MANILA (UPDATE) — The Department of Education has filed administrative charges against 5 of the 7 high school teachers accused of sexual harassment in Bacoor, Cavite, its spokesperson said Thursday.
DepEd Spokesperson Michael Poa said the teachers were charged with grave misconduct, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, and violation of the agency's child protection policy.
The department is unable to issue charges against the 2 remaining teachers due to lack of evidence, Poa said. He reiterated his appeal for students to come forward if they experienced sexual harassment or abuse in their schools.
"Naghihikayat tayo sa victims ng alleged sexual harassment na lumabas para makapagbigay ng kanilang affidavit, statement or ebidensiya at para mabigyan natin ng formal charge, hindi lang itong 7, pati na rin 'yong ibang sinasabing nag-commit ng sexual harassment," he said in a press briefing.
(We are encouraging victims of alleged sexual harassment to come out so they can give their affidavit, statement or evidence so we can file formal charges, not just against the 7 teachers but also against others who supposedly commit sexual harassments.)
Due to the charges, the teachers were placed under a 90-day preventive suspension, said Poa.
The accused teachers will be asked "to choose between a proceeding by position paper only or by trial," he explained.
As part of its efforts to strengthen child protection in schools, the DepEd also launched Thursday new channels where students can report incidents of sexual harassment and abuse in schools.
Complaints can now be sent directly to Education Secretary Sara Duterte's office, the DepEd said in a statement.
"Direct line po siya kasi naintindhan natin 'yong embarrassment at sensitivity ng matter kapag pumupunta sila sa officials ng school," Poa said in the briefing.
(We established a direct line because we understand the embarrassment that the victims feel and the sensitivity of the matter when they come forward to school officials.)
Enough is Enough, a group composed of students that experienced sexual harassment and abuse in schools, welcomed the filing of charges against the 5 teachers.
But in a statement, the group said its own tally showed that there are 11 "campus predators" at the Bacoor high school.
The group said it would also request a "closed-door dialogue" with Duterte.
The controversy at the Bacoor high school is the latest case of a Philippine school whose teachers are facing similar accusations of sexual harassment or abuse, prompting lawmakers to look into the issue.