Justice for Leonard Co- 40 trees for 40 causes

Last  November 15 2010, Sir Leonardo Co and two of his companions fell from a hail of gunfire while collecting seedlings of endangered trees for reforestation in the town of Kananga , Leyte , fired upon by the very elements sworn to protect us.

In memoriam : Mr. Leonard Co’s name will forever be immortalized in Rafflesia leonardii named by Dr. Julie Barcelona and Mr. Pieter B. Pelser 2008.

Leonard Co’s violent and untimely demise has left an immense void in the front line struggle for conservation and the rippling effect of his sudden departure can only be guessed at but may never be truly quantified- Most certainly we are left with fewer options to pursue.

The author saw a post of his untimely death on face book , While some friends started a text brigade over his death . Shock with disbelief and anger over what had happened.  It took some time to absorbed  and accept  to this person which dedicated all his life in pursue of conservation and preservation of Philippine biodiversity !His untimely death also sparks a grave twists on the conservation efforts in the country.

“What we do know is that EDC had informed the Philippine Army Command responsible for security in the area of Professor Co’s planned route and activities and had received positive confirmation for them to proceed before they entered the area,” EDC president Richard Tantoco said.

“What occurred subsequently remains unclear at the moment, but we will cooperate fully with the investigators tasked to find out precisely what happened,” Tantoco added.

Mr. Leonard Co’s light conversation with members of Philippine Native Plant Conservation Society, Inc  taken last June 2010.

The author being one of the original founding member and board of directors ( 2007 to 2008)  of the Philippine Native Plant Conservation Society, Inc. felt that scientific and horticultural organization throughout the world had been left of the  herculean task that Leonard Co set out to undertake.

relatives, friends, sympathizers form a group called ” Justice for Leonard Co ” movement

He spent a lifetime exploring and gathering precious data on the rapidly diminishing forested regions of the country.

tree saplings and green placards

Last December 23, 2010 on the eve of his 40th day of his death , the author together with the Mr. Co’s relative, friends, sympathizers , members of AGHAM party list among other join in mourning with the rest of the world in Professor Co’s untimely death.

Mr. Fernando Aurigue Jr. planted a tree sapling

The event started with a short prayer by friends, family members and sympathizers .

Planting of various tree sapling donated by friends, DENR and relatives highlighted the commemoration of Sir Leonard Co’s death. This would also serve as a reunion for his friends, fellow advocates and environmental lovers within the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife visitor’s center.

Ms. Jo Quimpo planted a tree sapling

After the tree planting a simple buffet meal was served by the members of the Co’s family , Philippine Native Plant Conservation Society, Inc.

Mr. George Yao planted a tree sapling

Base on the geography of the area, the tree where Leonard and his team were standing around when they were shot is 30 to 40 meters away from the military’s ridge position.  Leonard’s position was actually the lower ground relative to the nearby surroundings. Beyond Leonard’s position is a steady upward slope. To one side is a rock wall and the other is part of the EDC geothermal complex.

the author planted a tree sapling

The volume of fire from the ridge area was directed mainly towards the direction where Leonard Co and his group was standing. This can be interpreted that the main target was Leonard and his companions and none other. What was also clear from the CHR hearing, according to the testimony of Dr. Racquel Fortun and the PNP ballistics comparison tests, was that there were bullets fired from the guns assigned to the military on the lower ground with their shells found at locations approaching that of Leonard and company.

members and guests during the lunch meal hosted by relatives , DENR and PNPCSI

The DOJ report was also silent on the fact that the military had the opportunity to clear and control the site for a full 23 hours after the shooting. The PNP SOCO team was able to gain access to the site only at 11 a.m. of the following day. The burden is on the military to show that nothing happened to the evidence during this intervening time. Where are the slugs and shells of rest of the 245 bullets that the military had fired?

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