Suspect in Ati leader slay charged

Case filed vs guard of hotel chain involved in past clash with tribe

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ATI TRIBE spokesperson Dexter Condez (center) with tribe chief Delsa Justo (right) are seen talking with unidentified men over the Ati’s land claim in April 2012 or barely a year before Condez was gunned down. NESTOR P. BURGOS / INQUIRER VISAYAS

ILOILO CITY – Police have filed a murder case against the security guard of a hotel chain in Boracay for the killing of a leader of the Ati tribe which is being linked to the tribe’s fight for a piece of land on the island-resort.

The Aklan police filed the case against Daniel Celestino on Tuesday at the Aklan provincial prosecutor’s office in the capital town of Kalibo for the February 22 killing of Dexter Condez.

Condez, 26, spokesperson of the Boracay Ati Tribal Organization (Bato), died of at least eight gunshot wounds, including one in the heart, after a lone gunman shot him while he was on his way to the Ati community in Barangay Manoc-Manoc in Boracay.

Teddy Jimenez, resident manager of Crown Regency Boracay Resorts, confirmed that Celestino is a security guard of the hotel chain.

“Yes, he is a security guard who is assigned to our hotels but we are in no way involved in the killing,” Jimenez said in a telephone interview Wednesday.

“We are God-fearing. We abide by the rule of law and we will not do such a thing,” he said, adding that he is speaking on his personal capacity.

Jimenez said Celestino’s direct employer is the Cebu-based security agency Global Asset Protection.

“He was working here (in the hotel) when the incident happened. He is still working and we will fully cooperate with the police in any investigation,” he said.

Chief Superintendent Agrimero Cruz Jr., Western Visayas police director, said the gunman was identified by witnesses.

“The witnesses knew the suspect that’s why he was easily identified,” Cruz told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

The Cebu-based J. King and Sons Company Inc. operates three hotels in Boracay, including the Crown Regency Resort and Convention Center.

The company is among at least three property claimants that are opposing the occupation of the Ati tribe of a 2.1-hectare property in Barangay Manoc-Manoc, one of three villages of Boracay.

The property was granted to the tribe by the government through a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) issued by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) on Jan. 21, 2011.

The tribe occupied the land in April last year and the NCIP subsequently issued a writ of possession formalizing the tribe’s occupation of the land.

The NCIP and anthropological studies have supported claims that the Atis are the earliest settlers in Boracay but were displaced and driven away, especially starting in the 1970s when tourists and investors started to descend on the island.

On November 4 last year, Condez and other tribe members were involved in a confrontation with Jimenez and at least 20 armed security guards employed by J. King and Sons Company Inc. after the guards destroyed perimeter fences built by the tribe members around portions of the property.

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