Sen. Bongbong calls for sanctions vs. BSM council of trustees for altering independent panel report

15 June 2015

Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos, Jr. said members of the council of trustees of the British School of Manila (BSM) should be held answerable for sanitizing the report of an independent panel that reviewed the school’s policies following the suicide of one of its students.

BSM convened an Independent Review Panel (IRP) after its student Liam Joseph Madamba, who was subjected to disciplinary procedures for alleged plagiarism, jumped from the 6th floor of a car park in Makati City last February 6 and died later in a hospital.

“It’s becoming clear that the independent report that was prepared by the panel that was convened was sanitized by the Board of Trustees,” Sen. Bongbong told Senate reporters on Monday after attending a hearing by the Senate Committee on Education.

The hearing was actually meant for the bill seeking to recognize the BSM as an educational institution of international character and granting it certain prerogatives. The discussion however focused on the school's implementation of disciplinary policies after the suicide of Madamba.

The conclusions in the original report of the IRP was altered to make it appear that the BSM teacher involved had little or no responsibility at all for the suicide, according to Sen. Bongbong.

“Kailangang managot ang mga gumawa nitong pagbabago nung report para nga pagandahin, para palambutin, para hindi masyadong masabi na marami silang pagkukulang dito sa proseso nila ng pag-iimbestiga sa pagkamatay ng kanilang estudyante,” he said.

Mr. Edgar Chua, chairman of the IPR and Shell Philippines country chair, told the committee that they finalized their report on March 23 and submitted it to the Council of Trustees on the same date.

On March 25, Chua said the Council of Trustees informed them there were errors in the IRP report. They were advised that some of the findings were not entirely correct so the independent panel agreed to accept additional documents and include them as addendum in the original report.

Chua said he learned on April 16 that the Council of Trustees released a report to the BSM community, which was made to appear as the IRP’s report. “We were surprised because the released report was an abridged and edited version of our report. Our view is that this is not our report,” Chua said. He noted that while it was titled as the Council of Trustees report, the names of the IRP members were still indicated on the document.

Mr. Martin Turner, chairman of the Council of Trustees, told the committee that they produced the new report based on IRP’s findings as well as additional evidence from the school.

Liam’s mother, Mrs. Trixie Madamba, said BSM’s Senior School Deputy Head Brian Platts and Liam’s teacher Natalie Mann took “punitive actions” against her son, although they claimed these were meant to protect students from making grave mistakes with respect to academic honesty.

She insisted that since her son submitted only a first draft of his essay and not a final submission, there was no plagiarism yet committed at that stage. “Senators, how dare they accuse my son of plagiarism when they are guilty of something far worse, by mangling the IRP report, and publishing it,” Mrs. Madamba said.

Earlier, Sen. Bongbong said he was puzzled why BSM allowed Mrs. Mann to hastily leave the Philippines barely a month after the tragic suicide of her student without explaining to Mrs. Madamba the precise circumstances surrounding the tragic incident.