were still lying on the ground with only branches and roots of the trees for cover. The gunfire lasted for about 15 minutes. There were also ane explosion that pushed the other victims to leave their positions.

The perpetrators approached them and they saw men in camouflaged uniform, thus, they confirmed they were soldiers. The wounded young forester who was still alive showed his identification card. Farmer Borromeo was still alive but gravely wounded. They were ordered those who survived to proceed to Pad 403 near the Mahi-aw Plant while the soldiers brought the bodies of Dr. Co and Sofronio. Consequently, Borromeo died at Pad 403. PNOC - EDC brought the dead to V. Rama Funeral Homes and the wounded to Ormoc Sugar Farmers Association Hospital in Ormoc City.

“The military is at it again, killing those who serving the country well. Dr. Co was a top botanist of the country and he was working with the farmers when they were assaulted by the military. Justice should be given to him and the military should be punished,” Antonio Flores, KMP spokesperson and Tanggol Magsasaka co-convenor.

“The military is indiscriminate in attacking those at the countryside. This is very common as farmers were usual victims of their attacks. The science community, peasants and other sectors should seek for justice for Dr. Co. The military should not be spared of their transgression to the people,” Flores said.

KMP and Tanggol Magsasaka urged justice sec. Leila De Lima to investigate the incident and not abandon Co’s family’s right to justice. The groups said that military’s killing spree should be immediately stopped and those guilty be punished.

“We send our condolences to Dr. Co, Borromeo’s, and other victims’ families. We would never forget the way they died and continue to seek justice,” Flores said. #
__._,_.___

 

 


 

     
     
▼  TACLOBAN   ▼
     
     
           
     
     
     

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The genius of Leonardo L. Co: The people's scientist and professor
STAR SCIENCE By Perry S. Ong, Ph.D. (The Philippine Star) Updated December 16, 2010 12:00

From:

http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=639525&publicationSubCategoryId=75

 


 

Photo is loading...

Fully opened male flower of Rafflesia leonardi. This species was named in honor of Leonard Co, an avid botanist who devoted much time to the study of the flora of the Sierra Madre Mountains on Luzon. It was described in the following publication: Barcelona, J. F, B. Pelser, E. Cabutaje, and N. A. Bartolome. 2008. Another new species of Rafflesia (Rafflesiaceae) from Luzon, Philippines: R. leonardi. Blumea 53: 223-228. Photo by JULIE BARCELONA

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Since Leonard L. Co died last Nov. 15 as a result of gunshot wounds from a supposed crossfire between the Philippine Army and an unnamed armed group, numerous eulogies, tributes and accolades had been expressed largely by the common people but by scientists as well who are familiar with his work – people whose lives Leonard’s knowledge had touched. He was a world-class plant taxonomist bar none. He was an irreparable loss to the country and to his discipline. Many have mourned and grieved his sudden demise. His death was also equated to the loss of a national treasure. There even have been calls for him to be given a posthumous PhD degree (honoris causa). The two houses of Congress have passed resolutions calling for an impartial investigation on his death and acknowledging the loss to the country his death has caused.

But who is Leonard L. Co? Does he deserve all of these praises? If yes, how come it is emerging only now? And what can the mainstream scientific community do about this? It is easy to be swayed by the outpouring of emotions generated by his untimely death and the sense of loss, so it is best to know the man behind the name before we get carried away.

At the time of his death, he was a museum researcher at the Institute of Biology, College of Science, University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD). He was in Kananga, Leyte as a biodiversity expert sent by the Energy Development Corp., (EDC) for its tree legacy program BINHI looking for mother trees. Two of his team members were also killed.

A quick scan of his brief resumé reveals his publications: 13 peer-reviewed articles of which he was senior author in three; six books of which he was the senior author in four. His first publication was in 1977 (remember, he entered UPD in 1972). His last one was in 2009, less than a year before his death. One of several ongoing writing projects he was doing included “The Enumeration of Philippine Flowering Plants” which he intended as an update on the seminal book on Philippine Plants written by El­mer Merrill who made the initial listing of Philippine Plants when the US Occupation of the country began at the turn of the 20th century. Early estimates indicate that this will take at least five years to complete with a full staff complement working fulltime! He was really a man in a hurry. Friends and colleagues have committed to complete this work, considered as one of Leonard’s unfinished masterpieces.

No one in the mainstream scientific community would have considered Leonard one of them, since he did not get his Bachelor of Science Degree in Botany from the UPD until the summer of 2008. Hence he could not even be hired to teach until then. But this did not stop him from teaching. He always shared whatever he knew. He could be the most temperamental person in the room exploding in anger every now and then when people failed to do what they were supposed to do, but when a student approached him regarding a taxonomic issue, he would be ready to provide the answer and guidance. That explains the outpouring of grief and love from people who had experienced dealing with him. His name will not be seen as the adviser of any PhD or Master of Science degree graduate, yet I personally know of at least two recent PhD graduates that he had mentored (and one more nearing completion) since he could not be appointed a member of graduate committees. He might not have had the formal appointment as a professor but people considered him one because of their recognition of his scholarly outputs.

