DOJ downgrades charge vs soldiers in botanist death-A A +A
Friday, March 1, 2013
SOLDIERS tagged in the killing of Leonard Co and two others in November 2010 will only face homicide charges despite the plea of the botanist's family to have these people indicted for murder, the Department of Justice (DOJ) said Friday.
In a 19-page resolution, the DOJ found probable cause to charge the following with reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide and attempted homicide: 1st Lieutenant Ronald Odchimar, Corporal Marlon Mores, Private First Class (Pfc) Albert Belmonte, Pfc William Bulic, Pfc Elmer Forteza, Pfc Alex Apostol, Pfc Roger Fabillar, Pfc Michael Babon and Pfc Gil Guimerey.
The same individuals along with 27 others, meanwhile, will face obstruction of justice raps for delaying the prosecution of the respondents such as Odchimar.
"Unfortunately, we believe that, in good conscience and under normal circumstances, respondents would not have any malicious intent to injure, much more kill the victims had they known them to be civilians and not communist rebels as they had supposed them to be," the resolution read, noting the forested area of Kananga, Leyte is really a stronghold of communist rebels.
Co's group was conducting field research for the Energy Development Corp. (EDC) at the time of their death.
The botanist's wife, Glenda, and his parents filed the complaint last 2011 as the DOJ went beyond the mandated 60-day period set to resolve preliminary investigation cases.
Prosecutor General Arellano, who approved the resolution, declined to comment why it took time for the department to come up with its findings.
Still, case observer Dr. Giovanni Tapang of the Advocates of Science and Technology for the People (Agham) said the soldiers deserve to be slapped with murder.
"They were moving towards Co and the (two) others while firing. They were observing them for more than 30 minutes and knew that they are unarmed. In any case, there should have been more soldiers involved since the soldiers did not submit all their firearms to the DOJ and the Commission on Human Rights," he told Sun.Star.
Agham led a fact-finding mission in Kananga last November 26, 2010 that showed there were no indications of any crossfire in the area. The trees were shot only from the side of the military towards where Co and his team were standing.
Tapang said he will talk to Co's family and lawyers to determine their next steps on the case. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)