We, the members of the Philippine Native Plant Conservation Society, mourn the loss of our beloved founder and leader, Leonardo Co.
We express our moral indignation and condemn the senseless killing of a brilliant and irreplaceable mind.
We decry the nonchalance of a military that dismisses this tragedy as a mere “unfortunate incident”. This is a profound understatement. The void created by Professor Co's sudden departure is unquantifiable and the damage done will have exponential repercussions that will only be apparent in the years to come.
It is with sublime irony that while illegal loggers, poachers, miners, and kaingeros rape, plunder and defile our natural resources at will, we never hear of the apprehension of these criminals, much less, with the rabid intensity suffered by one who has passionately dedicated his entire life caring for our environment. How can this champion of conservation suffer at the hands of his supposed guardians? What justifies excessive firepower on unarmed civilians obviously incapable of retaliation? The military continues to defend the grave abuse of power and justifies what is clearly an indefensible position.
If this can happen to a Leonardo Co, what more for other researchers doing field work in this country? This causes great alarm to the scientific community. Scientists and volunteers receive meager compensation for their services, but it is their passion, dedication and love for country that motivates them in enduring in this thankless profession. Does every researcher and their family have to fear for their lives going up the mountains?
Leonard Co once said “sa Pilipinas ang hustisya ay parang pag taya sa lotto”. Let us hope that in this, at least, he will be proven wrong. Let us hope that he, together with the 2 other victims, will be given justice for their senseless death. This is a direct challenge to the new administration.
Leonard Co did not only die with his boots on, he died doing what he loved most - understanding the last secrets of our vanishing forest. We hope that his legacy and sacrifice would inspire this generation to be more vigilant against the crimes and abuse of this nation towards our environment.
In behalf of the Philippine Native Plants Conservation Society, we express our deepest sympathies and say our prayers for the families and loved ones of the three fatalities. But we demand justice and accountability.