Slain botanist’s kin file murder raps vs troops

DateLine Philippines

MANILA–The widow and parents of botanist Leonardo Co filed murder charges on Tuesday against 38 soldiers of the Army’s 19th Infantry Battalion for the death of the scientist and two of his companions in the hinterlands of Kananga, Leyte last November.

The case filed before the Department of Justice by Co’s widow Glenda, and parents Lian Sing Co and Emelina Co, through their lawyer Evalyn Ursua, named 1st Lieutenant Ronald Odchimar, 2Lt. Cameron Perez, Corporal Marlon Mores, Private First Class (Pfc). Albert Belmonte, Pfc. Michael T. Babon, Pfc. Elemer Fortaleza, Pfc Roger Fabillar, Pfc Gil Guimerey, Pfc. Alex Apostol, Pfc. William Bulic and 28 John Does as respondents.

Ursua told reporters Co’s family is also appealing to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to set aside the findings of a fact-finding committee she created, who cleared the military of any responsibility for the deaths of Co, Sofronio Cortez and Julio Borromeo, blaming instead the New People’s Army.

The lawyer said the committee’s conclusion that the victims were caught in the crossfire during a clash between the soldiers and communist rebels was “flawed, erroneous and contrary to evidence.”

“We have basis to believe that no encounter occurred between the 19th IB and the communist terrorists when Co, Borromeo and Cortez were killed, and that they were in fact murdered by elements of the 19th IB of the Philippine Army,” the complaint said. Read More

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