Church leaders condemn tribal leader's death
Activist shot by lone gunman
Church leaders in Aklan province have condemned the killing on Friday of a tribal leader who had been fighting for land rights for the Aeta tribe on the island of Boracay.
Dexter Condez, 26, was returning home from a meeting on Friday evening when he was shot several times by a lone gunman. Condez was spokesperson for the Boracay Aeta Tribal Organization which has been fighting for their ancestral land.
Bishop Jose Corazon Tumbagahan Tala-oc of Kalibo archdiocese voiced outrage at the murder and warned that violence and killings of indigenous peoples will continue if the government does not respond to people's demands.
"We ask authorities to investigate the killing of Dexter Condez," said Tala-oc. "We will not stop fighting for what is right and what is due the Aeta tribe despite the incident," he said.
Since 2000, the Aeta, who number about 2,000, have been claiming ownership of Boracay, which they say is their ancestral domain. The island has become a leading tourist destination, famous for its white sands and scenic sunsets.
The Supreme Court has declared Boracay government land, affirming a presidential proclamation that classifies more than half the island as “disposable.”
The government awarded the Aeta tribe a 2.1-hectare piece of land in January 2011 through the help of Kalibo diocese.
However Father Arnold Crisostomo, parish priest of the island, said "influential people" who want to set up businesses on the island have been harassing the tribal community to give up their land.
Aklan provincial police chief Superintendent Pedrito Escarilla says the gunman has been identified but has yet to be apprehended. "We believe the motive was the land dispute," he said.
The Akbayan Party, an ally of President Benigno Aquino, said Condez' death is "a loss to the broader movement for the recognition of indigenous peoples’ rights in the country."
The group called on authorities to "expedite the investigation of this brutal crime and bring those responsible to justice."
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