 

People would consider him brilliant but they had reservations to consider him as a scientist since he had no degree then, yet this did not stop him from doing research, as his publication outputs attest to. One of the ways we often did to tease him and test him was to ask him a particular taxonomic problem and ask him the reference to this question. He would reply and provide the page number of the reference where the answer could be found. His swordplay with the living greats in plant taxonomy is legendary wherein he was able to argue with these icons and they could only nod in agreement and accept his analysis. I personally saw international delegates bringing him specimens for identification or confirmation. He was highly regarded by the international community. They expressed that Leonard’s death is a great loss to the world of plant taxonomy.

 

One of Leonard’s frustrations was his awareness of mediocre people who could not hold a candle to his broad encyclopedic knowledge and vast field experience except that these people had a “PhD” after their names and he did not even have a BS degree. Because of this, he would often be bypassed because of his then academic deficiency. Society has not figured out a way to tap geniuses like Leonard.

 

His last publication in 2006, wherein he was the senior author, was the book “Forest Trees of Palanan, Philippines: A Study in Population Ecology.” This was as part of the book series of the Center for Tropical Forest Science of the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institution (CTFS-STRI). He was very proud of this achievement, as it was the first of its kind in the Philippines; it was the sixth in the book series that CTFS-STRI had put out and it was supported by the academe, government, non-government organization conservation groups and the private sector (see Figure 1).

It is but fitting to end this with Leonard in his own words, with the dedication he wrote in the book he gave me during the launching of his last book:

 

“Perry,

 

The legacy that you have bequeathed to CI-P and its partners is never forgotten. It is being continued and raised to a higher level by a new breed of committed young field biologists – many of whom are proud authors of this work.

 

The birth of this book is thus a fitting celebration of that legacy: the spirit of partnership and collaboration; of mentoring; of passion for excellence and abhorrence of mediocrity; and most especially of dreaming, innovating and fighting tooth and nail for the cause of biodiversity conservation!”

 

Signed,

Leonard + five other junior co-authors”

 

Nobody was more qualified to say those words about excellence and mediocrity. He lived those words until he was gunned down doing the work he loved, identifying tree species in the middle of a remnant forest he was trying to restore. How ironic.

* * *

 

Dr. Perry S. Ong is a professor of Wildlife Biology and the director at the Institute of Biology, University of the Philippines Diliman (IB-UPD). He is into biodiversity conservation research and is currently focusing on DNA-barcoding of Philippine biodiversity as well as the ecology of urban biodiversity. Together with the other staff members of IB-UPD, he is undertaking research on the biodiversity of five geothermal production fields of the Energy Development Corp. (EDC) in Mt. Kanlaon in Negros Occidental, Valencia City in Negros Oriental, Kananga in Leyte, Mt. Apo in Kidapawan City, North Cotabato in Mindanao and Bacon-Manito (BacMan) in Sorgogon. E-mail him at ongperry@yahoo.com.

 

     
     
     
     

JUSTICE FOR LEONARDO CO AND THE KANANGA 3

▼ AT THE  UP DILIMAN LANTERN PARADE DEC 17  ▼

     
     
     
           
     
     
           

x

NEWS REPORTS ABOUT THE KILLING OF THE KANANGA 3

 

The special place CBHPs had in Leonard Cos heart - INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filipinos

opinion.inquirer.net

HE DID not seek fame or glory for his works. His ardor for studying plants was fueled by a burning passion to contribute to the conservation of the environment. He was Leonard Co, a peoples scientist whose life was cut short in an alleged crossfire between government troops and New Peoples Army

 

Evidence prove what survivors said: There was no gunfight | Kodao Productions

www.kodao.org

 

 

Muddy trek to the site where top botanist Dr. Leonard Co et al were killed

www.youtube.com

On November 28, 2010, Justice for Leonardo Co and Co. Movement visited the site where Dr. Co, Sofronio Cortez and Julius Borromeo were killed as part of a fact finding mission in Leyte. The site was inside the Lopez-owned Energy Development Corporation.

 

 

Military mum on probe finding no crossfire in botanists death - INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for F.

newsinfo.inquirer.net

TACLOBAN CITY The spokesperson of the Philippine Army in Eastern Visayas declined to comment on the findings of a team of scientists that there was no crossfire between government forces and communist rebels as claimed by the military when noted botanist Leonardo Co and two of his companion were ki

 

Whitewash in The Investigation On The Deaths of Co, Cortez, and Borromeo Feared - Bulatlat

bulatlat.com

 

Family of Slain Botanist Crying for Justice - Bulatlat

bulatlat.com

 

Leonards passion - INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filipinos

opinion.inquirer.net

SOME TIME last year I was at the Sidcor Sunday market looking at household items from Japan. One tea cup caught my eye because it showed several plants arranged in a row. I looked closely and could tell from the Kanji (Chinese characters borrowed by the Japanese) that they were medicinal plants.

