DOJ clears military in botanist’s death-A A +A
Thursday, January 20, 2011
MANILA (Updated 2:23 p.m.) -- The Department of Justice (DOJ) cleared the military on Thursday from any responsibility in the killing of a renowned botanist and his two companions.
The fact-finding committee of the DOJ said none of the firearms submitted by the Philippine Army matched the bullets recovered from victims' bodies.
Renowned taxonomist and ethno-botanist Leonardo Co and his two companions, Sofronio Cortez and Julius Borromeo, were killed on November 15, 2010 while conducting a biodiversity research in the Manawan-Kananga Watershed in Kananga, Leyte.
Witnesses and human rights group had blamed the military's 19th Infantry Battalion (IB) for the incident.
However, the DOJ panel, headed by Assistant State Prosecutor Diosdado Solidum, Assistant State Prosecutor Bryan Jacinto Cacha, National Bureau of Investigation Death Investigation Division head Romulo Asis, said the bullet trajectory suggested that the gunshot came from the location of the rebels.
On November 15 around 12:15 p.m., the soldiers were in Sitio Upper Mahiao, Barangay Lima-ao, Kananga town to conduct their operations as they had received information regarding the presence of armed men in the area.
This resulted in a gun battle that resulted in the death of the victims.
The fact-finding panel cleared the military in the case saying the soldiers’ activities in the area were “legitimate".
The panel instead blamed the Lopez-owned Energy Development Corp. (EDC), the firm that hired Co, Cortez, and Borromeo.
It said the EDC officials failed to secure the victims and did not give “proper importance" to information on the communist threat.
It added the failure of the EDC to carry out “necessary precautions" suggested that the EDC is liable for reckless imprudence that resulted in the deaths of the three.
“The liability comes from the imprudence or negligence they have handled in the security of their personnel in their premises as well as the lack of coordination with the military in terms of activities in the area despite receipt of report that should have put them on alert or heightened security awareness," it said.
Justice Secretary Leila De Lima, for her part, was satisfied with the findings but she said she still has to review the recommendation of the panel.
The findings of the panel were based on the ocular inspection it conducted, interviews and witnesses' affidavits, autopsy report, post mortem investigation findings and reenactment of the incident. (Sunnex)