Suspect in Peace Corps murder confesses

Philippines Peace Corps Volunteer
Juan Duntugan is seen in an undated file photo.AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

A woodcarver suspected of beating to death a Peace Corps volunteer gave himself up Friday and confessed on television, saying he erupted in rage when she bumped into him as he was fuming over a feud with a neighbor.

"I admit it, yes. I killed her, but I did not do whatever other people are thinking I did," Juan Duntugan told ABS-CBN television. He was apparently referring to speculation that Julia Campbell may have been killed during an attempted rape or robbery.

"I did not plan to kill Ms. Campbell, harm her," Duntugan said, appearing remorseful and shaking his head.

He claimed he dropped a bundle of clothes when Campbell, embarking on a hike by herself April 8 to see Ifugao province's famed mountainside rice terraces, bumped him from behind.

"My mind went blank," Duntugan said. "I did not know who she was or what she was. I got a rock and I hit her on the head. If I can change my body for hers, I will do it. But that's not possible. Whatever punishment you will impose on me, I will accept it."

National police chief Oscar Calderon said police were "documenting his statement in the presence of a lawyer."

Mother had him turn self in
Senior Superintendent Pedro Ganir, police chief of northern Ifugao province, where Campbell's body was found April 18 in a shallow grave, told The Associated Press that Duntugan's mother persuaded him to turn himself in.

"We provided him security so that he will not be harmed," Ganir said. Local officials have worried that Campbell's slaying may harm tourism.

Duntungan's wife had sold Campbell a soft drink before her hike, and a boy has told police that he saw him near the grave that day. Duntugan, a woodcarver who lives in the area, went into hiding the next day.

Campbell, 40, of Fairfax, Va., had worked as a freelance journalist for The New York Times and other media organizations.

Friends and sympathizers plan a memorial service next Thursday in Bicol, where she last worked as an English teacher.

The Bicol region, southeast of Manila, includes Donsol township, which is famous for whale sharks and is where Campbell helped launch an ecology awareness campaign.

National medal planned
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's spokesman, Ignacio Bunye, said Thursday that Campbell "has become a beloved personality here in the Philippines because of the work that she has done."

Jose de Venecia, speaker of the House of Representatives, said Campbell will be awarded the Philippine Congressional Medal of Achievement, the highest decoration by the legislature, describing her as a "martyred volunteer."

He said the award will be presented in June to a representative of Campbell's family and the U.S. Peace Corps through its director, Ronald Tschetter, in Washington.

Campbell, who had said in her Internet blog that she joined the Peace Corps to get away from New York City's "rat race," had been a couple of weeks from finishing her two-year commitment in the Philippines. She helped out when a supertyphoon hit the area where she was teaching in December.

She "touched thousands of Filipino lives during her posting in Luzon as a high-school teacher of English and Western literature," de Venecia said.

The citation honors Campbell for bringing "light and joy into the lives" of many Filipinos. "She epitomized the ideals of the Peace Corps and of the American people," the citation says.