PNP backs AFP claim that UP botanist was killed in a crossfire

THE Philippine National Police (PNP) is now backing up military’s claim that botanist Leonardo Co and two others were victims of a “crossfire” between Army troops and New People’s Army (PNP) rebels in Leyte last week.

PNP spokesman Senior Supt. Agrimero Cruz Jr. said police and forensic investigators from the Eastern Visayas Police have reconstructed the “crime scene” for a comprehensive investigation of the incident.

“Initial investigation showed that there were presence of NPA rebels and, according to witnesses, there was an exchange of gunfire,” Cruz told reporters during a press briefing in Camp Crame.

He quickly added: “Our intention here is to have a comprehensive and transparent investigation and so that we can pinpoint from where or who really shot the UP botanist.”

“What they are now doing is conducting paraffin test to all of the participating elements from the AFP and, of course, all of their firearms will be subjected to ballistic exams so we can find out from where the bullets came from,” Cruz said.

The PNP spokesman added that investigators have also recovered from the crime scene, shells from still unknown calibre of firearms.

The shells did not came from the firearm of troops that were involved in the encounter, he added.

“There are witnesses who said that there was exchange of fire and aside from the fact that from the initial reconstructions, they have recovered some shells that is not in the inventory of the AFP,” Cruz said.

The PNP spokesman added that members of the Army’s 19th Infantry Battalion (IB) that were sent to check on reported rebel presence in the area were unaware of the presence of Co’s research team at the time the encounter took place.

“That is what coming out from our initial investigation that they don’t know that somebody is conducting research in that place,” Cruz said.

But he emphasized that the group conducting the investigation is still taking the accounts of all witnesses and analyzing them including all the pieces of evidence that were recovered. Anthony Vargas

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