One of the major stories we covered in this blog, the killing of Peace Corps volunteer Julia Campbell and the subsequent trial of Juan Duntugan for murder, is now kinda coming to an end. The court has found that Duntugan is guilty of murdering Campbell and sentenced him to life in prison. I’m reprinting the Inquirer story below.
And here are the links to our previous stories:
Missing in Ifugao: Julia Campbell, US Peace Corps Volunteer
Video Updates on Julia Campbell
On Juan Dontugan’s Surrender [highly recommended by me for re-reading hehe]
People vs. Dontugan I
People vs. Dontugan II
Campbell Family to Attend Dontugan Hearing
Life in prison for killer of Peace Corps Volunteer
Justice came Monday for Julia Campbell, a Peace Corps volunteer who gave up a journalistic career in the United States to work with the poor in the Philippines but found death instead on a deserted mountain trail in Ifugao province.
A judge found 25-year-old woodcarver Juan Donald Duntugan, the lone suspect in the April 8, 2007, killing of Campbell in Batad village, guilty of murder and sentenced him to life imprisonment.
Duntugan, wearing a striped green shirt, showed little emotion. He immediately turned to his jail escort and thrust his hands for handcuffing after the decision was read out to him in English in open court.
But he sobbed as the verdict was translated in the Ifugao dialect.
“This is justice for Julia,” Prosecutor Reynaldo Agranzamendez told The Associated Press by telephone. “But justice can only compensate, it cannot bring her back to life.”
Judge Ester Piscoso-Flor of the Regional Trial Court also ordered Duntugan, a father of three, to pay the family of Campbell P39.7 million in actual, moral and exemplary damages.
The judge said Duntugan killed Campbell “with the use of treachery and abuse of superior strength” but that she could not impose the death penalty because it had been banned in the Philippines.
The 40-year-old Campbell, a volunteer English teacher in Albay province where she waded through floods to help victims of Supertyphoon “Reming,” was posthumously awarded the Order of the Golden Heart “for her dedicated service to the Philippines” by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo two months after she was murdered.
Campbell was bludgeoned with a rock on Easter Sunday last year while trekking alone in a mountain path in Batad village, about 10 kilometers from the town proper.
She had disappeared after she stopped at a village grocery run by Duntugan’s wife to buy soda. Police said the American was murdered shortly afterwards.
Her decomposing body was found 10 days later, buried in a dried-up gorge, about 20 meters from the trail.
Duntugan later surfaced to own up to the killing but claimed in his defense that he killed Campbell in a fit of rage after mistaking the American for his enemy in the village.
In his arraignment, Duntugan entered a plea of “not guilty” to the murder charges.
“My mind went blank,” Duntugan said during the hearing.
“I didn’t know who bumped me or what he or she was. I just grabbed a rock and smashed it into that person’s head.”
The judge rejected the defense and ruled the killing was premeditated and involved “abuse of strength and treachery.”
For nearly two hours, two court employees took turns in reading the decision as Duntugan stood in front of the packed courtroom of RTC Branch 34 in Barangay (village) Tam-an. The sealed envelope containing the decision was turned over to the clerk of court by Judge Flor on June 23.
At the front row sat Geary Morris, Campbell’s elder sister, accompanied by the victim’s friends and colleagues in the Peace Corps.
Duntugan’s wife, Grace, who sat on the second row, bowed and cried.
In Manila, US Ambassador Kristie Kenney thanked all those who worked to solve Campbell’s killing and added: “I think for all of us it’s important now to move on.”
“Our Peace Corps is trying to continue the work that meant a lot to her,” Kenney said.
In elevating the killing from homicide to murder, the court gave credence to the prosecutor’s accusation that Duntugan, based on his statement issued to the police after his surrender, “attacked the defenseless and unsuspecting Julia from behind.”
“Even without the admissions of (Duntugan), the number and nature of wounds sustained by (Campbell) are indicative of abuse of superior strength,” the court said.
The court noted that Campbell suffered 15 wounds on different parts of the body, caused by at least 15 blows, mostly to the head.
The bulk of the damages awarded to the victim’s family represented Campbell’s unearned income—as a result of her death—for the next 26 years amounting to $871,676, or over P39 million.
The decision ended more than a year of trial in which 16 witnesses—15 for the prosecution and one for the defense—testified in 11 hearings.
Duntugan was whisked away by jail guards after the sentencing and did not speak to reporters.
His mother, Jane, said the family was accepting the court’s ruling.
Lawyer Eugene Ballitang, one of Duntugan’s lawyers, said the defense panel was studying the possibility of filing an appeal to the Supreme Court based “on pure questions of law.”
’A very long year’
“It is our belief that treachery and abuse of superior strength should not have qualified the crime to murder,” he said.
Morris said it had been “a very long year,” but thanked all those who supported the Campbell family, including their Filipino lawyers.
The Peace Corps has assigned more than 8,000 volunteers to the Philippines since 1961, Philippine officials say.
Campbell, a freelance journalist who worked for the New York Times and other media organizations, came to the Philippines in March 2005.
As a journalist in New York City, she was described as a tenacious reporter, and fellow reporters remembered her generosity and courage.
Campbell said she decided to leave her job and join the Peace Corps after the Sept. 11, 2001, World Trade Center bombing.
“I lived near Ground Zero,” Campbell said. “I wanted to show people in the world what Americans are really like because after 9/11, people had the impression that Americans are bad, selfish and greedy.”
Quitting the rat race
Campbell added that most of them in the Peace Corps were not rich, came from the middle class and received no salaries, except for a small living allowance.
She wrote in her blog that “at the age of 38, I decided to step out of the rat race of New York, join the Peace Corps and board a plane for Manila.”
“I wanted to reach out to people. I wanted to volunteer and do it full time,” Campbell said.
She helped establish an ecology center that has been named for her in Donsol town in Sorsogon province, which is famous for whale sharks. She later taught English and literature at Divine Word College in Legazpi City.
Her brutal killing drew public condemnation because of its contrast to her efforts to help provide education to the country’s poor and promote environmental protection.
Campbell’s death stunned this quiet corner of the Philippines, a popular tourist destination known the world over for its 2,000-year-old rice terraces.
‘Every day is a struggle’
Campbell kept a blog where she chronicled her volunteer work in the Philippines, including the joy she felt in helping the poor and her longing for home as her two-year Peace Corps stint neared its end.
“I would be lying if I did not say that every day is a struggle. I miss home and my old life. I miss being there for the things that happen in the lives of people I care about,” Campbell said. With reports from Cynthia Balana, Inquirer Research and Associated Press