 

 

Demand for Justice and Accountability for the Death of Leonardo Co

We, the members of the Philippine Native Plant Conservation Society, mourn the loss of our beloved founder and leader, Leonardo Co.   We express our moral indignation and condemn the senseless killing of a brilliant and irreplaceable mind....

By:Philippine Native Plants Conservation Society, Inc.

 

 

Leonard Co - INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filipinos

opinion.inquirer.net

LEONARD COS life (which lasted a few weeks short of 57 years) was much too brief, but it was a life that overflowed with professional accomplishments and friendships.

 

 

UP’s plant-man extraordinaire | UP Ibalon Web Community

www.upibalon.com

 

A tribute to SIr Leonard Co [HQ]

pictures and messages from his former students in Bio 115(plant taxonomy), his first and last batch of students after receiving his college diploma. We will miss you Sir Co. thank you so much!

Length:5:02

 

Slain botanists family laments slow probe - INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filipinos

newsinfo.inquirer.net

MANILA, PhilippinesAs the nation mourns with widower Lauro Vizconde, who is still seeking justice after two decades, another family grieving the loss of a loved one hopes its own quest for justice would not suffer the same fate.

 

 

No crossfire when botanist Leonard Co was shot, witness says - Nation - GMANews.TV - Official Websi

www.gmanews.tv

Leonard Co died with his boots on.

52 minutes ago · Share

 

Top botanist killed in crossfire - INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filipinos

newsinfo.inquirer.net

ORMOC CITYOne of the countrys top botanists and two of his companions were killed in a reported crossfire during an encounter between the military and communist rebels in a forested area in Kananga, Leyte, on Monday.

 

 

Family doubts botanist killed in crossfire | ABS-CBN News | Latest Philippine Headlines, Breaking N

www.abs-cbnnews.com

MANILA, Philippines - Family and friends of plant taxonomist and ethnobotanist Leonardo Co have reservations about the military's version of events that led to the death of the scientist.

Rebels, military in blame game over killing of top botanist - Nation - GMANews.TV - Official Websit

www.gmanews.tv

‎(Updated 7:30 p.m.) Military authorities and communist rebels traded accusations on Wednesday over the killing of prominent Filipino botanist Leonardo Co and two of his companions, who were allegedly caught in a crossfire in Leyte province while they were doing field research.

 

 

Leading plant expert killed in Army-NPA crossfire - Nation - GMANews.TV - Official Website of GMA N

www.gmanews.tv

One of the country's leading plant biologists was killed in a reported crossfire between government troops and the New People's Army in Leyte on Monday as he was searching for tree species suitable for a forest restoration project.

 

Who really killed leading botanist? - GOTCHA By Jarius Bondoc | The Philippine Star >> News >> Opini

www.philstar.com

The military credibly must explain the slaying of renowned botanist Leonard Co in its supposed crossfire with communist rebels.

 

Gunfire came from one direction - INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filipinos

newsinfo.inquirer.net

Policarpio Balute, 33, a farmer who served as one of Cos two guides, said the shooting started in Upper Mahiao, Barangay Lim-ao, but added that he did not hear any responding volley of gunfire from any direction that could indicate an on-going battle between Army soldiers and New Peoples Army (NPA

 

Leyte crossfire survivor: I did not hear exchange of gunfire - INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for F..

newsinfo.inquirer.net

ORMOC CITY, PhilippinesThe killing of Energy Development Corporation biodiversity consultant Leonardo Co and two others in a forested area in Kananga, Leyte on Monday might have been a case of mistaken identity.

 

Kin of farmers killed with botanist demand impartial probe - INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filip

newsinfo.inquirer.net

ORMOC CITY, Philippines The families of the two farmers who were killed together with botanist Leonardo Co on November 15 in the forest of Kananga town want an impartial investigation to find out who were really responsible for their deaths.

 

Aquino asked: How about botanist’s death?

Malaya | National

www.malaya.com.ph

Malaya Business Insight

 

 

The Environment Report

www.inquirer.net

HE DID not seek fame or glory for his works. His ardor for studying plants was fueled by a burning passion to contribute to the conservation of the environment. He was Leonard Co, a peoples

 scientist whose life was cut short in an alleged crossfire between government troops and New Peoples Army

 

 

New pitcher plant species to be named after slain botanist - INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Fili

globalnation.inquirer.net

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY, PhilippinesScientists have discovered a new species of pitcher plant in central Palawan and are naming it after noted Filipino botanist Leonardo Co who was killed last November 10 in what the Philippine military claimed as crossfire between government security forces and an in

 

UP Lantern Parade highlights social issues | ABS-CBN News | Latest Philippine Headlines,

 

 Breaking N

www.abs-cbnnews.com

MANILA, Philippines - The annual UP Lantern Parade at the Diliman campus of the University of the Philippines called attention to issues such as extrajudicial killings, reproductive health, plagiarism, and budget cuts, among others.

