MALOLOS CITY: The Office of the Ombudsman has ordered the dismissal from service of nine officials and instructors of the Bulacan State University (BulSU), including its outgoing president, for gross neglect of duty over the death of seven students last year.
The Ombudsman has directed the Commission on Higher Education to immediately implement the order against BulSU President Mariano C. De Jesus, Vice President for Student Affairs Nicanor C. Dela Rama, Dean Nerisa B. Viola and Assistant Dean Angelina D. Cinco of the College of Home Economics, and teachers Mary Jane G. Lopez, Angelyn C. Dy Tioco, Leslie C. Garci, Rossette C. Tanwanco, and Reynita G. Del Fonso.
It was on August 19 last year that seven freshmen drowned during their field trip, after a strong current swept them away as they crossed a river in San Miguel town, Bulacan.
The respondents will be penalized with “cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, perpetual disqualification from holding public office and bar from taking civil service examinations,” according to the 12-page decision, which was approved by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales on July 24 but was received by the complainants on Monday.
The families of the victims hailed the Ombudsman’s decision released in time of tragedy’s anniversary.
The seven students were: Helena Marcelo, Michelle Ann Rose Bonzo, Mikhail Alcantara, Jeanette Rivera, Sean Rodney Alejo, Maiko Eleva Bartolome at Mary Magdalene Navarro.
“This decision is very important to us because we can now greet our loved ones with ‘happy first birthday in heaven.’ We are relieved, and we hope that this will serve as a lesson to others to be more careful [in conducting field trips]. This decision gives hope to us and to others that justice system is still working in the country,” Donna Faraon-Marcelo, mother of Helena, told The Manila Times.
Lawyers Jesus Ricardo Degala and Julius Victor Degala, representing the families of five victims and one survivor, welcomed the decision.
The families have also filed criminal charges against the school officials and others, which remain pending in Ombudsman for resolution. The charges include reckless imprudence resulting in homicide, violation of Section 3 (e) of Republic Act 3019 or Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and violation of R.A. 7610 or Special Protection of Children against Abuse, Exploitation and Discrimination Act.