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Slain Ati spokesman laid to rest; investigation into murder continues

March 5, 2013 8:26pm
Marchers demanded justice for slain Ati spokesman Dexter Condez.
Hundreds of mourners joined the Ati community in Boracay last Saturday as it laid to rest its fallen brother Dexter Condez, who was shot to death in cold blood on the night of Feb. 22 when he was walking home after attending a meeting of community leaders in Brgy. Balabag.

Condez, 26, was the spokesperson for the Boracay Ati Tribal Organization (BATO), the group that has been fighting for the Ati community's two-hectare ancestral domain in Boracay.

Among those who attended the Mass and funeral march in his honor last weekend were Viel Aquino-Dee, the President's sister and the vice president of the Assisi Foundation, and civil society leader Joel Rocamora.

The Mass was officiated by Kalibo Bishop Jose Corazon Tala-oc and attended by at least 14 province priests, lawyer Trixie Cruz-Angeles of the National Commission for Culture and the Arts (NCCA) told GMA News Online.

Kalibo Bishop Jose Corazon Tala-oc celebrated the Mass held for Condez last Saturday.

During the march, members of the Ati community and their supporters carried flowers and held up placards that read, "Justice for Dexter Condez! Justice for Boracay Ati Tribe."

Land dispute

Police have filed murder charges against suspect Daniel Laserna Celestino in the killing of Condez. According to PO3 Nida Gregas of the Aklan provincial police, the suspect is a security guard at the Crown Regency Boracay Resorts, the company alleged to have harassed the Ati community in November 4 last year.

In an earlier report on Bombo Radyo, Boracay parish priest Fr. Arnold Crisostomo said Condez' death may have something to do with the earlier incident.

Lawyer Deolito Alvarez, who represents Crown Regency Boracay Resorts, denied that the company had anything to do with Condez' death.

"We denounce it. We do not share the evil motive of whoever perpetuated this senseless killing," he said in a press conference, the video footage of which GMA News Online obtained from the NCCA and PSSST!Centro.

Of the November 4 incident, Alvarez said: "Let me clear. On the part of the hotel and the company, they do not have land disputes. Crown Regency does not have any case at all of land dispute with the Ati tribe."

On January 21, 2011, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) granted a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT) to BATO for two hectares of land where the remaining members of the tribe—consisting of 40 Ati families or some 200 individuals—could create a permanent settlement.

However, some claimants have questioned the granting of the CADT to the Ati community, NCIP commissioner Dionesia Banua earlier told GMA News Online.

The Ati have been documented as the earliest settlers in Boracay, but successive waves of migrants and the development of the island as a tourist enclave in recent decades have driven out many of their members to the mainland of Panay.

Alvarez added that Celestino was hired long after the harassment incident. "This guy was never involved. He was employed by the security agency months later after the incident," he said. "We can prove that he was hired after that November 4."

Members of the Ati community, mourning the passing of one of their own.
'Not involved'

For his part, Celestino claimed that during the time of the incident, he was working in the resort.

"'Yung nangyari na 'yan, wala ako sa labas. Nandito ako sa loob. Hindi ko alam 'yang nangyari na 'yan," he said.

"Ang naramdaman ko ngayon, para akong tumanggap ng problema ng ibang tao na hindi ko alam. Nasangkot ako sa isang problema na hindi ko alam kung ano ang puno't dulo," he added. "Hindi ko alam paano ako nagkaroon ng pangalan sa pulis."

"We can account his presence and all his activities on February 22. We have all the details and we can account from 7 down, all his activities," said Alvarez.

Children bearing flowers also joined the funeral march.
Lie detector test

Alvarez also challenged the witnesses to a lie detector test.

"Mr. Celestino is willing, the company talked to him, he is willing to undergo a  lie detector test. We will insist that all witnesses to undergo lie detector test," he said.

"The lie detector is a scientific tool for investigation," he added.

Police said they are still investigating the case and three other suspects, based on the testimony of the witnesses, are yet to be identified. — BM, GMA News

Photos courtesy of Atty. Trixie Cruz-Angeles/National Commission for Culture and the Arts.

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