MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) - Parents of two students in Cebu City who were barred from taking part in their graduation rites for posting photos on Facebook showing them in bikinis have filed criminal charges against school officials.
Saint Theresa's College (STC) officials face grave oral defamation and child abuse charges, according to the parents of the students.
STC on Friday defied a temporary restraining order issued by the Cebu Regional Trial Court Branch 19 that required the Catholic school to allow the students to join the graduation rites.
The affected students approached the gate of STC with their parents Friday afternoon.
They were in their school uniforms and were still hoping to join the graduation ceremony.
However, school guards prevented them from entering the campus.
The parents insisted that the court had ruled the children could take part in the graduation.
The guards, however, did not budge.
The graduation rites were held without the students and their names were not mentioned during the event.
The students could only break down in tears.
Some of the parents could not help but express their anger.
STC officials stood by their decision, saying they have filed a motion for reconsideration on the TRO issued by Cebu City RTC Judge Wilfredo Navarro.
"The punishment that was given, that is not un-Christian. They may graduate. They have everything except that [taking part in the ceremony]," school directress Sister Ma. Purisima Pe said in a press conference held Friday night.
However, clerk of court Atty. Ofelia delos Reyes said a motion for reconsideration on a TRO has no legal standing.
"The TRO is immediate and executory. They know it," she said.
ABS-CBN talked to parents of 2 of the 5 students.
One of the parents said her child wanted to commit suicide out of shame.
Youth groups in Cebu City have condemned the actions of the school, which has yet to issue an official statement.
The parents of one of the students earlier filed a separate petition for injunction with damages against school officials Sister Celeste Ma. Purisima Pe, school principal; Mussolini Yap, assistant principal; Marnie Racaza, student affairs moderator; Kristine Rose Ligot, discipline in-charge; and Edita Josephine Yu, homeroom adviser, according to regional newspaper Sun.Star.
Department of Education Assitant Secretary Tonisito Umali has declined to comment on the details of the STC issue, saying the case is now in the hands of the court.
However, he told ANC that the DepEd has started its own investigation into the case. "We're investigating the matter from our end. The DepEd can't make any action that may run contrary to findings of the Cebu court."
Umali said the DepEd respects private schools' rights to create own policies, but the government can intervene if school policies violate the law.
He added that schools should think of penalties commensurate to the offense committed by their students.
"To all our students, I strongly advise to read carefully your student handbook, especially if we're talking about Catholic schools," he said. - with reports from Carmi Cavanlit and Joworski Alipon, ABS-CBN Central Visayas; ANC