Picket rally at the Department of Justice:

Family, friends and supporters of Kananga3

want the NBI/DOJ report junked and the 19th IB troopers prosecuted


Department of Justice, Manila


January 24, 2011




Photo by Lian RobertoAustria


Photo by Lian RobertoAustria    


Press Release
21 January 2011

KARAPATAN asks Secretary de Lima to scrutinize DOJ panel findings on Co slay

“How can two assistant state prosecutors and an NBI lawyer forming a
three-man team of government investigators refute the facts just to
stick to the military story that the NPA killed Leonard Co and his two
companions and absolve complicity of government authorities in the
crime?”, thus asked human rights group KARAPATAN about the recent DOJ
panel findings on the November 2010 slaying of the country’s top

“Justice Secretary Leila de Lima should look into this before
submitting the report to the Commission on Human Rights,” KARAPATAN
secretary-general Jigs Clamor said.

“If all else fail, we shall pursue this in the international
community. People are losing faith on state authorities when it comes
to the defense of human rights,” Clamor added.

KARAPATAN joined last December an independent, scientific and civilian
fact-finding mission recognized by Co’s family to investigate the
killings. Their report holds the AFP solely responsible for the death
of Co and his two companions, forest guard Sofronio Cortez and farmer
Julius Borromeo, based on firsthand eyewitness accounts of two
survivors, and material and physical evidence relating to the deaths.

“Now three government-hired men, after two months, conveniently
disregarded the facts, defended the AFP, maliciously blamed the NPA
and even the Lopez-owned Energy Development Corporation who was the
private employer of Co,” Clamor said.

KARAPATAN questioned the ballistic tests conducted by the government
team. “Of course the bullets found on the bodies wouldn’t match the
guns offered by the military. A killer wouldn’t implicate himself.
It was a cover-up. The 200-meter peripheral investigation overlooks
the supposed close-quarter combat while the trees themselves spoke of
ballistic fire from the AFP position,” KARAPATAN said.

Co’s two other companions, Policarpio Balute, a member of a local
peasant association, and Roniño Gibe, a contractual forester with
EDC’s corporate social responsibility department, survived the attack
and gave their testimonies.

“So much for ‘kayo ang boss ko’ of the Aquino administration. The
government would only listen to its men and not the people’s lament,”
Clamor added.



Leonard Co family files murder raps vs 38 Army soldiers
01/25/2011 | 11:05 AM

(Updated 11:58 a.m.) The family of slain botanist Leonard Co on Tuesday filed a complaint accusing 38 members of the Philippine Army's 19th Infantry Battalion of murdering Co and his two other companions in Leyte last year.

Those who filed the complaint were Co's wife, Glenda, and parents Lian Sing and Emelina Co.

Co's family had earlier protested a DOJ fact-finding panel's report that cleared the military of any liability for the the killing of Co, forest guard Sofronio Cortez, and guide Julius Borromeo at the Energy Development Corp. (EDC) premises in Kananga, Leyte.

The military had claimed that the three were killed in a crossfire between the 19th IB and New People's Army (NPA) rebels.

But Co's family said they do not believe the military because the Army's shooting was supposedly "specifically directed only at Co, Borromeo, Cortez and their companions."

"We have basis to believe that no encounter occurred between the 19th Infatnry Battalion and the communist terrorists when Co, Borromeo, Cortez were killed and that they were in fact murdered by elements of the 19th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army," they said in their complaint.

Those named on the charge sheet were:

# 1Lt. Ronald Odchimar,
# 2Lt. Cameron Perez,
# Corporal Marlon Mores,
# Private First Class Albert Belonte,
# PFC Michael Babon,
# PFC Elemer Forteza,
# PFC Roger Fabillar,
# PFC Gil Guimerey,
# PFC Alex Apostol,
# PFC WIlliam Bulic, and
# 28 other John Does.

The military earlier said it was ready to face any investigation into the incident.


In their complaint, Co's family asked the DOJ to conduct a preliminary investigation to determine whether the respondents should be charged with murder for the killing of Co and his two other companions.

Lawyer Evalyn Ursua, counsel for the family, said a review of the DOJ panel's report would show that "the findings and the conclusions of the report are flawed and contrary to evidence."

Speaking to reporters, Ursua said that a scrutiny of the soldiers' affidavits would show that they did not have personal knowledge of the supposed presence of communist rebels.

