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Leonard Co

posted Aug 4, 2011, 3:27 PM by Diego S. Maranan   [ updated Aug 7, 2011, 1:15 PM ]
Leonard Co, the Philippines’s premiere botanist, along with Sofronio Cortez and guide Julius Borromeo were killed in Kananga, Leyte in November 15, 2010.

     Co and his research team were looking for tree species for a forest conservation project when they were gunned down by elements of the Philippine Army’s 19th Infantry Battalion. According to Lt. Col. Tutaan, the  19th IB’s commanding officer, the civilians were caught in a crossfire between the military and rebel forces. However, Policarpio Balute, a farmer who also served as the research team’s guide and who survived the carnage said, "Doon lang galing sa may itaas lahat at isa lang ang direksyon; walang sagutan ng putok sa loob ng halos 15 minuto."

(The bullet only came from uphill and from only one direction. No one was firing back for almost 15 minutes).

While Co and his companions were bleeding to death, the Army did not get medical help and hospital treatment for them.

A panel created by the Department of Justice to look into the case came out with their findings absolving the military of any wrongdoing and pinning the blame on rebel forces. This was loudly protested by Co’s colleagues and family members who are considering filing a case with international courts.

According to academician and National Academy for Science and Technology President Emil Javier, “Co was a passionate and dedicated botanist who known for conducting long-term mapping and his book on forest trees in Palanan in Isabela province, including information on forest composition and dynamics to help communities, policy makers and environmental conservation advocates to understand the scale of natural forest processes.” Co was conferred a posthumous National Academy of Science and Technology (NAST)-Hugh Greenwood Environmental Science Award.

Co also wrote a book on local medicinal plants and worked extensively with communities to promote health care, indigenous knowledge and skills in healing.