Boracay Ati folk welcome capture of slay suspect
BORACAY ISLAND, Philippines—The Ati indigenous community here welcomed the arrest of a security guard facing a murder charge for the death of their spokesperson last year, but appealed to the government to go after those who ordered the attack.
“We are happy that hopefully (Dexter Condez) will be given justice,” said Evangeline Tamboon, a member of the Boracay Ati Tribal Organization council of leaders.
“But we will be more glad if the one who ordered his killing will be identified and also punished. The gunman would not have acted without orders,” she said.
Police arrested the suspect, Daniel Celestino, in Sta. Cruz town, Laguna province, on Monday night. A police informant close to the suspect tipped off authorities that he was on the move after seeing his name on an Inquirer report that a nationwide hunt for him had been launched.
Celestino, 32, worked as a security guard of Crown Regency Boracay Resorts, a hotel chain owned by J. King & Sons Co. Inc., a property developer which is among those with boundary disputes or ownership claims over the Ati land in Barangay (village) Manoc-Manoc.
Celestino and his employers have repeatedly denied involvement in the killing of Condez, claiming that he was at the hotel premises when it happened.
The suspect disappeared along with his family shortly after a warrant for his arrest was issued by the Kalibo Regional Trial Court Branch 17 on Oct. 21 last year. He and two unidentified suspects are facing murder charges before the court.
Celestino was arrested in his mother’s home in the remote Palasan village in Sta. Cruz at around 8 p.m. Monday.
With police guards, Celestino arrived in Aklan’s capital town at 10:45 p.m. Tuesday.
Condez, 26, the most vocal and visible figure in the Ati struggle to have a land of their own in Boracay, was shot several times on Feb. 22 last year while he was walking home to their community in Manoc-Manoc after attending a meeting with two women tribe leaders.
Investigators believed Condez was killed 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.
“It’s good that the trial can now proceed and (Celestino) will be able to prove that he is innocent. We are convinced of his innocence and happy that in the end truth will prevail,” Deolito Alvarez, legal counsel of J. King & Sons, said in a text message to the Inquirer. With a report from Maricar Cinco, Inquirer Southern Luzon
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