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Condez, Boracay and a land dispute

His killing struck a fatal blow to the struggle of the Ati tribal community

OUR LAND. Condez was spokesman for the Ati tribal community, who's fighting for ownership of a 2-hectare land in Brgy. Manoc-manoc, Boracay. Photo by Purple Romero

MANILA, Philippines – After almost 3 years of fighting for their right to their ancestral land in Boracay, Dexter Condez is now home. 

He is but a cold corpse though, his body now with the other members of the Ati Tribal community in Barangay Manoc-Manoc in Malac, Boracay.

Dominique Ofong, one of the community organizers from the Assisi Development Foundation that worked with Condez, told Rappler that his body will be laid to rest on March 2. Condez, 26, was shot by an unidentified man on February 22 while he was on his way home from a meeting.

The Indigenous Peoples Council of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) condemned his killing. 

“This is also a wake-up call for the government to end impunity. Justice must be served or Dexter’s murder will set us back in the eyes of the sectors we are working with, as well as in the eyes of the global human rights community,” NAPC secretary Joel Rocamora said in a statement.

Authorities have yet to find evidence linking Condez’s death to the land dispute between the Ati tribe and that of 3 families – Banicos, Sansons and Gelitos – who are also claiming ownership of the 2.1 hectares of land in Barangay Manoc-Manoc. 

But his killing struck a fatal blow to the struggle of the community. 

In August 2010, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples awarded the Ati community a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title (CADT). In April 2012, some 9 families built their homes in the area.

Seven months after, however, in November 2012, armed security guards of a businessman allegedly went to the place and destroyed the perimeter fence set up by the Ati families. Evangeline Tamboon, a member of the Ati Tribe community, said it was Dexter who had asked the men not to remove the fence they have put up. 

Rappler was able to visit Barangay Manoc-Manoc in November 2012. “No Trespassing” signs are posted all over the place – one sign came from the Ati tribal community, which read that the area is a property of the Boracay Ati Tribal Organization, the spokesman of which was Condez.  

Another one, however, was a warning to the tribe.  “Respect the courts!!!” the sign read, stating that a pending case regarding the ownership of the land is still pending in a lower court in Kalibo, Aklan. 

At first glance, the area in question looked like a wide swath of undeveloped land. At the right side is a hut turned into a school, with small children sitting on wooden floor, their eyes and ears all trained on their teacher.

SCHOOL. Ati children

Small nipa huts are installed in the place. Some young men were flying kites, the women doing chores, belying the tension that surrounds the fight over the land. 

A few steps further would lead to a strip of white sand, however, the gorgeous flow of cerulean waters in full view. It’s the perfect site for another resort in Boracay, one of the top tourist spots in the country and the world. 

It’s the rapid development of Boracay though that has pushed the Ati community out of their home in the first place, according to the tribe’s members. Guillermo Vicente Sr., one of the elders from the community, recalled that as one beach is developed after the other between the villages of Manoc-manoc and Balabag, they were forced to move away from the mainland. 

Vicente admitted that they were able to get jobs in the private businesses that mushroomed in Boracay, but he said this does not mean they are willing to give up their home altogether for commercial development.

He reiterated they have a CADT, so why not give them the land already? 

Kahit Ati lang kami, respetuhin kami. Dahil kami ngang Ati nagrespeto sa kanila (Even if we are just Ati, we should be respected. After all, we, the Ati respect them too),” he said, his voice thick with frustration.

EVANGELINE TAMBOON, member of Ati tribal community

Tamboon said that they want to move to Barangay Manoc-Manoc already because Barangay Balabag easily gets flooded. 

Mayor John Yap said though that the matter should best be left to the courts. “When the CADT was awarded to the Ati, it turned out there was a private owner of the land already,” he said in an earlier interview. “There’s a case in the courts now.” 

Even before the case was resolved, however, Condez was killed. 

“We are full of sorrow but we are also very, very angry,” Vicenter Sr. said. “Dexter deserves justice; the Ati deserve justice.” – Rappler.com

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