CA upholds dismissal of Bulacan State University officials over field trip tragedy
MANILA, Philippines – The Court of Appeals (CA) has upheld the dismissal of Bulacan State University (BSU) officials over their liabilities in a field trip tragedy in 2014 that cost the lives of 7 students.
The CA's 4th Division affirmed the decision of the Office of the Ombudsman that the BSU officials, led by BSU president Mariano de Jesus, are guilty of gross neglect of duty when they allowed a field trip that was not compliant to the guidelines of the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).
Seven BSU students died in August 2014 after they drowned in the Madlum River in San Miguel, Bulacan. Heavy rains triggered a flash flood that swept the students who were crossing the river during a field trip to the Madlum Cave.
CHED said the BSU did not comply with Memorandum Order No. 17 or the guidelines for field trips.
“Adding to the serious violations committed by the petitioners is the lack of advance coordination with the local government units such as the barangay considering the history and character of Madlum River that after a heavy downpour, excess rainwater naturally cascade from the mountain and cause flashfloods and strong currents in the river,” said the ruling penned by CA ruling Associate Justice Jose Reyes Jr.
The decision was concurred by Associate Justices Franchito Diamante
and Maria Elisa Semio Diy.
The following BSU officials were ordered dismissed from government service:
- Mariano de Jesus, president
- Nicanor de la Rama, Dean of student affairs
- Nerisa Viola, Dean of the College of Home Economics (CHE)
- Angelina Cinco, Assistant Dean of CHE
- Professor Mary Jane Lopez
- Professor Angelyn Dy Tioco
- Instructor Leslie Garcia
- Instructor Rossette Tanwangco
- Instructor Reynita del Fonso
Their retirement benefits were also forfeited and were perpetually disqualified from holding public office.
The CA scored the university professors who joined the students on the trip for failing to exercise diligence, relying only on local tour guides in terms of the welfare of their students. (READ: Mother of Bulacan field trip victim demands answers)
The CA also said the officials should have comprehensively briefed the parents of the risks involved in trekking the cave before asking for their consent. The officials had reasoned out that the consent forms cleared them of accountability.
“By routinely approving the field trip without taking precautionary
measures for the safety of the students, petitioners exhibited such
indifference or lack of due regard for the consequences….Clearly,
petitioners who stand in loco parentis (in the place of a parent) to
their students violated their basic duty of protecting them from harm
while under their custody and supervision,” the CA said. – Rappler.com