THE Canadian private school teacher who slipped out of the country last July 8 despite a pending criminal case took a flight from the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Pasay City, according to an immigration source.
Susan Rigby, one of five teachers facing a criminal charge and a damage suit for the accidental drowning of two grade 8 students of the Cebu International School, boarded a Philippine Airlines flight at 8 p.m. that Monday.
“I don’t know what went wrong with the immigration officer who let Rigby board the plane,” according to the source, who said she definitely did not exit through the Mactan International Airport in Cebu.
“If a person is in the alert list, the name appears in our data base. It is searched before a passenger can board the plane as part of standard operating procedure. The charges of a person will be seen on the monitor.”
An internal investigation is expected in the Bureau of Immigration for the lapse.
The circumstances of the departure of another CIS teacher Tyler Herbst last December 2012 also remain unclear.
Rigby’s flight, reported to President Aquino by a dismayed Justice Secretary Leila De Lima in a Cabinet meeting last week, was the “last straw” that led to the resignation of Immigration Commissioner Ricardo David last July 12.
In Mactan-Cebu, alien control officer Casimiro Madarang III was on sick leave since Wednesday afternoon and is not available for an official comment.
The last time Rigby tried to leave the country days after the Sept. 12, 2012 drowning incident, her trip was aborted by the intervention of then Rep. Eduardo Gullas who secured a “lookout order” from the Department of Justice before she could board a flight to Hongkong.
Yesterday, Gullas told Cebu Daily News he would leave the matter to the court.
He “begged off” from making a comment on the latest development because there was a pending criminal case.
“As a lawyer I don’t want to violate the rule on subjudice,” he said.
CDN tried to get the side of the CIS administration but no official was ready to respond. Classes will resume there on the first week of August yet.
CDN visited the school at 1:30 p.m. but was told by the security guard that the new superintendent was not around. He said he was not authorized to give out any names. When he called a staff member in the administration, the woman, who refused to give her name, advised “it would be best if any inquiries regarding the incident will be answered by the school’s corporate secretary, Edmund Villanueva.”
Charges of reckless imprudence resulting in homicide were filed with the Regional Trial Court in Balanga, Bataan province where the judge was about to set a date for arraignment and trial.
Rigby and other teachers posted bail last July 1 in Danao City.
Rigby was one of five teachers charged for their role in a field trip last Sept. 12, 2012 to Bataan as part of the school’s annual Philippine Week Field Trip for 42 grade 8 students.
The activity that day was supposed to be a “small falls trek with survival technique”. The group stopped by the Tambangan Waterfalls where several students and teachers decided to go swimming.
Two students, 13-year-old Kyle Gullas-Weckman and Korean national Jae Hak “James” Jung were sucked in by strong undercurrents near the waterfall and drowned.
Weckman’s mother Jacqueline, daughter of former Rep. Jose “Dodong” Gullas, said the official itinerary did not include “swimming” and she did not sign a consent form for her only son to participate in any swimming activity. She also said parents were given the impression that the trip was within the Subic Free Port Zone.
CIS lawyers said the school exercised reasonable foresight and due diligence in planning the field trip and engaged local guides, aside from providing an on-site briefing with constant reminders on safety.
However, prosecutors who filed the case in court noted that teachers had deviated from the itinerary, were unfamiliar with the Tambangan waterfalls, and didn’t bring lifesaving equipment or ropes that could have been used to prevent drowning. They also observed that some teachers jumped into the water fully clothed, and exhorted students to jump in and swim, fully clothed with their hiking shoes on.
Of the five original CIS teachers charged, three including Rigby and Herbst, have resigned from the school. Two local counterparts remain as faculty in the school. /Reporter Jucell Marie Cuyos with Joy Cherry Quito and Marian Codilla