Hontiveros says Ateneo misunderstood clause in Safe Spaces Act amid campus cases

October 18, 2019 - 9:41 AM
Senator Risa Hontiveros
Sen. Risa Hontiveros walks with former senator and human-rights lawyer Rene Saguisag at the start of Congress' joint session to deliberate on the extension of martial law in Mindanao. (Sen. Hontiveros Office/Released)

Sen. Risa Hontiveros explained the implication of the confidentiality provision in the Safe Spaces Act, which she authored, after the Ateneo de Manila University came out with a statement on sexual harassment cases on campus.

The university stated that the “confidentiality restrictions” in the Safe Spaces Act, the measure Hontiveros co-authored, is preventing it from being transparent on the proceedings of sexual harassment complaints.

In a tweet, Hontiveros then said the confidentiality of information required by the law only benefits minors—either the victim or the harasser—in sexual harassment cases.

Hontiveros, an Ateneo alumna, responded on Twitter that the officials failed to comprehend the measure’s message.

“I wish to set the record straight: the Safe Spaces Act defends the harassed, not the harassers. The law protects identities of the accused if they are minors, not adult sex offenders,” she said.

The university’s marketing and communication office “misused” the law, Hontiveros noted, as potential harassers were condoned rather than punished.

“While the law recognizes the right to due process, it does not promote non-transparency, nor does it condone any culture of secrecy regarding cases of sexual harassment, especially if it favors the harassers,” she said.

Students previously staged protests within the campus to call for accountability and justice over the series of sexual harassment and violence complaints posted anonymously online since 2018.

An online petition with over a thousand signatures from alumni of the school also demanded the school to amend its policies on harassment and the process in handling such sensitive cases.

READ: Alumni launch petition to amend policies on sexual harassment at Ateneo

Following the events, school officials released a statement that it follows the process of conducting an investigation through the Committee on Decorum and Investigation for formal complaints.

However, provisions in the Data Privacy Act and the Safe Spaces Act prevented them from disclosing any information on the identities involved.

“Because of confidentiality restrictions in the Data Privacy Act and the Safe Spaces Act, however, we cannot disclose any information that might reveal the identities of individuals concerned, the content of the proceedings and the consequent decision made by the University.”

The implementing rules and regulations or IRR of the Safe Spaces Act will reportedly be signed on October 28.