CIS teacher, others face criminal case over drowning of 2 students

Posted on September 20, 2012


Immigration officials are on the lookout for a Canadian teacher of the Cebu International School (CIS) in relation to the Sept. 12 accidental drowning of two students during a field trip in Bataan.

If the teacher Susan Rigby tries to leave the country, she will be advised that she has a pending criminal complaint, said Casimiro Madarang III, immigration officer of the Bureau of Immigration (BI) regional office.

He said an “alert bulletin” was issued by the Secretary of Justice at the request of the legal counsel of the Gullas family.

A 13-year-old grandson of university owner and newspaper publisher Jose “Dodong” Gullas was one of two CIS students who drowned while swimming near the Kairukan Waterfalls in Morong, Bataan.

Rigby was one of the teachers who accompanied 42 CIS students to Bataan for a field trip as part of the school’s celebration of Philippine Week.

Rep. Eduardo Gullas, brother of the University of the Visayas executive vice president, told Cebu Daily News that a criminal complaint was filed yesterday with the Department of Justice (DOJ) in Manila against the superintendent of CIS and five teachers in relation to the drownings.

He said swimming was not supposed to be on the itinerary of the Sept. 12 student field trip to Bataan.

Gullas said they learned that Rigby was booked on a Cathay Pacific flight to Toronto, Canada via Hongkong last Monday.

“Why should she travel when classes are ongoing? Her intention is really to escape,” Gullas said in a phone interview from Manila.

He said the complaint was filed in Manila with DOJ Prosecutor General Claro Arellano by parents of the students who joined the field trip.

(Madarang of the BI regional office yesterday said no Susan Rigby appears on their record as having left the country.)

The school administration declined to issue a statement when CDN asked about the Canadian teacher’s status last night.

“I’m sorry but we do not have any comment on the matter,” said Paula Ruelan, CIS spokesperson and marketing manager in a text message to CDN.

According to Congressman Gullas, a hold departure order (HDO) was eventually issued against Rigby.

“The DOJ is empowered to issue a Hold Departure Order. What protection can victims have if we have to wait for a case to be filed in court? It’s a tedious process to file a case in court,” Gullas said.

He clarified that his brother Jose “Dodong” Gullas was not among the complainants in the case.

(No document was shown to CDN of either an “alert bulletin” or a “hold departure order” as of this writing.)

The 13-year-old boy who drowned, Kyle Julian, was the only son of Jacqueline Gullas-Weckman, daughter of Jose Gullas. Jacqueline also served as chairman of the CIS board of trustees, the governing body of the private school.

“Parents of the CIS students who joined the field trip are really in anguish. Their children could have perished. They decided to file the complaint,” said the congressman.

“The parents are very disturbed. They are so confused,” said Gullas.

He said one of the parents who was very upset and pressing to take legal action is Winston Garcia, brother of Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, whose son joined the field trip to Bataan.

Kyle Gullas-Weckman and Korean national Jae Hak “James” Jung were Grade 8 students.

Initial news reports of the accident said four CIS students, all boys, jumped into the water near the Kairukan Waterfall, a local tourist spot in barangay Binaritan of Morong, Bataan despite warnings by their local guide not to do so.

Two boys were rescued. James was pulled out of the water unconscious and later died, while Kyle was missing for several hours until his body was found at the bottom of the pool of water.

School officials reported the tragedy on the CIS website, but gave few details of how it happened or how teachers or their escorts responded to the emergency. The online bulletins were taken down shortly after.

CIS Superintendent Deidre Fischer in a posted announcement said their focus for now was on the welfare of students left traumatized by the accident, their grieving families and the faculty.

The Department of Education (DepEd) regional office said it would conduct its own investigation of the incident.

As of yesterday, Madarang said that nobody by the name of Susan Rigby left the country based on immigration records in Cebu.

“There was an immediate need to act because there was a report that she planned to leave the country.

But since no hold departure order was issued by a court, Madarang said if Rigby insists on leaving the country, all immigration officials would do is notify Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

He said an alert bulletin was different from a hold departure order which is issued by the court.

A hold departure order bears the photo of the accused and is flashed to all airports and seaports so the subject is not allowed to travel, said Madarang. /Ador Vincent Mayol and Jucell Marie P. Cuyos with correspondent Carine Asutilla

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