 

Shoot first - INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filipinos

opinion.inquirer.net

WHO IS the enemy, exactly? The New Peoples Army, of course, according to the Philippine Army. And who is the NPA? Again, according to the Army, it could be anyone, particularly if he has already been killed in an Army operation. More importantly, anyone who gets caught in the crossfire is just unlu

 

 

Cordillera NGOs mourn Co, salute him as scientist of the people - Regions - GMANews.TV - Official..

www.gmanews.tv

BAGUIO CITY Non-government organizations (NGOs) in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) mourned the death of Filipino botanist Leonard Co, saying that this was both the nations loss and humanitys loss as well.

 

De Lima orders probe of botanists death - INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filipinos

newsinfo.inquirer.net

MANILA, Philippines -- Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Wednesday ordered an investigation into the mystery surrounding the death of noted botanist Leonardo Co and two others in Kananga, Leyte, last week.

 

 

Botanists case not isolated, says health group - INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filipinos

newsinfo.inquirer.net

BAGUIO CITYThe Community Health Education, Services and Training in the Cordillera Region (Chestcore) said the death of botanist Leonardo Co, who was killed in a supposed crossfire between government troops and communist rebels in a Leyte forest on Nov. 15 was not an isolated case

 

Gunfire came from one direction - INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filipinos

newsinfo.inquirer.net

Policarpio Balute, 33, a farmer who served as one of Cos two guides, said the shooting started in Upper Mahiao, Barangay Lim-ao, but added that he did not hear any responding volley of gunfire from any direction that could indicate an on-going battle between Army soldiers and New Peoples Army (NPA

 

Leyte crossfire survivor: I did not hear exchange of gunfire - INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for F..

newsinfo.inquirer.net

ORMOC CITY, PhilippinesThe killing of Energy Development Corporation biodiversity consultant Leonardo Co and two others in a forested area in Kananga, Leyte on Monday might have been a case of mistaken identity.

 

 

UP botanist, 2 others killed in military-NPA clash in Leyte - INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Fili

newsinfo.inquirer.net

ORMOC CITY, Philippines A respected Filipino botanist, a forest guard and a farmer were killed in the crossfire between the military and suspected communist rebels Monday noon, the company that was running the project for which the three worked, said on Tuesday.

 

     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
     
           

Marking the 40th day of Lenard's death by planting 40 native trees

December 23, 2010

           
           
     
     
     

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ARTICLES and NOTES ABOUT LEONARDO CO

 

Isang munting pagpupugay sa dalawang mabubuting kaibigan. RIP, Leonard and Dan Sir.

Ilang taon ba? Mga labing-apat din siguro. Di kahabaang panahon subalit makabuluhan na pagkakakilala… Hindi katulad ng iba, hindi ko nakuhang matuto kay Leonard tungkol sa mga halaman. ...

By:Nancy Ibuna

 

A tree is Born, a tree Dies, the forest lives Forever

www.pressenza.com

The renown and revered botanist Leonardo L. Co, 56, was killed by gunfire 15 November, 2010, in a geothermal reservation in Leyte in Upper Mahiao, Barangay. Lim-ao, Kananga town, Leyte. He was doing research work for the Energy Development Corporation and was with four other team members. Three of t

 

 

Leonardo L Co: In Memoriam

I never met Leonard but here is an ilustration of the species we named together. Leonard collected it in the Palanan Wilderness in 1991.

By:Peter G

iskWiki!

iskwiki.upd.edu.ph

Leonardo L. Co is a prominent Filipino plant taxonomist and ethnobiologist. Born on December 29, 1953, Co served as a museum researcher at the University of the Philippines Institute of Biology (IB) and as senior botanist of Conservation International-Philippines.

 

Si Leonard Co aka 许 振 忠

Si Leonard Co aka 许 振 忠      Nalaman ko mula sa text ng isang kaibigan ang pagkamatay niya sa Leyte. Naipit umano sa palitan ng putok ng mga sundalo at rebelde. At kagyat na nagbalik ang maraming alaala.   Alyas...

By:Joaquin Sy

 

 

Scientists seek neutral probe into botanist's killing | ABS-CBN News | Latest Philippine Headlines,

www.abs-cbnnews.com

MANILA, Philippines – Scientists’ group Agham on Thursday condemned the killing of distinguished ethnobotanist Leonardo Co and 2 of his assistants

 

No crossfire in Leyte - 12/09/10

services.inquirer.net

This was according to the findings of a team of scientists including Co's co-workers that looked into the killing of the botanist and his companions Sofronio Cortez and Julius Borromeo last month in the forest of Kananga, Leyte.

