Whitewash in The Investigation On The Deaths of Co, Cortez, and Borromeo Feared

The EDC complex is 200 hectares, from Kananga it extends up to Ormoc City comprised of three barangays, according to Codilla. The EDC complex as well as the adjacent barangays are mountainous areas.

Estelita Pañga Bayo, 67, godmother of Borromeo, and Borromeo’s wife refuted Tutaan’s statement that the area near the EDC complex is the “playground” of the NPA. “I have lived here for 67 years. There has not been a single encounter between the NPA and military in this area nor does the NPA operate here. Generally our place is peaceful.” She added that a week before Nov. 15, EDC hired at least 30 workers from Basey, Samar to harvest rattan inside the EDC complex.

Co arrived at the EDC complex on Nov. 9 for the “Taxonomic Identification, Collection, Procurement and Management of Seeds, Wildings and Seedlings and Assistance in Establishment of Partnerships and Mother Trees for the Binhi Tree for the Future” program of the EDC. According to Paete and Ernie Calumpit, head security of the EDC, Co had already visited areas in the complex since Nov. 10. From Nov. 10 to 13, Co had visited and worked in various pads.

Whitewash?

Justice for Leonard Co Movement feared a possible whitewash in the investigation on the deaths of Co, Cortez, and Borromeo. Tapang said a team from the Philippine National Police-Scene of the Crime Operatives (PNP-SOCO) was able to visit the site 20 hours after the incident and no one from the EDC joined the SOCO. It was only on Nov. 17 that the EDC was able to access the site.

“What happened during the 20 hours between the incident and the arrival of the SOCO team?” the team asked. “The military was present at the incident site all the time since the shooting until after they brought down the bodies. The police was also not allowed to go to the site immediately since the military said they were conducting hot pursuit operations. This failure to secure the site early by the police and the EDC is glaring and puts the reports of the SOCO and the military into a questionable position.”

Tapang said the EDC staff also failed to explain why no EDC personnel were present during the SOCO investigation.

Recommendations

The team expressed concerns regarding the safety of the survivors and their families. During the wake of Borromeo, the victim’s family was visited by men asking rudely for the whereabouts of another survivor, Balute. There were also motorcycle-riding men who tailed some of the team members who visited the communities where the families of the victims and survivors lived. The team called on groups and institutions to provide sanctuary for the survivors and their families.

Click here to view the full report of the fact-finding team.

The team recommends the following:

Those who are responsible for the deaths of Co and his companions, from all levels of the military, should be investigated and appropriate charges be filed against them

The 19th IB should release the names of the members of the squad and platoon, including their commanding officers, involved in the shooting of Co and company. The firearms of these officers and enlisted men should be secured and surrendered to the proper authorities;

The liability of the military personnel who failed to give Borromeo immediate medical attention and bring him to a hospital should also be fully investigated and appropriate charges be filed against them;

The EDC should clarify the protocols for their communications and coordination with the military especially since there are still other activities [similar to what Co’s team was doing] which the EDC continues to conduct;

The EDC should also clarify the extent of their work area and when they would be responsible for the security of their own personnel.

The EDC, the 19th IB and the PNP should make accessible all documents that would further shed light on the incident. (Bulatlat.com)

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