MANILA (UPDATE)—The legal department of the Commission on Higher Education is looking into the now-viral memorandum of a university in Baguio City mandating pregnancy tests, the chairman of the agency said Tuesday.
A copy of the memorandum allegedly from Pines City Colleges circulated on social networking sites, with people saying it could be violating the students' right to privacy.
"Speculative 'yan if I make comments based on news reports. I have to look at the document, I have to talk to who is complaining, but I have instructed the legal office of CHED to look into it," CHED chairman Prospero de Vera told ABS-CBN News.
The agency's administrative rule is that a complainant must first question the university on its policies before heading to the commission, he said.
"If the complainant feels that the university's decision is still not good for them, that's the time that they go to the commission," de Vera said.
The memorandum signed by Pines City Colleges' school physician and vice president for administration advises the deans and heads of its dentistry, nursing, and pharmacy departments of the "mandatory pregnancy test on all female students" this week.
In a statement, the school said it abides by its policy of pregnancy tests for students "who are enrolling in any subject that would endanger both mother and child."
"It is a policy agreed to by our students upon their enrollment in this institution," it said.
"We believe it is a policy protective of our students while they are in our care and are deployed to internship programs in hospitals and to clinical practice."
Jennifer Josef, who teaches sociology and anthropology at the University of the Philippines-Baguio, said Pines City Colleges' student manual enumerates sanctions for students who hide their pregnancy and those who do not submit to the mandatory test.
However, she said the memorandum was "well-intentioned," seeking to protect the student and her fetus from possible infections which they could be exposed to while enrolled in health-allied courses.
"School administration of these schools and colleges, women’s groups, health groups, should sit down and find a way how to go about this, not violating the rights of the students, finding ways to make this voluntary," she told ANC's "Dateline Philippines."
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR), meanwhile, said its Cordillera office is investigating the case, "according to the institution due process and verifying the existence of the policy."
"The CHR is alarmed with the documents circulating in the internet showing Pines City Colleges policy of mandatory pregnancy testing not only as to possible MCW (Magna Carta of Women) violation but also of other women’s rights particularly on the rights to privacy and bodily autonomy," CHR spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia said in a statement.
"Women and girls should not be denied exercise and full enjoyment of basic rights, they should not suffer negative consequences in educational and work spaces, simply because they are pregnant."
Kabataan Party-list said the measure "borders on discriminating women and downgrading their rights."
"Not to mention that the fee is shouldered by the ones taking the test, another form of exorbitant other school fee (OSF) shouldered by the students and being even more expensive than a pharmacy-bought pregnancy test," it said in a statement.
"We stand that pregnancy does not determine one's capacity as a student. Further, that deregulation and commercialization policies in education, that host unjust determination and widespread collection of widespread exorbitant and dubious fees, must be scrapped."