DOJ to focus on Ati’s murderBy Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
ILOILO CITY—Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has ordered government prosecutors to fast-track the resolution of the murder of the spokesperson of the Ati tribe in Boracay.
De Lima announced at a meeting with Ati tribe members in Boracay on Friday that she would direct the Aklan provincial prosecutor’s office to resolve soon the murder complaint against the suspects in the killing of Dexter Condez.
A lone gunman repeatedly shot Condez, the spokesperson of Boracay Ati Tribal Organization, on Feb. 22 as the victim was going home from a meeting to the Ati community in Barangay Manoc-Manoc in Boracay.
De Lima went to the Ati community and met for 30 minutes with tribal leaders, Boracay parish priest Fr. Arnaldo Crisostomo, Sr. Herminia Sutarez of Holy Rosary Parish Ati Mission and the nongovernment organization Katarungan.
“She assured the Ati tribe of the resolution of the complaint within a week if possible,” Sutarez told the Inquirer.
Police have tagged Daniel Celestino as the prime suspect in the killing based on witnesses’ accounts.
Celestino is a security guard of the Crown Regency Boracay Resorts hotel chain which is owned by the Cebu-based property developer J. King & Sons Co. Inc.
Employees of the property developer had been involved in a confrontation with the Ati tribe over property boundary disputes.
But company officials led by Richard King, chair and chief executive officer of J. King & Sons Co. Inc., have repeatedly denied any involvement in the killing.
Police filed the murder complaint against Celestino and two other unidentified suspects on Feb. 26 at the Aklan provincial prosecutor’s office.
But the complaint has yet to be resolved since the prosecutor’s office granted the motion of the respondent to extend the deadline to file his counter-affidavit to April 4.
Celestino denied the allegations in a 20-page counter-affidavit submitted to Deputy Provincial Prosecutor Reynaldo Peralta Jr., the investigating prosecutor.
“I vehemently denounce the accusation against me by the witnesses as it is absolutely false, malicious and unfounded,” the suspect said.
He also challenged witnesses to take a polygraph test “in the interest of truth.”
Investigators believe that Condez was murdered because of disputes over the 2.1-hectare beach-front property that was awarded to the tribe by the government in 2011 through a certificate of ancestral domain title.