CIS inquiry board to submit own findings on drowning

Posted on September 21, 2012

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The board of trustees of Cebu International School (CIS) is wrapping up its own inquiry into the drowning accident in Morong, Bataan, which resulted in the death of two students including the 13-year-old grandson of university owner Jose Gullas.

Mariano “Mimo” Osmeña, a CIS trustee who heads the investigation committee, said the panel will submit its report to the board on Saturday for whatever action it may decide to take.

“We already have most of the information. There’s a little more we still have to double check,” he said in Cebuano.

Osmeña said he has no authority to disclose the findings and would leave it to the board to decide what to do with it.

The panel results would have direct bearing on whether there was liability on the part of adult companions during the school-supervised activity.

The drowning took place during a Sept. 12 field trip of 42 CIS students with five teachers at the Kairukan Waterfalls amid questions about what exactly happened during the outing, where some of them went swimming.

Osmeña said the field trip was planned since the previous school year, so the panel started the investigation there.

“Our inquiry includes what the teachers did with the children,” he said.

Statements were taken from the students themselves and some local residents in Morong, Bataan whom the panel members talked to by phone.

“We are not a formal investigating organization. We are only investigating for the school and for the parents. The parents wanted to know if their children were really in danger and if the (proper) procedure was followed”, said Osmeña, a businessman.

Local immigration officials are on the lookout for a CIS teacher, Susan Rigby, who was listed on the passenger manifest of a Cathay Pacific flight to Toronto, Canada via Hong Kong on Wednesday.

No passenger by that name was noticed passing through immigration counters in Cebu, said alien control officer Casimiro Madarang III.

The “alert bulletin” was issued against Rigby by the Department of Justice (DOJ), where a complaint was filed by families of the other students.

Rep. Eduardo Gullas, who told Cebu Daily News earlier about the complaint, said the DOJ also issued a hold departure order. He said the airline booking showed Rigby “intended to escape.”

Rigby, a Canadian, was one of the teachers who accompanied the students during the field trip.

Gullas questioned her attempt to leave in the midst of an investigation, and said some parents of CIS students in the field trip were upset because “swimming was not part of the itinerary” of the Sept. 12 activity.

Meanwhile, Osmeña confirmed that Jacqueline Gullas-Weckman, whose 13-year-old son Kyle drowned along with a Korean classmate, resigned on Wednesday evening as chairperson of the CIS board of trustees.

Osmeña said he did not know the reason but believes it has to do with the conflict of interest posed since her son was one of the victims.

The board’s vice chairman Xavier “Txabi” Aboitiz would act as chairman when the board convenes on Saturday.

As head of the inquiry panel, Osmena said, he would abstain during the discussion on what to do with the report.

The businessman, who also hosts an AM radio talk show, confirmed that one of his children was among of those in the field trip to Morong, Bataan and was one of those who swam in the waters.

He refused to comment on the alert bulletin issued by the DOJ against one of the teachers.

The Department of Education (DepEd) announced it would conduct its own inquiry.

So far the private school has kept its internal investigation under wraps.

The CIS investigation committee was announced on Sept. 14 in the school’s website where Superintendent Deidre Fischer posted a statement that said officials were “confident that the investgiation wil lead to the most objective assessment of what actually happened.”

Osmeña in an interview yesterday said the panel looked into the details of the Sept. 12 field trip, how it was planned, why Morong, Bataan was picked for a field trip, and who were the students and teachers who joined. /Jhunnex Napallacan, Correspondent

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