Murder case OK’d vs hotel guard in slay of Ati leaderBy Nestor P. Burgos Jr.
ILOILO CITY—The Aklan provincial prosecutors’ office has found sufficient basis to file in court a murder charge against a hotel security guard for the killing of the spokesperson of the Ati tribe on Boracay Island.
In a six-page resolution released on July 5, the prosecutor’s office said there was sufficient basis to formally charge Daniel Celestino in the murder of Dexter Condez.
A lone gunman shot dead Condez on Feb. 22 as he was walking home from a meeting to the Ati community in Barangay Manoc-Manoc in Boracay.
Condez, 26, was the spokesperson of Boracay Ati Tribal Organization and the most visible figure in the tribe’s struggle to keep a parcel of land titled to them by the government.
Investigators believe that Condez was murdered because of disputes over the 2.1-hectare beachfront property that was awarded to the tribe by the government in 2011 through a certificate of ancestral domain title issued by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.
Celestino is employed by the Crown Regency Boracay Resorts hotel chain which is owned by the Cebu-based property developer J. King & Sons Co. Inc. The property developer is among those with boundary disputes or ownership claims over the Ati property.
Celestino and his employers have repeatedly denied involvement in the killing of Condez.
Celestino’s lawyer, Augusto Macam, said he would file a motion for reconsideration “because we believe the investigating prosecutor erred in weighing the evidence.”
In the resolution dated July 1 issued by Deputy Provincial Prosecutor Reynaldo Peralta Jr. and approved by Provincial Prosecutor Ma. Maya Bien Mayor-Tolentino, the prosecutor’s office recommended the filing of the criminal charge based on witnesses’ description of the lone gunman.
Despite saying that Celestino “appears to have a strong defense,” Peralta said in his resolution that contradictions in the description of the gunman by one of the witnesses did not negate the testimony of other witnesses pointing to Celestino as the gunman.
He said results of a polygraph test submitted by Celestino in his defense did not have any bearing on the case because the “admission and reliability of the test is still questionable,” citing jurisprudence.
Fr. Arnold Crisostomo, Boracay parish priest, urged law enforcers and the government to speed up the prosecution of the case and to determine and arrest the masterminds behind the murder.
Last July 22, tribe members lit candles, laid flowers and offered prayers for Condez at the site where he was gunned down.
“We pray that his death will not be in vain,” said Evangeline Tamboon, a tribe leader.