"We examined their affidavits and we saw their statements. Some were hearsay and unreliable regarding the presence of armed communist terrorists, and the shooting was directed especially at the team of Doctor Co," Ursua said.

Co's wife and parents added in their complaint: "It is understanding that these hearsay and unreliable statements about the supposed presence of three armed communist terrorists cannot give credence to the claim that Co, Borromeo, and Cortez were killed in the crossfire between government soldiers and communist terrorists."

They likewise said that the fact that treachery, an element of murder, was present because Co, Borromeo, and Cortez were killed defenselessly.

"Under the law, the sudden and unexpected attack against Co, Borromeo, and Cortez when they were unarmed and completely defenseless constitutes treachery and makes their killing murder," they said.

Which has more weight?

In a separate interview with reporters, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said she will assign a panel of prosecutors that will hande the Co family's complaint.

She added that the filing of the complaint paves the way for a preliminary investigation, which is a more formal inquiry compared with the earlier fact-finding probe done by a DOJ panel of prosecutors.

The DOJ panel's report blamed the deaths on the communist rebels, saying the trajectory of the bullets that killed Co and his companions came from lower grounds, where the NPA rebels were allegedly located.

She added that the imminent preliminary investigation on the murder charges "effectively" has more weight than the fact-finding probe done by the panel.

"In the preliminary investigation, the evidentiary rules will apply. The ultimate goal is to determine probable cause whether the respondents can be indicted. This is a different proceeding, it's more formal and it will be done by a different panel," she said.

De Lima likewise vowed the DOJ's impartiality in the upcoming preliminary investigation.

"The panel that will be created will be presumed to be regular and diligent and efficient in the discharge of its mandate," she said. — RSJ, GMANews.TV



Dr. Lily Co-Austria. sister of Leonardo Co,  being interviewed by media.


Information Bureau
Communist Party of the Philippines

NDF-EV condemns whitewash of 19th IB massacre
January 21, 2011

The National Democratic Front-Eastern Visayas today assailed the Department Of Justice for clearing the 19th IB of responsibility for the massacre of botanist Leonardo Co and two others last Nov. 15 in Kananga, Leyte. "The DOJ ruling absolving the 19th IB and shifting the blame to the New People's Army is pure hogwash because there was no NPA unit anywhere near the massacre site," said Fr. Santiago Salas, NDF-EV spokesperson. "Furthermore, the DOJ ruling stands in solitary contradiction to the physical evidence and eyewitness testimonies uncovered by concerned organizations, that the line of fire came from the military and there was no answering fire whatsoever. It is deplorable that the so-called DOJ "fact-finding" consisted of swallowing the military's alibi of a "crossfire" and then spewing a whitewash on the public."

Fr. Salas said the DOJ ruling sent a clear signal to the public that the military's impunity for human rights violations is alive and well under the Aquino regime. "The 19th IB committed two massacres under the Arroyo regime for which it was never brought to account. By absolving the 19th IB yet again for the massacre of Leonardo Co, Sofronio Cortez, and Julius Borromeo committed under Oplan Bantay Laya, the Aquino regime failed in its promise of change and virtually encourages the continued impunity of the state security forces under their new Oplan Bayanihan."

The NDF-EV spokesperson said that the DOJ ruling is an outrage to the people, and urged them to press for justice for Leonardo Co and his companions and all other victims of the 19th IB and fascist state terrorism. "We hope that the peace talks between the Philippine government and the NDFP in February will address concerns such as this massacre in Leyte, especially with the reconvening of the Joint Monitoring Committee of the Comprehensive Agreement on Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law, which has so woefully been trampled by the military. There can be no peace without justice for the human rights violations suffered by Co and so many of the people under fascist state terrorism. Let us continue the fight for justice for Leonardo Co and all other victims of human rights violations."#

Roy Santos
NDF-EV Media Liaison Officer
Cellphone No. +639196199369
E-mail: ndfevis@gmail.com

Dr. Roberto Austria, brotrher-in-law of Leonardo Co
BAYAN Secretary General Renato Reyes, Jr.      
Kalikasan's Clemente Bautista Kalikasan's Ryan Salvador Anthony Arbias of Philippine Native Plants Conservation Society


Picket at the DOJ of the Justice for Leonardo Co, Sofronio Cortez and Julius Borromeo for the junking of the DOJ report, January 24, 2011




