MANILA, Philippines – Several students and alumni broke their silence online to share personal accounts of harassment experienced from faculty members of Miriam College High School (MCHS).
It started off when a former student of MCHS posted her story on Wednesday, June 24, recounting her experience with a Grade 11 homeroom teacher who made her his confidante. He admitted to her fantasizing about his minor female students.
She was scared to silence after her teacher reminded her of how much control she had over his career given what she knew. He also thanked her for being such a trustworthy friend.
This triggered other students and alumni to come out in the open, using the tag #MCHSdobetter as they flooded social media with their own stories of sexual harassment, assault, and pedophilia from teachers within the school.
They also called on the school’s administration to take action and questioned their management of the issue.
Call for justice, transparency
MCHS’s student publication, The Magnificat, released a statement condemning all forms of sexual harassment experienced by several students and alumni.
It also asked the school for transparency and accountability, demanded justice for all the victims, and called on them to take concrete action to make sure that future students do not encounter the same kind of trauma.
“This is a matter ultimately rooted in sexism, lack of consent, and pedophilia. It is necessary to bear in mind that change can only happen if we actively seek to pursue it, and when people in power are able to fight and protect the individuals they represent. At the end of the day, schools are meant to be safe learning environments for all,” the student publication said.
Youth-led women’s group Amarela PH echoed this, pointing out that schools should be spaces of growth and safety, free from worry about being targets of sexual harassment.
“We find it extremely regrettable that Miriam College High School has lacked in that, given the thread and posts that followed,” it said in a statement.
With the surge of sexual abuse cases being brought to light only now by the victims, Amarela urged MCHS to listen and acknowledge their cry for justice and for the perpetrators to apologize for their misconduct.
“It is time for the students to stop carrying the burden of having to expect pedophiles and harassers in the school, and for the victims to receive the justice they should have received long ago,” the group added.
Abot-Tanaw PH, for its part, said Miriam College has turned a blind eye to the predatory acts within its campus. But it added that this issue is bigger than just one school.
“It is a systemic political issue, manifested in how authoritative figures use and abuse their power in displays of predatory behavior. Most of the time, such behavior is tolerated, brushed aside by the institutions that enabled them in the first place,” the group stressed.
Time’s Up Ateneo lauded the students for speaking up and added that it “stands with the growing number of high school students and alumni across the country who have been speaking out against sexual violence and impunity in their campuses.”
It added that numerous students from different institutions in Metro Manila also took to social media to express their anger and discontent with the way their respective school administrations have dealt with predatory behavior among faculty, as well as other concerns related to gender-based violence.
Meanwhile, the Women and Gender Insitute (WAGI), Miriam College’s advocacy center for women’s empowerment, gender equality, and inclusion said that it will be holding the administration and every perpetrator of discrimination and abuse accountable and liable for their actions.
It added that it is working with the high school student council to organize and hold a series of safe group discussions to allow all students to air their grievances and echo their call for justice and accountability.
“We are hopeful that these safe space discussions will help us get a clearer understanding of the extent and depth of the issues our students are raising and help us a craft a way forward that will address the pain, trauma, and other consquences of the harassment and abuse in the way the affected students had hoped for,” the groups stressed.
Miriam College’s response: Pained to know
Miriam College President Laura del Rosario responded to the issue.
In a statement released on Thursday, June 25, she emphasized that the college is pained to know that the stories surfacing online could be told in “a caring institution.”
“I wish to express to our community, alumni, and friends our profound sadness for the pain and anger that the school system’s various members may have caused,” Del Rosario said.
She also said the college has heard about these reports online and assured students that they have initiated investigation and will take appropriate steps to resolve the issue.
“We want all our teachers to be role models in leading their students towards well-being in partnership with the parents of our students leading their families. We also do not want our students to fear retribution nor faculty members to fear lack of due process when cases such as the ones tweeted about are raised,” she added.
The institution is also looking into forming an independent “Justice, Truth, and Reconciliation Institutional Committee” that will review previous and current reports and resolve these cases.
“And in the end, we hope that closures will be achieved, and reconciliation becomes possible,” she added. “Beyond the formation of this Committee, Miriam College will undergo a serious process of self-criticism to re-define more deeply the meaning of Justice – especially in its restorative sense…” the president continued.
Over a week ago, Filipino women also braved social media platforms as they came forward with their own stories of harassment using the hashtag #HijaAko, pointing out how these incidents occurred even if they were not wearing revealing clothing. – Rappler.com