Senator Risa Hontiveros is seeking a Senate investigation into reports of sexual harassment committed by educators in various schools nationwide.
Senator Win Gatchalian meanwhile called on the country’s basic education institutions to enforce their child protection program to combat all forms of violence and abuse against learners, including sexual harassment.
In a proposed Senate Resolution No. 168, Hontiveros, the principal author of the Safe Spaces Act, cited incidents of harassment and abuse involving teachers at Bacoor National High School in Cavite, St. Theresa’s College in Quezon City, and the Philippine High School for the Arts in Los Banos.
Hontiveros and Gatchalian issued the call as the Department of Education (DepEd) started its investigation on six teachers who allegedly made sexual advances on learners at the Bacoor National High School in Cavite. A social media post on the learners’ experiences went viral on August 28.
According to DepEd spokesman Michael Poa, the teachers under investigation have not been given teaching loads since then.
In her proposed Senate Resolution No. 26, Hontiveros urged her fellow senators to probe the reported culture of abuse, harassment, and violence at the Philippine High School for the Arts (PHSA).
The resolution was filed after a Vice World News report revealed that PHSA students have experienced harrowing forms of harassment and abuse committed by teachers, non-teaching staff, and students.
PSR No. 168 additionally detailed the evidence shared online by survivors from Bacoor National High School, including messages of married teachers pestering their students into illegal and immoral relationships despite the clear, explicit, and unmistakable refusal by the students.
She noted that the issues in both resolutions will be tackled in the hearing next week, in time for the opening of face-to-face classes.
She also emphasized that the Safe Spaces Act mandates all schools, whether public or private, to publish grievance procedures and to assign an officer-in-charge who can receive complaints regarding violations of the Act.
“Do our schools follow the law? Sexual harassment cases brought up to educational institutions’ notice must be resolved in a transparent, pro-active, and timely manner in order to ensure the swift delivery of justice. “
The lady senator then stressed that “teachers and perpetrators who harass students have no business remaining in schools in the company of young students and must be made to answer for the consequences of their actions.”
Gatchalian, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, cited the role of DepEd’s Child Protection Unit (CPU), which is mandated to formulate policies concerning the right to basic education learners to protection from all forms of violence, abuse, neglect, cruelty, exploitation, and maltreatment.
The CPU is also mandated to establish and maintain a monitoring and reporting mechanism for all child protection-related concerns.
In enforcing child protection programs, the senator said that schools should mobilize their Child Protection Committees (CPC), which were created under Department Order No. 40 s. 2012 or the Child Protection Policy. Aside from creating child protection policies, CPCs are also tasked to identify learners who may be experiencing abuse and exploitation, and to report cases involving child abuse.
Based on the results of the National Baseline Study on Violence Against Children in the Philippines (2016), about 17.1% of children aged 13 to below 18 experienced any form of sexual violence, 5.3% of which happened in schools.