Bulacan students call for justice

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MALOLOS: Around 500 students from the Bulacan State University (BulSU) showed their support to school officials who were ordered dismissed by the Ombudsman by staging a “Unity Walk” on Wednesday.

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The activity was organized after nine officials and teachers were ordered dismissed, stripped of retirement benefits, and barred holding public office after they were found guilty of gross negligence over the death of seven BulSU students last year.

The Ombudsman’s order was formally implemented on Tuesday through a memorandum issued by the Commission on Higher Education (CHED).

The case stemmed from the death of seven freshmen during a field trip. The students were crossing a river in Barangay Sibul, San Miguel, Bulacan, in August last year when a strong current swept them away.

“We wanted to show that the students are one in the quest of finding the real reason behind the death of the students,” student Brix Justine Pagtalunan from the Partido-Pagkakaisa ng Demokratikong Pag-aaral, one of the organizing groups, told The Manila Times.

While admitting that the officials may have committed “errors” in the incident, he said the penalties are “inhumane.”

“We call for justice and truth,” Pagtalunan said.

Among those found guilty in administrative charges are president Mariano de Jesus, who led the university for eight years and served BulSU for more than 30 years in different positions; Nicanor Dela Rama, the university’s vice president for Student Affairs and had been with the university for 33 years; former Dean Nerisa B. Viola, and Assistant Dean Angelina D. Cinco of College of Home Economics.

Also dismissed were teachers Mary Jane G. Lopez, Angelyn C. Dy Tioco, Rossette C. Tanwangco, Leslie C. Garcia, and Reynita G. Del Fonso.

“The rule of law must be respected. The respondents, as well as the complainants, have their respective legal remedies that I am sure they will avail of,” Julius Victor Degala, a lawyer for the victims’ families, told The Manila Times.

Meanwhile, the criminal charges against the said officials did not prosper. In its decision received by the parties last week, the Ombudsman said the cases of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide, violation of Section 3 (e) of the Republic Act 3019 or the corrupt practices of public officers, and violation of RA 7610 or Anti-Child Abuse law filed by families of the victims were dismissed due to lack of merit.

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