Philippines Justice Secretary Slammed for ‘Blaming’ Peace Corps Volunteer

Apr. 20, 2007

MANILA — Sec. Raul Gonzalez made another insensitive remark by stating that Julia Campbell was to blame for her own death because she carelessly went hiking alone in the Banaue Rice Terraces.

Under international law, the domestic government has the burden of preserving peace and order within its jurisdiction and is obligated to protect foreigners from harm, particularly from criminal elements, while they are within that governments territory. A municipal government cannot blame aliens who fell victims to local criminal elements since the responsibility to protect falls on the government. Sec. Romulo and the US government should demand the ouster of Sec. Gonzalez not only for insensitivity but for his ignorance of international law. Tourism Secretary Ace Durano should take notice of Sec. Gonzalez statement, which practically declared Banaue unsafe for tourists. The statements of the Arroyo government vigorously assuring countries which have issued negative travel advisories, of the safety of their nationals in the Philippines, has been exposed as a lie by the voluble Justice Secretarys admission.

It must be noted that under the Philippine constitutional system, a cabinet member is the alter ego of the President and his actions are deemed the acts of the President unless reprobated or renounced by the President. The statements of the Justice Secretary, unless renounced, is an admission that such reflect the position of the Arroyo government.

CODAL believes that the Justice Department is not only expected to administer justice and the law, but is also expected to know the law. Affected members of the Arroyo cabinet and both Houses of Congress should express concern over the Justice Secretarys remarks which have affected their respective institutions. Pres. Arroyo should now seriously consider whether it is beneficial to allow her justice secretary continue acting as her alter ego.

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