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Ati people fear for safety after killing of leader

/ 07:27 PM March 03, 2013

A CRYING Ati boy joins his elders in calling for justice for their slain leader, Dexter Condez, during funeral rites at Holy Rosary Parish Church in Boracay. NESTOR P. BURGOS JR./INQUIRER VISAYAS

BORACAY ISLAND, Aklan—Fearing for their safety following the murder of one of their leaders, the Ati people and their supporters have called on the government to deploy more policemen in their community here.

“We continue to receive reports that they will kill more of us and we do not feel safe anymore,” said Evangeline Tambuon, council member of Boracay Ati Tribal Organization (Bato).



Lone gunman

The group’s spokesperson, Dexter Condez, died after a lone man shot him several times while he and two other companions were walking home in Barangay Manoc-Manoc after attending a meeting on Feb. 22. He was buried on Saturday at the Boracay public cemetery.

Sister Hermie Sutares, program coordinator of Holy Rosary Parish Ati Mission, said she had asked the Philippine National Police to assign a permanent police force to the Ati community.

Two policemen had already been assigned to the area occupied by the Ati people since April last year after receiving a certificate of ancestral domain title (CADT) covering 2.1 hectares from the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.

Two more were deployed since Condez’s killing, which tribe members believe was related to disputes over the property covered by CADT.

Police have filed a murder case against Daniel Celestino, a security guard of Crown Regency Boracay Resorts hotel chain, and two other unidentified suspects. Celestino denied the allegations when he showed up at the Boracay Tourist Assistance Center (BTAC), the island’s police force.

Senior Inspector Joeffer Cabural, BTAC chief, said the guard was allowed to go home because there was no pending arrest warrant against him.

Richard King, chair and chief executive officer of the Cebu-based property developer J. King & Sons Co. Inc., has decried reports dragging one of its three hotels in Boracay into the killing.



Not hiding

“We condemn this killing and we want to get to the bottom of this. That’s why we are fully cooperating with the investigation,” King told the Inquirer in an interview on Saturday.

King said the company even volunteered to bring Celestino to the police station to show that he was not hiding.

“A lot of our witnesses here can attest that he was really in the hotel at that time (of the killing). We pity the guard. That’s why we volunteered to assist him in any legal case that will be brought against him,” King said.

Lawyers insist that the property bought by J. King & Sons Co. Inc. from Rudi Banico, one of three claimants contesting the CADT of the tribe, was not included in the 2.1 hectares of land granted to the Ati.

Unidentified people threw stones at the community on Friday night, Sutares said. “They have also been hearing talks that one of the men in the tribe will be killed next,” she told the Inquirer.

Senior Supt. Pedrito Escarilla, Aklan police director, said the BTAC could not permanently assign policemen to the area. Eighty-six policemen secure the 1,032-hectare island-resort and its 19,000 residents.

40 more personnel

Escarilla said he had asked the regional police office for at least 40 more personnel and that a permanent outpost be put up near the Ati community.

Many residents of Boracay expressed hope that the murder would be resolved swiftly and that those responsible should be punished.

Marco Ganugi, an Italian who has been living on the island since 1986 and is married to an Ati, said he wished “something good will come out” of Condez’s killing.

“They (Ati) are poor people and many treat them like animals, forgetting that we are all human beings,” Ganugi, Condez’s former employer in a grocery store, told the Inquirer.

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