MANILA, Philippines — A Catholic bishop urged the Aquino administration to sped up its investigation and bring justice to the killing of a tribal leader in Boracay last Friday.
In a statement, Tuguegarao Archbishop Sergio L. Utleg denounced the brutal killing of Dexter Condez, 26, a community organizer and tribe leader of the Boracay Ati Tribal Organization (BATO).
Condez was also the spokesperson of the Ati people against those who oppose their ancestral domain claims. A partner-member of the Ati Mission of Sto. Rosario Parish, he also taught Indigenous Peoples Education among Ati children.
Police reports said Condez was shot dead on evening of February 22 by an unidentified gunman with a 9-mm pistol while on his way home from a meeting in Sitio Lugutan, Barangay Manoc-Manoc in Boracay.
“We condemn in the strongest possible manner this brutal killing and we are calling for an immediate and thorough investigation to identify the perpetuator and the masterminds,” Bishop Utleg said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Senator Loren Legarda on Tuesday also denounced the killing of Condez and the harassment on leaders of indigenous and environmental groups fighting for their rights.
“These incidents are causing apprehension to marginalize and advocacy groups and may have bearing on their struggle and aspirations for a better life,” Legarda told the MST.
Legarda added: “Halatang pananakot ito sa mga indigenous communities at sa mga lumalaban sa paglapastangan ng ating kapaligiran,” the lawmaker added.
Legarda, chairperson of the Senate Committee on Cultural Communities, expressed alarmed over the recent trend of killing and harassing advocates trying to protect the environment.
Before the killing, at least 20 armed men stormed the tribal group’s community and harassed the villagers, apparently in connection with the award to 40 families belonging to the BATO of a Certificate of Ancestral Domain by the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples. Several businessmen have reportedly questioned the legality of the granting of the certificate to these families.
In another incident, several armed men barged into the home of Dr. Isidro Olan in Carmen, Surigao del Sur, tied him and other family members up and ransacked the place.
Olan, Founding President and Executive Director of the Lovers of Nature Foundation, has been vocal against mining and logging activities in the towns of Carrascal, Cantilan, Madrid, Carmen, and Lanuza.
Both Bishop Utleg and Senator Legarda urged the Aquino administration to conduct a thorough investigation on the case with high hopes that justice will be given to the victims the soonest possible time.