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‘Slapped’ student died of brain swelling, but expert says abuse may be ruled out as cause of death

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
�Slapped� student died of brain swelling, but expert says abuse may be ruled out as cause of death
Parents accompany their children to Peñafrancia Elementary School in Antipolo on Tuesday. Department of Education (DepEd) officials visited the said school for investigation following the death of a Grade 5 student days after he was reportedly slapped by his teacher.
Michael Varcas / The Philippine STAR

MANILA, Philippines — A Grade 5 student who was slapped by his teacher died from the swelling of his brain, according to his death certificate, but a forensic expert says an autopsy is still needed to confirm if the teacher’s slap caused the brain condition.

Released Wednesday by the Amang Rodriguez Memorial Medical Center, the death certificate of 14-year-old Francis Jay Gumikib shows he died of global brain edema, according to a News5 Frontline Pilipinas report.

The death certificate also stated that “suspected presumptive pulmonary tuberculosis” and “child physical abuse” were significant contributing conditions to Gumikib’s demise.

But further review is still needed to determine if the teacher’s slap led to the student’s death as his symptoms are also “consistent with infection from inflammation of the brain,” forensic expert Raquel Fortun said in an interview with CNN Philippines.

Fortun pointed out that the death certificate did not contain an important detail — the actual cause of the brain hemorrhage under "underlying cause of death.”

The "manner of death" section was also left blank, which usually implies a natural or disease-related cause, Fortun explained.

Even the CT scan conducted during the student’s hospitalization that showed images of a brain hemmorhage should also be reviewed, Fortun said. 

"How can you tell that was hemorrhage? We should conduct an autopsy because in an autopsy, you get a three-dimensional examination. It's not just imaging," Fortun said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Given that the student experienced ear pain, Fortun said that meningoencephalitis — a rare and life-threatening condition where one has meningitis and encephalitis at the same time — remains a possibility. 

“What struck me is, initially, there was ear pain. It's speculative, but it's common for ear infections to spread to the brain,” the forensic expert said.

With the death certificate also pointing to “presumptive pulmonary tuberculosis,” Fortun said that this could also mean that the child may have had tuberculous meningoencephalitis. 

“How did they consider TB? What did the X-ray show?” Fortun said. 

“There are many questions,” Fortun added.

Gumikib’s parents have insisted that their child did not have any health condition prior to his death.

‘Slapped’ during a test

Gumikib's mother, Elena Minggoy said in an interview with Radyo 630 on Tuesday that her son complained of maltreatment from his teacher after coming home from school on September 20.

Based on the account of her son, the 14-year-old was reportedly slapped by his teacher after being scolded for the noise being made by his classmates during a test.

The Peñafrancia Spring Valley Elementary School teacher had allegedly pulled on his collar, pulled his hair and slapped him.

“My son told me that after he was slapped, he temporarily went deaf from the slap,” Minggoy said in Filipino.

Gumikib was hospitalized three days later and fell into a coma. He died on Monday.

Antipolo City Mayor Jun Ynares said that "there were lapses in the school's protocols” after it took two weeks for the school to report the incident to the Department of Education Division of Antipolo and the city's police force, according to his interview with “One Balita Pilipinas” on One PH on Wednesday.

The teacher is now on "official leave" as the Antipolo Schools Division Office conducts an investigation into the incident, according to DepEd Assistant Secretary Francis Cesar Bringas.

Gumikib's body was brought to Camp Crame in Quezon City on Wednesday for an autopsy.

DepEd has implemented a zero-tolerance policy for all acts of child abuse, exploitation, violence, discrimination bullying and other forms of abuse since 2012.

Specifically, DepEd Order No. 40 or the Child Protection Policy forbids teachers from using corporal punishment to discipline a student, which refers to any disciplinary act involving "physical, humiliating, or degrading punishment."

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