MANILA (UPDATE)—Child rights advocates on Wednesday urged authorities to investigate allegations of sexual abuse and harassment at the Philippine High School for the Arts.
The Child Rights Network (CRN) also demanded safe return of students at the state-run boarding school in Laguna due to "apparent lack of accountability against perpetrators of these crimes against children."
"The administrators of PHSA and the agencies that oversee it, including the Department of Education and the Cultural Center of the Philippines, must immediately address the cycle of abuse in this school," the group said in a statement.
"Our very own educational and cultural agencies should not be aiding and abetting the sexual abuse of students."
A Vice World News report has revealed that current and former students had experienced sexual, physical and emotional abuse from the school’s teachers and staff.
In January, current students and alumni also signed a letter urging the PHSA administration to ensure the campus would be safe from abuse.
"We go in blindly, not knowing that this free education comes at a price, unaware of the culture that thrives in PHSA—one that perpetuates abuse, fostered by silencing and neglect,” the letter read.
The CRN said these claims of abuse violate laws aimed at protecting children.
"We call on DepEd, CCP, and the whole government to expedite the investigations, execute comprehensive actions, and ensure that not one more student would be subjected to sexual abuse and harassment," the children's rights group said.
"We also call on the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the Philippine National Police to initiate a thorough investigation on the matter, and ensure that our educational institutions are safe spaces, especially for children."
In response to the viral report, the premiere school for young artists vowed to provide "safe learning environment" for its students.
But the PHSA management described as "unfair" over "sweeping generalization" that the state-run school had become a "haven for abuse".
"As felt by many of our alumni, teachers and staff, some of whom have worked at PHSA for more than 20 years, the sweeping generalization, as shown in the articles portraying the PHSA as haven for abuse, is unfair," the institution said in a statement.
"But please be assured all our school personnel are working hand in hand towards providing our students a safe learning environment, whether online or in Makiling."
The PHSA said it "sympathizes" with its alumni who complained of past abuses and urged them to file their complaints with the school's designated committees.
The management pledged to further improve measures to ensure the safety and well-being of students. These include prohibiting rehearsals and group activities after curfew hours when in-house classes begin in August.
In a statement to VICE World News, PHSA director Dr. Josue Greg Zuniega took issue with the allegation that the abuses at the state-run high school were continuing.
"The allegations come from past administrations, and for the 2-and-a-half years that our students are in the safety of their own homes, no reported abuses have occurred at the PHSA," he said.
For Sen. Risa Hontiveros, the allegations of sexual abuse and harassment at PHSA is appalling.
"Nakapanlulumo. Bilang may-akda ng Safe Spaces Act, handa kaming makipagtulungan para mabigyang hustisya ang bawat bata na nabiktima ng karahasang ito," she wrote on Twitter.
(It's appalling. As the author of the Safe Spaces Act, we are ready to help give justice to every child who was a victim of this violence.)
The Safe Spaces Act covers all forms of gender-based sexual harassment committed in public spaces, educational or training institutions, workplaces, and online spaces.
"Hindi pwedeng palagpasin ito," Hontiveros said.
(This cannot be condoned.)
The PHSA is an attached agency of the education department. It has yet to comment on the issue.
FROM THE ARCHIVES: