BSU faces criminal, admin raps over field trip tragedy
MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Bulacan State University may be liable for criminal, civil, and administrative charges over its tragic field trip that claimed 7 lives in San Miguel, Bulacan.
Lawyer Julito Vitriolo, Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Executive Director, made the statement in an interview on dzBB on Thursday, August 21.
Asked for possible sanctions against the school, Vitriolo said in a mix of Filipino and English: “First of all, people died so that’s [a] criminal [case]. The parents can [pursue] both civil and criminal [cases]….On the administrative liability of the school and the guilty parties involved, there will be a proceeding against them.”
He said an investigation would pinpoint responsibility, as well as possible lapses that led to the tragedy.
A group of about 180 BSU students conducted a field trip to Madlum Cave in San Miguel, Bulacan, on Tuesday. Tragedy struck when heavy rains swelled the Madlum River and triggered a flash flood that swept students who were crossing the river, drowning 7 students.
Authorities recovered early Thursday, August 21, the remains of the seventh casualty of the drowning incident, Maiko Bartolome, according to radio reports.
The other fatalities are Mikhail Alcantara, Sean Rodney Alejo, Michelle Ann Rose Bonzo, Helena Marcelo, Madel Navarro and Jeanette Rivera.
The provincial government has temporarily closed the site for field trips.
No CHED endorsement?
Vitriolo said based on the latest report of CHED’s regional office, which is conducting a fact-finding investigation on the incident, BSU appeared to have failed to send the required notice to conduct a field trip to the office, due at least a month before the proposed activity.
The document was supposed to contain a checklist for CHED approval, including a mandatory “risk assessment plan.” It should show that the trip adheres to CHED guidelines.
“Precisely we have regulations to rationalize these activities, reduce the risk and ensure the security of the students. This regulation covers both private and public school,” the CHED official said, adding that the school is also supposed to properly brief the parents on the trip.
Responding to questions, Vitriolo said that as a future precaution, parents should demand from schools a CHED-endorsed copy of the proposed trip.
‘Schools can’t hide behind waiver’
The CHED official also said that schools cannot use waivers signed by students or their parents as a legal shield in the event of any untoward incident that may happen during a field trip, as in the case of the San Miguel mishap.
Asked about the BSU waiver, Vitriolo said: “That is contrary to law and public policy. Those involved cannot surrender their rights under the law….Whatever happens there, the negligent parties have a liability.”
Vitriolo also reiterated that field trips should not be mandatory and should not have any bearing on the grade of the students.
“That is not allowed. It shouldn’t be a basis for grading. That is not a substitute for final exams, tests. That is just for [educational] enhancement and if the student or parents do not want to go, they should be provided with an alternative activity,” he said.
Vitriolo said tourism students who opt not to join the trip, for example, can just view a film highlighting tourist spots that would enhance their learning.
BSU forms crisis committee
In a statement, the university expressed its condolences to the families of the victims and said it is “offering immediate assistance to the bereaved families” at this “horrible time.”
It said it has created a Crisis Committee “to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the circumstances of the tragedy and will take decisive and appropriate measures on the basis of its findings.”
“As the university waits for the complete results of this undertaking, allow the university, the space and time to mourn and cry over the irreplaceable loss of its sons and daughters,” BSU said, adding that it will issue another official statement later on.
Families of the victims are eagerly awaiting feedback from the university as they grapple with their loss. (READ: Mother of Bulacan field trip victim demands answers) – Rappler.com