MANILA (UPDATE) — The Department of Education launched Thursday new channels where students can report incidents of sexual harassment and abuse in schools.
This is the latest effort of the education department to strengthen child protection in schools after at least 7 high school teachers in Bacoor, Cavite were accused of sexually harassing their students.
Harassment and abuse victims can report directly to Education Secretary Sara Duterte's office via the email email@example.com, DepEd said in a statement.
Complainants can also reach Duterte's office through the phone numbers 8633-1942, 8635-9817 and 09959218461.
"Direct line po siya kasi naintindihan natin 'yong embarrassment at sensitivity ng matter kapag pumupunta sila sa officials ng school," DepEd Spokesman Michael Poa said in a press conference.
(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.)
In a statement, Enough is Enough, a group of students who experienced sexual harassment in schools, said it welcomed the DepEd's move to establish a hotline for campus abuse and harassment victims.
"We hope that this is a permanent fixture and not a knee-jerk reaction that will not be sustained once the controversies die down. We [also] hope that only qualified individuals in psycho-social support should be part of its team and not enablers of predators that will only gaslight victims and exacerbate their trauma," the group said.
The DepEd has filed administrative charges against 5 of the 7 Cavite teachers accused of sexual harassment.
The agency could not charge the other 2 teachers due to lack of evidence, said Poa, who urged harassment victims to come forward and file affidavits.
"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 [teachers], pati na rin 'yong ibang sinasabing nag-commit ng sexual harassment," he said.
(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.)
The issue 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 a Senate investigation on the matter.