Cries for justice for Ati leader still loud 3 years after murder
BORACAY ISLAND, Aklan—Nearly 30 people, mostly Ati women, stood around the stone marker with a bamboo cross and lighted candles in glasses along the road on Monday afternoon, praying the rosary with two nuns.
It was here where their leader, Dexter Condez, 26, spokesperson of the Boracay Ati Tribal Organization (Bato), was gunned down by a lone assailant three years ago as he headed for home with two women tribe leaders from a meeting to their community some 50 meters away in Barangay Manoc-Manoc in this prime tourist destination.
“We are saddened that no one has been punished for Dexter’s death because of the very slow pace of the case,” Evangeline Tamboon, a member of the Bato council of leaders, told the Inquirer last week.
“We are praying that those responsible would be held accountable,” she said.
Before his death, Condez spoke in defense of their tribe’s struggle for their ancestral land rights in Boracay and to have a permanent place to live on the island paradise.
Police believed his death was linked to disputes over a 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) issued by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples.
Forty-five Ati families are staying in houses donated by nongovernment organizations and other supporters.
Police filed murder charges against Daniel Celestino and two unidentified suspects at the Kalibo Regional Trial Court. Celestino worked as a security guard of the Crown Regency Boracay Resorts hotel chain which is owned by the Cebu-based J. King & Sons Co. Inc., a property developer engaged in boundary disputes or ownership claims over the CADT-covered land of the tribe.
He has been detained at the Bureau of Jail Management Penology facility in Kalibo after he was arrested in Sta. Cruz town in Laguna province on March 3, 2014.
Celestino and his employers have repeatedly denied involvement in the killing of Condez, claiming that he was on the hotel premises when it happened.
Tamboon said the last court hearing on Celestino’s petition for bail was held in November last year. The next one was set for July. Nestor P. Burgos Jr., Inquirer Visayas, with a report from Eto Pagaduan, Contributor
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