No murder charges for soldiers in Leonardo Co’s killing
MANILA, Philippines—Prosecutors of the Department of Justice (DOJ) have charged nine Philippine Army soldiers with reckless imprudence resulting in multiple homicide in connection with the deaths of botanist Leonardo Co and two companions in November 2010, and 27 others with obstructing justice.
Co’s widow Glenda and his parents filed murder charges against the soldiers, but the prosecutors filed the lesser charges, saying the deaths were brought about by an understandable mistake.
In a 19-page resolution, investigating prosecutors George Yarte Jr., Tofel Austria and Niven Canlapan recommended charging 1Lt. Ronald Odchimar, Cpl. Marlon Mores, Pfc. Albert Belmonte, Pfc. William Bulic, Pfc. Elmer Forteza, Pfc. Alex Apostol, Pfc. Roger Fabillar, Pfc. Michael Babon and Pfc. Gil Guimerey—all from the 19th Infantry “Commando” Battalion of the Philippine Army’s 8th Infantry Division—with reckless imprudence resulting in homicide and attempted homicide.
Twenty-seven other soldiers were charged with obstruction of justice, a violation of Section 1(c) of President Decree No. 1829, for impeding, frustrating or delaying the prosecution of their fellow soldiers.
They were 2Lt. Cameron Perez, Cpl. Henrich Montecalvo, Pfc. Noelito Eblamo, Pfc. Ramelito Caayon, Pfc. Julito Bucog, Pfc. Enrique Barbarona, Pfc. Elmer Tapac, Pfc. Arvie Divinagracia, Pfc. Jose Madrilejos, Cpl Jesus Verona, Pfc. Leonard Regis, Pfc. Richard Salandino, Pfc. Apollo Elnar, Pfc. Esperidion Java Jr.;
Pfc. Cornilio Coso, Pfc. Ricardo Liguidliguid, Pfc. Edjun Omawas, Pfc. Modesto Camero Jr., Pfc. Elmer Costelo, Pfc. Carlo Romero, Pfc. Godofredo Capatoy III, Pfc. Andro Villanueva, Pfc. Arnel Superales, Pfc. Ramil Maguilano, Pfc. Edyson Ferenal, Pfc. Bob Alipoon, and Pfc. Enrico Malog.
The first group of soldiers had claimed that they engaged in a fire fight with communist rebels when they fired on Co and his companions while the second group responded to the shooting incident but did not properly report to authorities what had happened.
Co, farmer Julio Borromeo and Energy Development Corp. employee Sofronio Cortez died from gunfire from Army soldiers in Kananga, Leyte, on Nov. 15, 2010. Ronino Gibe, a forester, and Policarpio Balute, another farmer, survived the incident.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.