Interaction with learners

Harassed students need more awareness and access to rights – lawyer

Enough is Enough, Senior Coordinator Sophia Beatriz Reyes says current anti-sexual harassment policies tend to lean towards protecting predators who are school employees

MANILA, Philippines — To end sexual harassment in Filipino schools, abused students must be empowered to know their rights and how to claim them, attorney Francis Mangrobang said during an episode of Rappler Talk on Friday, September 23.

“Our laws provide what to do and what the rights of victims are [or] are the recipients of sexual harassment. The way in which this would be known to the young people, the community, the people is also provided for in the law. However, in practice, this does not always reach the conscience of communities,” said Mangrobang, a legal officer with the non-governmental organization Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services (IDEALS).

Mangrobang said while there may be mechanisms in place, abuse survivors don’t always use them. Sometimes, he says, they don’t know who to turn to — whether it’s teachers, the school administration or government agencies. “That’s why legal rights education is important here,” he said in a mixture of English and Filipino.

Besides education, Mangrobang said there must be mechanisms in place that ensure that further abuse by institutions is prevented.

Paano ba yan natin magagawa na ma-determine natin na itong isang taong ‘to Is it a high risk to be a predator? Wala pang mga ganoong bagay – ‘yung mechanism to prevent. Preventive treatment is mandatory for kabataan,” he said.

(How do we determine that this person is at high risk of being a predator? There is no prevention mechanism. Our prevention mechanism is to educate our young people.)

He added that these mechanisms need to be effective and accessible to young learners who may be afraid to speak up, as complaints cannot move forward if victims do not want them to.

Sexual harassment remains an ongoing problem in Filipino schools as students continue to speak out on social media about the abuse they have experienced or witnessed from their teachers. Even though the campaigns have been going on for several years, more and more cases of impunity continue to surface online.

This raises questions about whether Filipino students are safe in their schools when they return to face-to-face classes.

Harassed students need more awareness and access to rights - lawyer
“Politics tend to lean towards predators”

Following recent reports of student harassment at schools like Philippine High School for the Arts and Bacoor National High School, survivors from different schools have come together in a campaign called Enough is Enough. So far, the EIA has summoned victims from PHSA, BNHS, Porac Model Community High School and Quezon City Science High School.

According to Sophia Beatriz Reyes, senior coordinator of Enough is Enough, of the cases they have tracked, there have been no predatory evictions or convictions.

“So here, the real problem, which is in the policies, is brought to light. And these policies tend to lean towards predators. For example, in cases that are teacher-to-student or staff-to-student, employees of the DepEd (Department of Education) are protected, and this is more evident in private schools, although it also occurs in public schools where the their reputational risk is superimposed. as an added concern,” Reyes said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Reyes said the EIA observed that predators are generally advised to resign with their salaries and benefits still intact, which facilitates transfer to other schools or other jobs that allow interaction with vulnerable sectors. . (READ: NBI suggests creating a database of teachers with a history of sexual abuse)

“The laws we currently have in place don’t exactly allow victim-survivors. Sometimes we have gas from parents, from institutions… There are instances where survivors are prevented from telling their stories, especially on social media,” Reyes said.

Reyes supported Mangrobang saying laws are sometimes not easily accessible or available to communities. Technical details, such as the number of formal requirements, can be “intimidating for students to know that this is all they have to lose, to endure, for them to seek justice, when it is supposed to.” be enough for them to have a complaint and they can talk about it.

The EIA official said stress is added to victim-survivors when schools do not provide lawyers or psychosocial support, which would result in additional expense.

“There is also the shame that is instilled when victim-survivors come forward. Survivors feel the need to hide their identity because prejudice is very present. So I think it’s all of those things that contribute to making communication difficult,” Reyes said. –