Defending the Ati

The Philippine island of Boracay is a tourist paradise; it is also the scene of abuse and violence suffered by its indigenous people, the Ati. The church in the Philippines is by their side to defend their rights and perhaps protect their very existence, said Bishop Sergio Utleg, president of the Philippine’s Episcopal Commission on Indigenous Peoples. The bishop spoke on Feb. 22 following the murder of Dexter Condez, an Ati leader. A security guard for a chain of hotels in Boracay has been charged in the slaying. Bishop Utleg said the killing “highlights what is happening in that area. Due to extensive tourism marketing, these tribal people...are threatened, abused, deprived of their rights. Their land is occupied, and the goal is to expel them altogether.” Similar incidents have occurred in other parts of the country, he said. The church is on the side of the indigenous, the bishop said, and it asks the government “to protect the dignity and rights of these people.”

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