A revolutionary tribute to a true people’s scientist

Leonardo CoBy SIMON "Ka Filiw" NAOGSAN
Spokesperson, Cordillera Peoples' Democratic Front

The Cordillera People's Democratic Front mourns with the family of slain botanist Leonard Co and condemns in the strongest possible terms the 8th Infantry Division (Armed Forces of the Philippines) for the killing of the brilliant scientist and two other civilians in Kananga, Leyte.

Leonard Co is remembered by the people of the Cordillera as a brilliant scientist who utilized his expertise to unselfishly respond to the needs of the masses. During the many years he spent in the Cordillera, he lived among the people of many communities and trekked through numerous mountains and forests to gather, document, and study medicinal plants.

With his photographic memory, Leonard Co was like a walking encyclopedia. Tribal elders remember his keen insights and immense contribution to their knowledge, as well as his humor and exemplary humility in learning from and teaching the masses.

One tribal elder recalls that Leonard Co urged him and other tribal elders to "protect and defend your ancestral lands because it is not only rich in gold and other mineral wealth but is also a vast source of indigenous medicinal plants and other forest products." A tribal herbalist and elder who usually accompanied Leonard Co to Mount Sisipitan once said, "the usual two-hour hike from the nearest barrio to Mount Sisipitan took us a whole day because Dr. Co would name all the plants along the way up to the mountain. It was like being in a walking class room."

The results of Leonard Co's labor have greatly advanced community-based rural health care in the Cordillera.

He worked with non-governmental development organizations and people's organizations in addressing the health needs of the masses. He promoted self-reliance and enriched tribal herbal medicinal knowledge with scientific means. He helped pioneer the community-based processing of herbal medicines into tablet and capsule form. With these, communities were able to treat common diseases without relying too much on expensive and not readily available prescription drugs.

His death at the hands of the military is a great loss to the Filipino people. The CPDF extends to him the highest accolade and vows to continue to defend the Cordillera ancestral lands in line with his call to preserve the source of indigenous medicinal flora.

We join the family, colleagues, friends and the rest of the indigenous people who had the privilege of working with Leonard Co, in demanding immediate justice for the slain people's scientist. We demand the immediate dismissal and criminal prosecution of all the officers and men of the 8th ID, the 802nd Brigade and the 19th Infantry Battalion who are responsible in the brutal murder of Co and his two companions.

With the murder of one of the country's top botanists and specialist in plant taxonomy and ethno-botany, the challenge falls on his fellow patriotic and pro-people scientists to follow in the footsteps of Leonard Co and make science and technology truly serve the Filipino masses.