Independent group to probe death of botanist Leonardo Co

A CITIZEN-BASED fact-finding mission has been organized in Kananga, Leyte to investigate the killings of botanist Leonard Co and his companions.

The mission will “establish the facts about the incident,” said Dr. Giovanni Tapang, chairperson of the Samahan ng Nagtataguyod ng Agham at Teknolohiya para sa Sambayanan  or AGHAM and convener of Justice for Leonard Co! campaign.

According to Tapang, claims of crossfire have left a “host of questions” to Co’s families and friends.

Co and his two companions 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 team was caught in a crossfire between members of  the New People’s Army (NPA) and government forces last November 15.

“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. We also plan to look at the situation of the survivors and the victims’ families,” said Tapang .

Meanwhile, Frances Quimpo, executive director of the Center for Environment Concerns, criticized the government for its alleged failure to immediately look into the cause of the incident.

“More than a week has passed since Leonard’s killing, but until now, there is no conclusive report from the government, either from the municipal police or the National Bureau of Investigation,” said Quimpo.

According to news reports, the survivors belied the report of the military on its firefight with NPA rebels.

According to survivors, they did not encounter any rebels in the area and the gunfire that they heard came from only one direction. D’Jay Lazaro

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