 

Demand for Justice and Accountability for the Death of Leonardo Co

We, the members of the Philippine Native Plant Conservation Society, mourn the loss of our beloved founder and leader, Leonardo Co.   We express our moral indignation and condemn the senseless killing of a brilliant and irreplaceable mind....

By:Philippine Native Plants Conservation Society, Inc.

 

 

Leonard Co: Scientist for the People - Bulatlat

www.bulatlat.com

 

 

The death of a scientist - INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filipinos

opinion.inquirer.net

I realize this takes some explaining: Since Leonard was a botanist, what would that have made of me? Botanists treat plans and vegetables. No, Leonard also practiced acupuncture. My fraternity brother and now UP professor Roli Talampas brought me to Leonards laboratory in one of the buildings at th

 

Leonard Co, A true son of UP [HQ]

Family, friends,colleagues and sympathizers witnessed Leonard Co's last visit to his second home yesterday (Nov 20) UP President Emerlinda Roman calls for justice for Leonard Co, the statement was read by UP Chancellor Cao yesterday After the Oblation ceremonies, the ...procession went to the Herbarium building, Leonard's favorite place, working area and his second home. Incidentally, there was a Symposium on Long Term Ecological & Biodiversity Research on that building. International and Local Scientists who participated in the symposium went out, to pay homage and sympathy for Leonard. Leonard is suppose to be one of the speakers that afternoon and he will discuss The Forest Plot in Palanan Isabela which is one of his major accomplishment to Philippine botany.

Length:1:31

 

Acknowledgement to LLC by James LaFrankie

"A special acknowledgement must be made to Leonardo L. Co, who has done so much over the past many decades to describe and document the flora of the Philippines...

 

ellen tordesillas » Ang kahalagahan ng ginagawa ni Professor Leonardo Co

www.ellentordesillas.com

Ang rafflesia ay sobra isang metro ang laki kaya nasa lupa lang siya nakalatag. Parang red-orange ang kulay. Hindi maganda ang amoy dahil kumakain ng mga kung ano-anong mga insekto o mali-liit na hayop. Matatagpuan ito sa kabundukan ng Antique,ang aking probinsya, at Mindanao dito sa Pilipinas.

 

 

 M

In praise of good men - INQUIRER.net, Philippine News for Filipinos

opinion.inquirer.net

MANILA, PhilippinesI met Prof. Leonard Co only once, in a press conference called by a group of San Beda alumni who were embarking on a tree-planting project along the North Luzon Expressway. But they werent going to plant just any trees. At the bidding of some conservationists and biodiversity ex

 

     
     
     
     
     
           
     
     
     

 

Leonard Co: Scientist for the People


Leonardo Co wrote two very important books: on medicinal plants and the forest trees of Palanan. He could speak fluent Filipino, English, Mandarin, and Latin. He could sing, play classical Chinese music with his harmonica, and make people laugh with his antics. But most of all, he dedicated his life in the service of the people.

By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
Bulatlat.com

http://bulatlat.com/main/2010/11/20/leonard-co-scientist-for-the-people/


MANILA – Leonardo Co was killed along with two others Sofronio Cortez, a forest guard and Julius Borromeo,a farmer, in Kananga, Leyte, while conducting a research about the biodiversity of trees within the compound of the Energy Development compound on the fateful day of November 15.

Lt. Col. Federico Tutaan of the 19th infantry Battalion claimed that Co and his companions were killed in a crossfire. But witnesses said the gunshots were coming only from the direction of the soldiers. Whatever would be the findings of the investigation, the result would remain the same, the country lost a multi-talented and a great man.

discover new species was killed.

Co, 56 was survived by his wife Glenda and daughter Linnea Marie, eight years old.

In a tribute given by his friends and colleagues in his wake at Funeraria Paz, people laughed and shed tears upon hearing different stories and experiences working with one of the finest, if not the finest, botanist the country has ever produced.

“A person like Leonard is rare,” said Eleanor Jara, executive director of the Council of Health and Development (CHD) who worked with Co in the Cordillera region in 1980s. Co was also doing research then for his book on medicinal plants in the Cordillera region.

Passion for Science

Since his childhood, Co’s interest was science. Dr. Floresita Co-Austria, youngest sister of Co said his brother started collecting insects and then later on he got interested in chemicals. “He had test tubes and has a collection of chemicals and he experimented with it,” Austria told Bulatlat. Austria recalled that Co would let them smell mixed chemicals and told them it was a perfume. “When we smelled it, it had an awful smell.”

Austria said when his brother entered the University of the Philippines, his first course was Chemical Engineer and later on shifted to Botany. Ong said Co’s biology teacher in high school at Philippine Chinese High School, Benito Tan who became a world-renowned moss taxonomist probably influenced Co to take an interest in Botany. A blog post in memoriam for Co by Mabi David revealed that Co accompanied Tan in his weekly mountain treks. He was also given a book by Tan, Flora of Manila and started studying botanical terminology.

