Court: Allow ‘bikini pic’ students to attend grad rites
Cebu judge also ordered Saint Theresa's College to 'treat the minors with kindness and civility' during entire commencement exercise, scheduled Friday, March 30

MANILA, Philippines – A Cebu City court ordered on Thursday, March 29 officials of St Theresa’s College to stop its imposition of sanctions on 2 students punished for posting “lewd” photos on their Facebook accounts.

Sun.Star Cebu reported Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 19 Judge Wilfredo Navarro said the school “miserably failed” to follow its own rules. He then issued a cease-and- desist order, commanding the school to allow the 2 unnamed students to attend their graduation ceremonies, scheduled on Friday, March 30.

The school was also ordered “to treat the minors concerned with kindness and civility befitting true graduates of a respectable institution sans any discrimination for the entire duration of the commencement exercises,” the paper quoted Navarro’s decision as saying.

The order came after STC filed an appeal to dismiss the civil suit, which was filed on Monday by the mother of one of the students.

The two students were barred from attending their own graduation ceremonies, after school officials found out photos of them wearing a bikini, posted on their personal Facebook accounts.

STC justified its action, saying it “showed mercy” by only barring the student from her graduation, adding the girl will still be able to graduate.

The school, in their memorandum, said that their decision is “a call to true repentance and conversion, the central theme of the New Testament and a cornerstone of the Christian life.”

“The decision to allow (the student) to graduate is another act of mercy but the decision not to allow her to join the commencement exercise puts order to the virtue of mercy,” Sun.Star Cebu quoted the memorandum, which was signed by STC lawyer Romeo Balili.

‘Sleepless nights’

The suit said the teenager had “suffered sleepless nights” since being punished for the photo, which allegedly showed her having “ample body exposure.”

The mother who filed the case said the school also accessed her daughter’s account on the social networking site without permission.

In a statement, the Student Council Alliance of the Philippines (SCAP) “condemned” the administration of St. Theresa’s College (STC) in Cebu.

SCAP said STC violated the Bill of Rights, which guarantees every person’s freedom of speech and expression. The group also said the school violated the Anti-Violence Against Women and their Children Act (Republic Act 9262) “for causing psychological violence to the student causing humiliation and trauma.”

‘Violations of rights, Constitution’

The group also criticized the school’s student handbook, saying it “teems with rules and regulations that violate students’ rights and the Constitution,” citing provisions that “impede on the private and personal affairs of their students.”

The National Youth Commission also expressed its concern over the incident, and implored on the STC to allow the student to attend her commencement exercises.

NYC said the the action of the STC was a “clear violation and abuse of the rules on academic freedom,” saying the school is extending it for “an excuse to impinge on the personal rights and freedom of their students.”

The Department of Education said they will look into the case. –