MANILA, Philippines – The manhunt for the suspected killer of Ati tribal leader Dexter Condez ended Monday, March 3, after members of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) arrested the suspect in Laguna.
In a statement released Wednesday, March 5, PAOCC executive director Chief Superintendent Reginald D. Villasanta said the suspect, identified as Daniel Celestino, was nabbed as he was about to leave his hideout in Barangay Palasan, Sta. Cruz, Laguna.
Celestino, a security guard of a Boracay hotel, is currently being held at the Laguna Police Provincial Office.
Celestino allegedly shot dead Condez, spokesman of the Boracay Ati Tribal Organization, on February 22, 2013, while the latter was on his way home from a meeting.
Murder charges were filed against Celestino after an investigation of Aklan police. Judge Domingo L. Casiple of the Kalibo Regional Trial Court Branch 7 did not recommend bail when he issued the warrant for Celestino’s arrest.
Security guards spreading terror
A PAOCC investigation revealed that Condez’ murder may be linked to the dispute over prime Boracay Island property.
The Ati tribe has been fighting for their rights to over 2.1 hectares of land in Brgy Manoc-Manoc in Boracay. Three families – the Banicos, the Sansons, and the Gelitos – are also staking a claim on the land.
The National Commission on Indigenous People (NCIP) has already awarded the tribe with a Certificate of Ancestral Domain Title over the land but armed security guards of a businessman allegedly wrecked a perimeter fence surrounding the community. The PNP has since dispatched more policemen to the area.
The PAOCC earlier reported acts of violence and harassment against the Ati tribe, usually by armed security guards. The owner of the hotel where Celestino used to work is believed to be one of the claimants of the land.
According to the PAOCC investigation, Celestino told his employer that he would be taking time off work but would return after a few weeks. – Bea Cupin/Rappler.com