Rey Casambre who met Co during martial law in 1975 when Co was in his third year as botany major in UP said: “He belonged then to a group of bright and dedicated activists who were either undergrad majors or graduates of botany or zoology.” The group of Co was part of a larger network of Filipino scientists and technologists who were all committed to using their scientific and technical knowledge and skills to serve the Filipino people, Casambre added.

Jara said Co also used his skills in determining medicinal plants in the Cordillera region with people in the countryside as beneficiaries. In a news report, Community Health, Education, Services and Training in Cordillera Region (Chestcore) said that Co listed 122 medicinal plants with their illustrations and scientific and common names. Each plant has its description that includes habitat, distribution, parts utilized, indications, directions for use, dosage, and precautionary notes on toxicity and contra-indications. Co helped the communities of the Cordillera for helping, through his work, “the communities systematize the knowledge of traditional healers about medicinal plants for their primary health care.”

Prior to Co’s Cordillera Medicinal Plants, he together with his group I977 at UP diligently studied medicinal plants in the country with an aim to popularize local herbal medicines and the production of medicines from readily available and accessible materials. “It’s in his heart that whatever he is doing is for the benefit of the people,” Casambre said in a separate interview with Bulatlat. The group worked on the book for at least five years, Casambre said. “Manual on Some Philippine Medicinal Plants”was first published in mimeographed 8 1/2 x 13, in the name of the UP Botanical Society where majority of the group belonged.

“As far as we know, this was a pioneering and seminal work. Not long afterwards some botanists published glossy books on Philippine medicinal plants. But none of them could compare to the wealth of material in the original 1977 Philippine Medicinal Plants manual,” said Casambre.

In 2006, Forest Trees of Palanan, Philippines: A study in population ecology was published. According to Ong, in 16 hectares of Palanan forest in Isabela, Co marked and measured every tree and identified every plant. “He counted all the trees, at least 100,000. And you would see those trees in this book mapped one by one.” Ong added that Co’s study of trees did not end there. Co went back to the forest every five years to see the developments of the species. On Oct. 15 during the height of typhoon Juan, Ong said Co was in Palanan doing his research for the second part of the said book.

Co is the president of the Philippine Native Plants Conservation Society, Inc. when he got killed.

Refflesia leonardi, one of the largest flowers found in the Philippines, was named after Co.

Multi-talented and Non-Conformist

Co was not only remembered as a taxonomist who spent more time in the mountains and in his little space at the University of the Philippines’ Institute of Biology’s herbarium studying his collected specimens.

Elena Ragrario, a classmate and college friend of Co revealed that he is a multitalented taxonomist. “He also play harmonica. He said harmonica is the only musical instrument that you can bring in your pocket. He always has his harmonica wherever we were together with other friends. He indulged us in classical Chinese music.” She also said Co could sing International in three languages, English, Tagalong and in Chinese.

Co is half Chinese and half Filipino, and he proudly told his friends that he is a double G.I.–genuine Ilocano and genuine Intsik (Chinese), added Ragrario. He was also funny yet temperamental at times, Ong said, adding that his foul mood easily dissipated.. A colleague also said that Co could speak not only Mandarin, he also studied Latin so he could properly identify the plants he was studying. Co also studied acupuncture Mon Ramirez said, and could name the points in Chinese.

Dr. Edelina Dela Paz also a friend of Co said that he was a walking encyclopedia, “You would gain knowledge after a chat with him because of information he shared.”

He also wrote poetry, Ragrario said.

Co was a non-conformist Casambre told Bulatlat. Co got his degree in BS Botany in 2008. “It really did not matter to him whether he finished his degree or not. He was driven to do his passion and to make it useful for the people.”

Ong said Co got his diploma when the Institute of Biology asked the College of Science to give Co his degree crediting his works as taxonomist. “There was a debate of course because of technicalities, but finally the College of Science gave him his degree.” His friends said that he should have been given more than a degree. They believe he deserved a Ph. D. His book “Forest Trees of Palanan, Philippines ” could serve as his dissertation.

The family of Co was overwhelmed with the testimonies shared by Co’s colleagues. His father, Co Lian Sing said his sadness went away because of the revelations of Co’s friends and colleagues. “We did not know that he had accomplished many things.” (Bulatlat.com)

 

     
     
     
     
     
           
     
     
     

 

Demand for Justice and Accountability for the Death of Leonardo Co
by Philippine Native Plants Conservation Society, Inc. on Friday, December 3, 2010 at 11:26am

We, the members of the Philippine Native Plant Conservation Society, mourn the loss of our beloved founder and leader, Leonardo Co.

We express our moral indignation and condemn the senseless killing of a brilliant and irreplaceable mind.

We decry the nonchalance of a military that dismisses this tragedy as a mere “unfortunate incident”. This is a profound understatement. The void created by Professor Co's sudden departure is unquantifiable and the damage done will have exponential repercussions that will only be apparent in the years to come.

