Fact-finding mission set on botanist’s death

SCIENTISTS, environmental activists, human rights advocates and members of the academe have organized a citizen-based fact-finding mission in Kananga, Leyte to investigate the killing of botanist Leonard Co and two of his companions.

The three fatalities, along with two others, were part of a biodiversity research team fielded by the Energy Development Corporation to study the Mahawan-Kananga watershed.

The Philippine Army 19th Battalion claimed that the group was caught in a crossfire with the New People’s Army (NPA) last Nov. 15.

Survivors, however, said no such firefight occurred because the bullets came from a single direction.

“The fact-finding mission aims to establish the facts about the incident. Claims of crossfire have left a host of questions to families and friends,” said Dr. Giovanni Tapang, chairperson of Samahan ng Nagtataguyod ng Agham at Teknolohiya para sa Sambayanan (Agham) and convener of Justice for Leonard Co! campaign.

“In this time, where we have a case like the one-year-old Ampatuan massacre still unresolved, we need to be able to get the real facts and soon,” Tapang said.

“There is a need to hasten the process of investigation and ensure that justice will not be delayed nor denied to the victims and survivors of the Kananga Watershed Massacre, like what is happening to the Ampatuan massacre,” said Frances Quimpo, executive director of Center for Environmental Concerns.

Quimpo expressed dismay over the fact that a week after the incident, “there has been no conclusive report from the government, either from  the municipal police or the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).”  D’Jay Lazaro

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