The Philippine Science High School board’s decision to release diplomas and certificates to students involved in voyeurism cases raised concern among some Filipinos who noted how the incident will affect victims in the long run.
Reports indicate that the school’s board of trustees decided to bar six male students from participating in the graduation rites this May 29, Wednesday.
However, three of them will be given diplomas while the other three will be given certificates of completion “after requirements that are part of penalty are completed or served,” said Science and Technology Secretary Fortunato dela Peña.
Dela Peña is an ex-officio chairman of the PSHS board of trustees.
The board’s decision gained fresh criticisms that the penalty was “not enough” since the “safety and dignity” of the female students as individuals were compromised.
"Sources told GMA News that three of the scholars may still graduate with a diploma from PSHS. Three other students may only be issued a certificate of completion."
This is why men keep on harassing and abusing women. They know they'll always get away with it.
— Paella Fitzgerald (@breathlesslyb) May 28, 2019
Commission on Human Rights spokesperson Jacqueline de Guia shared that the incident is a reflection of how the country needs “a more defined child protection policy,” considering some victims are still minors.
She recalled Article 3 of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of the Child that the state — in this case, of the Philippines — shall “primarily” consider the best interests of the child whether it is “undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies.”
“For this case, this means that, school officials must be reminded that in carrying our sanctions, the children’s present and future life—their general welfare, safety, and development—must always be put in mind,” De Guia added.
Vice President Leni Robredo also shared that the issue goes beyond school matters as it is an indication of how society must act when “women are disrespected, demeaned, or abused.”
“It is an issue that goes to the heart of how we, as a society, must act when women are disrespected, demeaned, or abused, particularly when this is passed off as ‘boys’ having ‘harmless fun,’ and therefore ‘normal’ and ‘acceptable,'” she said.
Robredo added that the behavior must be “appropriately sanctioned” so it would not be tolerated nor repeated in the future.
Previously, certain male students of the state-funded high school were discovered to have shared nude pictures of their ex-girlfriends among themselves and on the internet without the girls’ consent.
Despite this, the PSHS board initially allowed them to graduate, earning the ire of the PSHS Main Campus’ Executive Parents Teachers Council and Undersecretary Lorraine Badoy of President Rodrigo Duterte’s communications office.
Women’s party-list Gabriela also denounced the initial decision and called it a case of “cyber pornography.”
This prompted the board to reconsider its decision and prevent the students from participating in the graduation rites.
How voyeurism can affect victims
Voyeurism is defined as the “practice of obtaining sexual gratification from observing others” or the “practice of taking pleasure in observing something private, sordid or scandalous.”
Under Philippine law, it is considered voyeurism when a person shares pictures or video of someone else’s sensitive body parts or private area without their consent.
Psychiatrist Sharon Moore shared that people who have been victimized by voyeurism may be at risk of developing a stress disorder or a hypervigilant behavior after their privacy was invaded.
Anisha Joseph, the head of the sexual assault care center at Singapore’s Association of Women for Action and Research, relayed that victims of voyeurism suffer from feelings of being intimidated, ashamed, angry or powerless.
She said psychological effects can be long-term and can go beyond physical damage—from developing a fear of others, depression, and anxiety, to suffering flashbacks, numbness and denial.