It is with sublime irony that while illegal loggers, poachers, miners, and kaingeros rape, plunder and defile our natural resources at will, we never hear of the apprehension of these criminals, much less, with the rabid intensity suffered by one who has passionately dedicated his entire life caring for our environment. How can this champion of conservation suffer at the hands of his supposed guardians? What justifies excessive firepower on unarmed civilians obviously incapable of retaliation? The military continues to defend the grave abuse of power and justifies what is clearly an indefensible position.

If this can happen to a Leonardo Co, what more for other researchers doing field work in this country? This causes great alarm to the scientific community. Scientists and volunteers receive meager compensation for their services, but it is their passion, dedication and love for country that motivates them in enduring in this thankless profession. Does every researcher and their family have to fear for their lives going up the mountains?

Leonard Co once said “sa Pilipinas ang hustisya ay parang pag taya sa lotto”. Let us hope that in this, at least, he will be proven wrong. Let us hope that he, together with the 2 other victims, will be given justice for their senseless death. This is a direct challenge to the new administration.

Leonard Co did not only die with his boots on, he died doing what he loved most - understanding the last secrets of our vanishing forest. We hope that his legacy and sacrifice would inspire this generation to be more vigilant against the crimes and abuse of this nation towards our environment.

In behalf of the Philippine Native Plants Conservation Society, we express our deepest sympathies and say our prayers for the families and loved ones of the three fatalities. But we demand justice and accountability.

 

====================================

 

A tree is Born, a tree Dies, the forest lives Forever
Tony Henderson

http://www.pressenza.com/npermalink/a-tree-is-bornx-a-tree-diesx-the-forest-lives-forever

 

The renown and revered botanist Leonardo L. Co, 56, was killed by gunfire 15 November, 2010, in a geothermal reservation in Leyte in Upper Mahiao, Barangay. Lim-ao, Kananga town, Leyte. He was doing research work for the Energy Development Corporation and was with four other team members. Three of them were killed and two survived.

Pressenza Pressenza International Press Agency Manila, 11/29/10 He was the author of the book, Common Medicinal Plants of the Cordillera Region (Northern Luzon, Philippines), published 1989, which included a trainers manual for Community Based Health Programs. His loss to his family and friends is multiplied greatly because this man was so valuable to his country. Leonardo was also counted as a National Treasure. Hardly replaceable, fortunately, his students are willing to carry on with his important work of study and reforestation.

Secretary Leila de Lima of the Department of Justice (DOJ) created a three-member panel of prosecutors to conduct a fact-finding inquiry on the incident, stating to the press: “We can’t always leave the investigation to the Armed Forces of the Philippines. No matter how they do their jobs, there will always be suspicions.”

This was said on the sidelines of the 7th National Congress of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines in Quezon City. She hinted at summoning personalities, including Armed Forces officials, to attend hearings and answer questions, adding, “We need to remove the cloud of suspicion regarding Co’s death.”

At the time of the killing Mr Co, working as a biodiversity consultant for the Lopez-owned Energy Development Corporation (EDC), was gathering specimen seedlings of endangered trees with a five-member team of civilians. While the media is reporting that both the communist inspired New People’s Army and the Armed Forces in Leyte accused each other of firing the shots that killed Co and his companions, a source close to witnesses informed Pressenza that only government military personnel were in the area at the time, in other words, there was no cross-fire!

Manuel Paete, EDC resident manager, identified the other fatalities as Sofronio G. Cortez, a forest guard of EDC-Environmental Management Division, and Julius Borromeo, a member of the Tongonan Farmers Association (Tofa).

Lt. Col. Federico Tutaan, commanding officer of the 19th IB, said in a phone interview to The Inquirer, his men were in the area to respond to a report of the EDC about the presence of NPA rebels in Sitio Upper Mahiao of Barangay Lim-ao.

Co’s brother-in-law, Darwin Flores, said to the same media that the family would like to know what really happened. “I understand that they were given clearance to proceed to the area,” said Flores, whose sister Glenda is married to Co. He said he was informed that there was an existing security protocol between EDC and the local military.

EDC man Paete said Co’s two other companions, Policarpio Balute, a member of Tofa, and Roniño Gibe, a contractual forester with EDC’s corporate social responsibility department, survived the crossfire.

Col. Allan Martin, deputy commanding officer of the 802nd Infantry Brigade, has stated to the press that the soldiers who figured in the encounter were restricted to their camp in Barangay Aguiting in Kananga. The soldiers, led by Lt. Ronald Ocheamar, reported a 15-minute gun battle with seven armed men at about midday. During the press conference, Tutaan admitted that one of the soldiers fired the first shot because they were at a vantage point overlooking the area where they saw a man dressed in a black jacket holding a long firearm.

In a separate statement, CHESTCORE (The Community Health Education, Services and Training in the Cordillera Region) warned that “what happened to Leonard is not an isolated case, and many health professionals working in far-flung communities have been accused of aiding, or of being members of, the New People’s Army or the Communist Party of the Philippines.

