Ati people tap Internet in quest for justice

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ILOILO CITY—“We are on Facebook. Please follow us,” asked Lourdes Tamboon, a leader of the Ati tribe on Boracay Island.

But more than a social media invitation, the appeal is for support for their continued struggle to live peacefully on their ancestral land.

The tribe, considered by anthropologists as the earliest inhabitants of the island-resort, has tapped the Internet to appeal for support, especially after Dexter Condez, one of their leaders, was murdered on Feb. 22.

The Facebook page “Boracay Ati Community,” created on Feb. 18, has earned 675 “likes” as of April 21.

Posted in the page are photographs of the tribe’s programs and activities, and links to news stories about the community and their pursuit for justice for Condez.

A lone gunman repeatedly shot dead Condez as he was walking home from a meeting to the Ati community.

Condez, 26, was the spokesperson of Boracay Ati Tribal Organization and the most visible figure in the tribe’s struggle to have a land of their own in Boracay.

Petition

An online petition (http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Justice_for_Slain_

Indigenous_Youth_Leader_Justice_for_Dexter_Condez_End_Impunity_Now/?cJoVHab) was also launched on March 1, calling on authorities to resolve the case quickly.

“Dexter deserves justice, the Ati demand justice! Join us as we cry justice for Dexter and the Ati. Please sign the online petition urging Philippine President Benigno Aquino III to call for an immediate and thorough investigation to identify the perpetrator and masterminds,” part of the petition read.

The petition has 263 signatories, including foreigners, as of April 20.

Investigators believe 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 (CADT).

The tribe members on April 17 last year occupied around 350 square meters of the property covered by the CADT but at least three claimants have questioned the CADT before the courts.

Police have filed a pending murder complaint before the Aklan provincial prosecutors office against Daniel Celestino and two other unidentified suspects.

Celestino, 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., has repeatedly denied the allegations.

In a forum to mark the first anniversary of the tribe’s occupation of their ancestral land on April 17, various government agencies and private groups and individuals pledged to support proposed projects and programs presented by the Ati community.

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