Coming home

Campbell’s quest for justice brought to Banaue

LAGAWE, Ifugao–The search for justice on the death of US Peace Corps volunteer Julia Campbell came back home to Banaue town April 8, exactly one year after her death.

The trial for the Campbell killing is set to resume today as the Regional Trial Court branch 34 finally holds trial at its permanent home at the old Banaue municipal town hall, moving from its temporary station in this capital town.

The trial of lone accused Juan Donald Duntugan, along with other cases handled by RTC branch 34, has been held at the old Sangguniang Panlalawigan building at the capitol compound here, due to the previous lack of a suitable building to serve as courthouse in Banaue.

The hearing resumes April 8, Campbell’s first death anniversary, having been moved from April 7, which was declared a holiday by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“But maybe it was symbolic that we are bringing back the hearing to Banaue on (Campbell’s) death anniversary, because we are also nearing the conclusion of this case,” said presiding judge Ester Piscoso-Flor.

Campbell was killed on April 8, 2007, Easter Sunday, while trekking alone in Batad village, about 10 km from the town proper, along a trail leading to a ridge overlooking the famed Batad rice terraces.

The 40-year old English teacher based in Albay visited Banaue during last year’s Holy Week break to fulfil a life-long dream of viewing the Ifugao rice terraces.

She was first reported missing, until her decomposing body was found 10 days later by local tour guides, who volunteered to help in the search.

Duntugan, a 25-year old Batad native, surrendered to the police March 27, 2007. In the subsequent police investigation, he admitted having killed Campbell in a supposed fit of blind rage.

He said he hit Campbell with a rock after he mistook her for his enemy, one Emiliano Blas who he described as a village bully.

During his arraignment, the accused, who has been detained at the Kiangan district jail since his surrender, entered a plea of “not guilty” for charges of murder filed against him.

Flor said she expects to conclude the trial and to promulgate the decision by the end of June.

The prosecution, which is jointly handled by Joseph Tumapang, provincial fiscal, and lawyers from the Agranzamendez, Liceralde, Gallardo and Associates law firm as private prosecutors, has presented a total of 15 witnesses, including Campbell’s mother, Linda.

Lead private prosecutor Reynaldo Agranzamendez expressed hope that the trial’s return to Banaue is a positive indication for the Campbell’s family’s search for justice.

“We believe we have presented a very good case that will eventually lead to a conviction for the suspect. That the case goes back home now is, for us, a good sign,” he said.

Lawyer Pedro Mayam-o, defense counsel for Duntugan, said they were to present in today’s hearing the aunt of the accused, who hosted the suspect in the few days following the killing, and before he went into hiding.

Duntugan’s defense has been centered on avoiding a murder conviction.

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