Picket at the DOJ of the Justice for Leonardo Co, Sofronio Cortez and Julius Borromeo for the junking of the DOJ report, January 24, 2011





Picket at the DOJ of the Justice for Leonardo Co, Sofronio Cortez and Julius Borromeo for the junking of the DOJ report, January 24, 2011




Picket at the DOJ of the Justice for Leonardo Co, Sofronio Cortez and Julius Borromeo for the junking of the DOJ report, January 24, 2011






Picket at the DOJ of the Justice for Leonardo Co, Sofronio Cortez and Julius Borromeo for the junking of the DOJ report, January 24, 2011




Picket at the DOJ of the Justice for Leonardo Co, Sofronio Cortez and Julius Borromeo for the junking of the DOJ report, January 24, 2011




Kananga 3 and its scientific name



The Fact Finding Mission group, with data and compelling logic to show, concluded that Leonard Co, Sofronio Cortez and Julius Borromeo were killed by gunfire coming from the military. We call the three victims collectively as the Kananga 3, Kananga being the name of the place. 


With not much evidence to show and jumping to confusion, the 3-man NBI-DOJ panel supports the claim of the military that the NPA rebels were there, they had an exchange of gunfire, and the bullets from the NPA killed the Kananga 3 never mind that the military admitted they fired a total of 245 rounds of high caliber bullets and their commanding officer said "we are very, very remorseful over what happened" when interviewed a day after the killing.


And so we have the big talisay tree which the Kananga 3 were inspecting and a few trees nearby as witnesses to the killings by the military. We call the tree witnesses collectively as the Kananga 3, and its scientific name, in the fashion of Carl Linnaeus, the father of modern taxonomy, is leonardos sofronios julius testigos .



Eye Witness
by Pia Montalban

I cannot scream nor shout, despite the rustling
of my leaves that have covered
the events I desire to unveil and report—
who the culprits are
for the blood that flowed.

I cannot wield the pen to write a statem
My branches cannot literally point finger,
to identify and nail down the criminals:
The cowardly state with its weak-kneed military!

I cannot uproot myself from the ground where I stand,
and run, while my roots sink deep
Even as I wanted to call out to comrades
that would defend the scientist and his other two colleagues.

A mute-witness I am, without hands
feet, mouth, yet I swear to the truth—
that I have heard and seen,
and felt,
the nightmare of war.

How then can they explain
the shells that lodged
into our broad trunks
the bullets that pierced us
after blasting through their mark?

How then can they still hide the killers
to leave evidence
bullet marks
that spoke truth
of the murder that happened.

No tree ever concocted a lie,
no tree ever could.

Now, how then can they
weave lies
that the bloodbath
is not a military encounter
between its forces and the NPA
but another case
of failed
military-intelligence of the estate?

The trees
have testified.

Must we ask again,

Who the bloody criminals are
that murdered
Leonard, Sofronio, and Julius?




From:  www.pinoyweekly.org


Puno mula sa ridge na puno ng tama ng bala, mula sa isang bahagi lamang ng puno. Para sa FFM Team, indikasyon ito na nagmula lamang sa iisang direksiyon ang mga paputok. (KR Guda)





Quote for the day, January 25, 2011: on the testimonies of Gibe and Batute re the Kananga 3 killings




He [Army spokesperson Col. Antonio Parlade Jr].said the investigators could not rely solely on the statements of the two survivors, Energy Development Corp. forester Roniño Gibe and farmer Policarpio Balute, who had said that the gunshots came from only one direction.


[They were] in a forested area. You cannot determine where the bullets are coming from. Take it from me, I’m also a combat officer. I’ve been in the field. You cannot tell where the gunshots are coming from,” he said.


------ Inquirer report, Jan. 25, 2011


I have not been a combat officer. I was only a mountain climber and had gone to some very thickly forested area in my younger days. But I could tell where the tweet of a bird or the grunt of an animal was coming from -- North, South, East or West.


That is because our ear is such a fantastic piece of instrument that could detect the intensity in decibels as well as the GPS of the source of sound in the four major geographical directions.


I am sure witnesses Gibe and Batute  -- foresters and mountain climbers -- have normal hearing, too. They heard gunfire from high caliber rifles, not tweets from a bird,  for about 15 minutes, not a minute only, so you can bet that they were able to pinpoint the source of the "new year " (as they described it) sounds -- emanating from the side of the military.


But the army spokesperson says: "I’m also a combat officer. I’ve been in the field."