MALOLOS, Bulacan – The Office of the Ombudsman has found nine officials of the Bulacan State University (BulSU) guilty of misconduct and neglect over the death of seven students who drowned in Madlum River in San Miguel town last year.
The ombudsman dismissed from the service BulSU president Mariano de Jesus, vice president for student affairs Nicanor dela Rama, dean Nerisa Viola, Angelina Cinco, Mary Jane Lopez, Angelyn Dy Tioco, Leslie Garci, Rossette Tanwanco and Reynita del Fonso.
It also cancelled the officials’ eligibility, forfeited their retirement benefits and disqualified them from holding public office.
The ombudsman said the school officials failed to act as secondary parents of the students. It said the waivers signed by the students and their parents were not grounds for the respondents to avoid the liabilities in the tragedy.
The anti-graft agency ordered the chief of the Commission on Higher Education to immediately implement the decision.
On Aug. 19 last year, BulSU’s tourism students held a field trip at Madlum Cave, wherein some of them crossed the river leading to the cave.
Reports said the water became torrential as Madel Navarro, Maico Bartolome, Mikhail Alcantara, Sean Alejo, Helena Marcelo, Jeanette Rivera and Michelle Ann Rose Bonzo were crossing the river at about 3 p.m.
The ombudsman said the respondents violated a fieldtrip ordinance passed by the Sanguniang Panlalawigan. The officials reportedly failed to seek the approval of the provincial government on changes in the fieldtrip itinerary.
The anti-graft agency cited a change in the schedule of the trip at the Madlum Cave, which was originally set in the morning.
Aside from the administrative charges, the respondents are also facing charges of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide and psychological trauma, and violation of Republic Act 7610 or the Child Abuse Law and RA 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corruption Practices Act.
Criminal charges were also filed against the nine school officials, the owner of the Adventours tour agency identified as Erwin Valenzuela, the two tourism students who acted as tour guides, and three tour guides of Madlum.
Lawyers Jeric and Juvic Degala, counsels for the victims’ relatives, were confident they would get a similar decision in the criminal cases against the respondents.
Jeric said a prayer vigil was supposed to be held in front of the office of the Office of the Ombudsman yesterday.
He said they cancelled the vigil after receiving the ombudsman’s decision on Monday.
He said the families of the victims would mark the first anniversary of the tragedy today with a mass at the Basilica Minore in Malolos at 8 a.m.
After the mass, the families will march toward BulSU.
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