“Instead of being lauded as heroes for choosing to devote their lives to community service and for opting to give up opportunities for career advancement abroad or in private practice, many of them have been harassed, arrested on false charges and even killed," the CHESTCORE spokesperson stated.

Leonardo Co also served as a museum researcher at the University of the Philippines Institute of Biology (IB). He was the de facto curator of the Jose Vera Santos Herbarium, according its director, Dr. Perry Ong. Co was known in the Cordilleras for his work in helping communities systematize the knowledge of traditional healers about medicinal plants for their own primary health care. He also authored, The Forest Trees of Palanan, Philippines: A Study in Population Ecology.

Non-government organizations in the Cordillera Administrative Region mourned the death of the Filipino botanist saying that this was both the nation’s loss and humanity’s loss as well.

Tony Henderson is a freelance writer working in Hong Kong, since 1980, and previously Japan, for seven years following two years in Mauritius after a year in Libya

 

 

 

     
     
     
Glenda and Linnaei Marie Co
     
     
           
Lian Seng and Emelina Co, parents of Lenard Lian Seng and Lilyl, sister of Lenard
     
    Glenda, widor of Lenard
     

 

Sign up on the statement to Call for Justice for the Killing of Leonardo Co and his Companions

 

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

 

Sign up at http://www.justiceforleonardco.org

 

The Petition

 

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 were wounded.

 

Families and friends have raised doubts on the report, as the research team got the required 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, prevent any whitewash, render justice to the victims, and end a growing culture of impunity.

 

 

Anthony Arbias of Phillippine Native Plants Conservation Society
Leonard's only daughter  Linnaei Marie
           
     
Leonard;s father, Lian Seng, and BAYAN's Rita Baua AGHAM Chair Dr. Gani Tapang with Leonard's parents and an aunt

Lily, Lenard's sister, and husband Dr. Bobi Austria

with Atty. Ursua who is handling the case

           

 

Front page news the day after the tree planting

           

Video on the 40th day gathering

December 23, 2010

           
   
   
   
           

Lenard, mostly at work

           

 

Press release
December 8, 2010
 

Groups released results of the Citizens' Fact-finding Mission on the killing of Leonard Co and companions

In a press conference held at the Institute of Biology, University of the Philippines Diliman, groups presented the results of the Citizens' Fact-finding mission on the killing of top botanist Leonard Co and companions. The mission was conducted at the site of the incident, Kanangga, Leyte last November 26-28, 2010.

The mission was attended by 33 individuals from 14 different organizations and institutions from Manila, Cebu, Samar and Leyte. It was supported by Institute of Biology director Dr. Perry Ong, College of Social Science and Philosophy Dr. Michael Tan, Ateneo Environmental Science professor Dr. Tess Perez, Visayas State University President Dr. Jose Bacusmo, Foundation for the Philippine Environment and the family of Leonardo Co.

The results were presented by Dr. Giovanni Tapang, chairperson of AGHAM Advocates of Science and Technology for the People, Anthony Arbias, president of the Philippine Native Plant Conservation Society and Atty. Kathrina Castillo.

The group established that there was no crossfire, contrary to earlier reports that the victims were caught in a crossfire between the military and communist rebels on November 15, 2010. Based on the evidence gathered at the site, the gunshots only came from one direction and that is from the vantage point of where the military were positioned.

At the press conference, the Movement for Justice for Leonard Co and companions was also launched. The movement is comprised of supporters, family, friends and civil-society groups that aims to spearhead the campaign, monitor the developments of the case and pursue the issue until justice has been served and the perpetuators are held accountable.

As a tribute to the efforts and life of Leonard Co, the Philippine Tropical Forest Conservation Foundation has also launched a Leonardo Co Forest Research Fund. A sum of 100,000php every year, for years 2011-2016 would be made available to scientists who would want to research on Philippine biodiversity.

The report is attached to this email and for questions or more details, please contact Dr. Giovanni Tapang of AGHAM 09275736714.

--
CLEMENTE BAUTISTA
National Coordinator
Kalikasan People's Network for the Environment (Kalikasan-PNE)
No.26 Matulungin St. Bgy. Central, Diliman, Quezon City, Philippines 1100
Tel. No. +63-2-9248756 Fax No. +63-2-9209099
Email: kalikasan.pne@gmail.com
Website: www.kalikasan.org

     
     
           
     
     
           

 Vintage Lenard: doing working overtime in the forest  of Palanan, Isabela

 

Some ashes of Lenard will be spread out in the forest of Palanan

           

Some of the works of Leonard Co

           
           
     
     
     
SDigital copies of the "A Manual on some Philippine Medicinal Plants" will be made available soon.
     
           

AGHAM's 10-10-10 Tree Planting in Antipolo

           
     
     
     
     
     
     
**          

 

/p

  
 

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