Ati families face eviction in disputed Boracay land

Ati families face forced eviction from disputed Boracay land

/ 03:55 PM March 28, 2024

PHOTO: An Ati mother and her children are being evicted from the Boracay land given to them by the government. STORY: Ati families face forced eviction from disputed Boracay land

ATI LAND | Ati families are said to be among the first inhabitants of Boracay, an island in Malay, Aklan, that has attracted tourists due to its white sand beaches and clear waters. (Photo by MARIANNE BERMUDEZ / Philippine Daily Inquirer)

ILOILO CITY, Iloilo, Philippines — Ati tribe members in Boracay were shocked early Palm Sunday morning when guards stormed their area and started to place barricades made out of galvanized iron sheets, citing recent decisions by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).

Maria Tamboon, one of the leaders of the Boracay Ati Tribal Organization (Bato), whose family has been living on the land for more than 48 years, told the Inquirer that at around 6 a.m. on March 24, armed guards put up iron sheets around their land.


When asked about the basis for the barricade, the guards showed them a copy of a March 5, 2024 decision by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), upholding the cancellation of the Certificates of Land Ownership Award (CLOA) given by the Duterte administration to them in 2018.


The cancellation of titles over five lots was filed by land developers in 2022 and was granted respectively by the DAR in March and April last year, citing the non-viability of the land for agricultural use.

READ: Ati families on Boracay Island risk losing land given by gov’t

Bato has filed a motion for reconsideration with the regional office, then a notice of appeal with the DAR central office, and finally a motion for reconsideration on the appeal–all of which had been denied.

She said they challenged the legality of the DAR resolution, given that they had not been given copies of it, nor have the lawyers of the developers appeared to them.

“[T]he mothers were startled. They looked around at what had happened, and one of them approached one of the security guards, asking them why they were doing this [in the morning]. They did not go through [one of our installed] gates but through the [G.I. sheets] we set up,” Tamboon said in a phone interview.

“[The mothers] asked again why they entered without any notice to us. They showed the cancellation [order] of the CLOAs which were not legal and which we did not receive, so even our lawyer was surprised by what they showed,” she added.


READ: Protect Ati tribe’s property in Boracay land reform … 

Tamboon said more security guards came in later on, each having their own weapons.

Because of the barricades, they could not enter the area, and children remained trapped in some of the houses without access to their parents as of this writing.

One of the children of an Ati mother had to go through the barricade to get an infant who was still breastfeeding.

A priest and one barangay captain also tried to intervene, but the security guards wouldn’t budge, stating that they only took orders from their “boss.”

READ: Boracay’s Ati tribe seeks help vs ejection from ancestral land

Because of this, they could not give food to their fellow Ati who had been barricaded in. She said they have placed chairs to climb the iron fences to give them provisions.

“One of the guards, which was one of their leaders, who asserted his strength, said that he wouldn’t listen to the priest and the guard. He said he would follow only their boss… What really is going around is their money, because we don’t have anything to give them[.] ” Tamboon said.

Tamboon said they would also have adhered to the DAR’s cancellation orders but lamented the way these were being enforced.

“It’s not right and it’s not legal what they are doing to us, but if it were legal, we would’ve given way. We don’t want this mess and we don’t want to lose [land] again, that it would become the reason that the Ati have been truly dead here in Boracay,” she said.

READ: Ati tribe wins Boracay land case vs private claimants

“We have the title. For us Atis, if we were given land, we give value to it and protect it, and we don’t want to give it if it was not in the right process. We follow. We’re not going to use force against them until we get the land. We didn’t ask for it, the government gave it to us and pushed us to accept it. And this is what is happening to us? The government itself is getting the land? They shouldn’t have given it to us in the first place, so we wouldn’t have this problem,” she added.

Delsa Justo, one of Bato’s leaders, also wrote to Commission on Human Rights (CHR) chairperson Richard Palpal-latoc, claiming that the actions by the guards were tantamount to human rights violations.

The letter said they continued their legal battles via a petition for certiorari with the Court of Appeals, but Bato’s lawyer, Daniel Dinopol, told the Inquirer that they would file only when they got a copy of the DAR orders.

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Dinopol called into question the implementation of the DAR’s orders, citing the fact that it was hired guards who implemented it and not assigned officers of the agency itself.

TAGS: Ati, Boracay

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