MANILA (UPDATE) — The Department of Education (DepEd) on Thursday urged students of a high school in Bacoor, Cavite to come forward and file complaints if they experienced being sexually harassed by their teachers.
The DepEd's schools division office (SDO) in Bacoor is investigating at least 7 teachers from a local high school following a viral social media post alleging that they made sexual advances and other inappropriate remarks towards their students.
But the problem is not a lot of victims have come out to file formal complaints against the teachers, said DepEd Spokesperson Michael Poa.
"Although nagtutuloy 'yong imbestigasyon natin, ang problema is walang masyadong complainants na nagfa-file ng kanilang affidavits," he said in a press conference.
(While the investigation is ongoing, the problem is we don't have a lot of complainants filing their affidavits.)
"Sana tulungan niyo rin kaming hikayatin 'yong alleged victims na lumabas at mag-file ng kanilang affidavits para mapalakas lalo 'yong kaso," he told reporters.
(We hope that you can help us encourage the alleged victims to come forward and file their affidavits so they can strengthen their case.)
In an interview with ABS-CBN News, the Commssion on Human Rights (CHR) in the Calabarzon region said it is conducting its own probe on the matter.
The commission is in the process of getting in touch with at least 30 students who were supposedly harassed by teachers, said CHR-Calabarzon Director Rexford Guevarra.
"We will evaluate their cases when we gather their affidavits. And we can also assist them in filing the necessary charges," Guevarra said.
DepEd's Poa said the SDO in Bacoor City would submit its fact-finding report to the regional office in Calabarzon on Friday.
"From then on, we will determine kung ano 'yong next step sa administrative proceedings against the teachers," he said.
(From then on, we will determine the next step in the administrative proceedings against the teachers.)
If proven guilty, the "most severe punishment" the teachers could face is dismissal from service, Poa said.
The group was not given any teaching load due to the investigation, the DepEd earlier said.
Poa added that Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte has directed the DepEd's child protection to strengthen its presence and programs in schools.
In an earlier statement, the DepEd said it took sexual harassment allegations "very seriously," adding that it would not tolerate "any form of abuse in our schools."
The issue at the Bacoor high school is the latest case of a Philippine school whose teachers are facing accusations of sexual harassment or abuse.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros, chair of the Senate committee on women and children, has called for an investigation into several reports of sexual harassment committed by educators towards students.