Group calls for a speedy, impartial reinvestigation

FAMILIES, friends of top botanist Leonard Co and various organizations belonging to the Justice for Leonard Co Movement on Tuesday  troop to the Department of Justice in Manila  to demand justice for the death of the so-called Kananga 3.

February 22, 2011 marked 100 days since renowned ethno-botanist Leonard Co, forester Sofronio Cortez and guide Julio Borromeo were killed by members of the 19th Infantry Batallion of the Philippine Army.

“We come here in front of the Department of Justice to call on Secretary Leila de Lima for a speedy and impartial reinvestigation of the case. One hundred days of waiting is too long for justice to be served for the three victims”, said Dr. Giovanni Tapang, convenor of the Justice for Leonard Co movement.

Tapang also noted that in the ongoing hearings of the Commission of Human Rights on the issue, Senior Supt. John Sosito said that a police joint task force concluded that there was probable cause in the deaths and that there was no crossfire during the eventful date. Atty. Sosito, PNP provincial director of Leyte at the time of the incident, said that this was the gist of the report that they submitted to the the PNP Regional office of Region 8. Sosito had since then been reassigned to a PNP instruction and training division related to human rights. He said during the hearings that the team of Leonard Co was probably mistaken for the NPA by the military.

“This directly pins the blame for the death of the three on the military. It is now clear that even the PNP joint task force cannot escape the physical evidence and the strong credible testimonies of the survivors. We hope that the ongoing investigations at the DOJ do not end up like its first report where the DOJ NBI team ignored the very same facts and testimonies”, said Dr. Tapang.

The groupo called on De Lima to replace Assistant Prosecutor Bryan Cacha in the new investigating panel she created. Mr. Cacha was part of the original DOJ-NBI team clearing the military from the killings.

The groups proceeded after a short program to the hearing at the House of Representatives in the afternoon. They will also be having a fund raising event cum lugawan at the UP Balay Kalinaw on Thursday, February 24, 2011 where updates on the case will also be given.-D’Jay Lazaro

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