sexual abuse in the Philippines

PHSA on mistreatment claims: Generalizing school as haven of abuse ‘unfair’

Michelle Abad

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PHSA on mistreatment claims: Generalizing school as haven of abuse ‘unfair’

PSHA. The Philippine High School's National Arts Center Auditorium in a photo uploaded September 10, 2013, to the PHSA's Facebook page.

PHSA Facebook page

The Child Rights Network says the Philippine High School for the Arts' 'repeated failure' to stop alleged abuses in the school show that child protection mechanisms are not implemented well

MANILA, Philippines – The embattled Philippine High School for the Arts (PHSA) said it is “unfair” to generalize the school as a haven for abuse, as “portrayed” by a recent Vice World News article.

“As felt by many of our alumni, teachers, and staff, some of whom have worked at PHSA for more than 20 years, the sweeping generalization, as shown in the articles portraying the PHSA as [a] haven for abuse, is unfair,” the school said in a statement on Tuesday, July 5.

“PHSA, just like any other institution, is not perfect. But please be assured all our school personnel are working hand-in-hand towards providing our students a safe learning environment, whether online or in Makiling,” PHSA added.

The school, which has been under fire following the release of an article by Vice World News detailing how sexual abuse allegedly perpetuated among students and teachers for “decades,” said it was “unfortunate” that alumni spoke about being abused in the article.

The PHSA said its management “sympathizes” with alumni who complained of past abuses, and that they were free to file complaints with the school. They guaranteed that the PHSA had processes in dealing with disciplinary matters which were recognized by the Civil Service Commission, the Commission on Human Rights, the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP), and the Department of Education (DepEd).

The school also said it strives to enhance measures to improve its students’ well-being and safety.

“To our students: Our teaching and non-teaching personnel are here to give you support and give a listening ear to your concerns,” it said.

Vice News’ June 28 report reawakened calls demanding accountability from educational institutions allegedly failing to provide safe spaces for their students against sexual abuse.

In a statement on Wednesday, July 6, Child Rights Network Philippines called to end the “cycle of abuse” at the PHSA and other educational institutions. CRN claimed that the government has yet to make any “comprehensive and decisive” action to address the issue.

“The reported crimes against children are crimes of power, with power relations between teachers and house parents in the boarding school tilted against their victims. As these are crimes of power, in most reported cases, victims are robbed of immediate recourse, and carry the unreported trauma way into adulthood,” the CRN said.

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The CRN said that the report revealed “cracks” in the way the PHSA, and possibly other educational institutions, implemented child protection policies, practices, and processes. While all schools should have mechanisms in place for students to report cases of abuse, “the repeated failure of the PHSA administration to stop this cycle of violence clearly show that such mechanisms are being perfunctorily implemented, or in worse cases, totally set aside,” the CRN said.

The CRN, which is an alliance of organizations pushing for children’s rights legislation, said that the repeated abuses disregard existing laws meant to protect children, such as the Special Protection of Children Against Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination Act (Republic Act 7610), the Safe Spaces Act (RA 11313), and the End Child Rape Law (RA 11648).

The alliance called on the DepEd, the CCP, and the whole government to expedite investigations and execute comprehensive actions to ensure the abuse is put to a stop.

The PHSA a public educational institution attached to the DepEd. The DepEd has yet to issue a statement on the issue as of posting.

Senator Risa Hontiveros, principal author of the Safe Spaces Act, said she was willing to help any survivors of abuse.

Nakapanlulumo. Bilang may-akda ng Safe Spaces Act, handa kaming makipagtulungan para mabigyang hustisya ang bawat bata na nabiktima ng karahasang ito. The law covers any abuse or harassment committed in schools. Hindi puwedeng palagpasin ito,” Hontiveros said in a tweet a day after the report was released.

(This is distressing. As author of the Safe Spaces Act, we are ready to help give justice to every child who fell victim to this violence. The law covers any abuse or harassment committed in schools. We cannot let this pass.) –

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Michelle Abad

Michelle Abad is a multimedia reporter at Rappler. She covers the rights of women and children, migrant Filipinos, and labor.