Senator wants probe on sexual harassment allegations vs teachers

Sherrie Ann Torres, Jaehwa Bernardo and Michael Delizo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 31 2022 01:23 PM | Updated as of Aug 31 2022 03:35 PM

Sen. Risa Hontiveros scrutinizes the implementation of the COVID-19 vaccination program of the Department of Health (DOH) amid reported vaccine wastage in the country during the meeting of the Committee on Health and Demography Monday, Aug. 15, 2022. Bibo Nueva España, Senate PRIB
Sen. Risa Hontiveros scrutinizes the implementation of the COVID-19 vaccination program of the Department of Health (DOH) amid reported vaccine wastage in the country during the meeting of the Committee on Health and Demography Monday, Aug. 15, 2022. Bibo Nueva España, Senate PRIB

MANILA (UPDATE) — Sen. Risa Hontiveros is seeking an investigation into the reports of alleged sexual abuse and harassment committed by teachers against students in several schools.

Hontiveros filed on Wednesday Resolution No. 168, urging the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality that she heads to "conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, into the reports of sexual harassment committed by educators."

The investigation's goal is to create "safe spaces for students that are conducive for their learning and making perpetrators accountable for the consequences of their actions," according to the resolution.

"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. Schools must remain as safe havens for students," it added.

The call for a congressional inquiry came days after the Department of Education (DepEd) said its office in Bacoor, Cavite is investigating six teachers for allegedly harassing students at a local high school — an incident cited in Hontiveros' resolution.

Anthony Zeus Caringal, education program supervisor at DepEd's schools division office in Bacoor, said a seventh teacher was being investigated for alleged sexual harassment.

"We have talked with 7 teachers based on the regional order that was given to us to conduct the investigation," Caringal told ABS-CBN News.

"We are just conducting the fact-finding investigation so there will be prima facie evidence that will be forwarded to the region[al office] for formal investigation," he added.

Hontiveros' resolution also mentioned reports of sexual abuse and harassment involving teachers in two other schools in Laguna and Quezon City.

At the House of Representatives, Gabriela Women's Party Rep. Arlene Brosas called for a review of the Safe Spaces Act, which Hontiveros authored.

"While we have an existing law regarding handling cases of sexual harassment, it is clearly not enough. There is a need to review the Safe Spaces Act and ensure that policies are being implemented properly in schools," said Brosas, whose party is set to file its own resolution to look into the allegations.

Child protection program

Meanwhile, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian called on schools to enforce their child protection program to "combat all forms of violence and abuse against learners, including sexual harassment."

"Mariin nating kinokondena ang ganitong uri ng pang-aabuso at karahasan sa ating mga mag-aaral. Ang mga paaralan ay dapat nagsisilbing ligtas na espasyo," Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate basic education committee, said in a statement.

(We strongly condemn this type of abuse and violence against our students. Schools must be safe spaces.)

"Walang lugar sa ating mga paaralan ang pang-aabuso at karahasan, at hindi dapat natin ito pinapalagpas," he added.

(There is no place in our schools for abuse and violence, and we must not condone this.)

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) also expressed concern that "individuals tasked with educating young children have been allegedly involved in actions that are unbecoming of the role of educators."

In a statement, CHR Executive Director Jacqueline de Guia urged the DepEd to "continue working with educational institutions in strengthening reporting, prevention, and remedial measures in addressing exploitation, violence, discrimination, bullying, and other acts of abuse."

Under the DepEd's child protection policy, all public and private elementary and secondary schools are required to establish child protection committees (CPCs).

CPCs are tasked to identify and report to appropriate offices cases involving child abuse, exploitation, violence, discrimination and bullying, among other functions.

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