A school in Cavite apologized to the graduating class who witnessed a scuffle between the venue owners and the guest speaker during their graduation rites.
A minor commotion between Sass Rogando Sasot, a pro-administration blogger, and Church of God, a religious group, earned some buzz on social media over the weekend.
It happened during the graduation ceremony of Southern Philippines Institute of Science and Technology (SPIST) on Friday afternoon, June 3.
Some social media users shared footage of the incident online.
Sass Rogando Sasot had her mic turned off while delivering her speech to Southern Philippines Institute of Science and Technology Graduation where she was invited as a speaker. Prior to this, the events place owner the Church of God threaten the school to change their speaker+ pic.twitter.com/Rz2s6LxWWz
— Erina 👩🏻⚕️🩺 (@yahmoongirl) June 3, 2022
A day after, Dr. Erlinda Manzanero, president and CEO of the Southern Philippine Institute of Science and Technology, issued a letter of apology on Facebook.
It was addressed to the Humanities and Social Sciences (HUMSS) and Technical-Vocational-Livelihood (TVL) graduates, and their parents and guardians.
“As the president of Southern Philippines Institute of Science and Technology, I would like to make this sincere apology to HUMSS and TVL graduating class, their parents and guardians for the inhumane stoppage of the graduation rites yesterday afternoon by the COG (Church of God) Dasmariñas administration,” Manzanero said.
“What transpired yesterday was beyond our control. We are deeply sorry for the inconvenience it caused, and we understand your frustration because you’ve waited for this event but suddenly the thrill and excitement was lost,” she added.
Manzanero further said that the school considered this incident as an attack on the institution and the people involved, including Sasot.
She noted that the blogger was the guest speaker for the graduation ceremony.
Those behind the event’s disruption will therefore be held accountable, the president assured the affected people.
“We will release an official announcement on the re-schedule of the post-graduation and its details. Thank you for your continuous support and understanding,” Manzanero said.
What went before
Sasot previously released a five-minute video that showed the lights and sound system turned off while she was delivering her commencement speech.
Based on the video, she proceeded to finish it even without the microphone and the lights.
In her post, Sasot alleged that COG Dasmariñas was responsible for it.
“The university pushed through for me to speak, even if the Church of God threatened that they will turn off the lights and sound system, and that they will not allow the graduation to finish,” she said.
“While I was speaking, the Church of God fulfilled their threat. Here’s the video of how things unfolded and the very touching gestures of students who lit up the hall with their phones as the Church of God drowned them in darkness,” she added.
Sasot also alleged that the COG didn’t want her there because she was a transwoman and a supporter of Ferdinand Marcos Jr., president-elect.
“The Church of God doesn’t want me to speak during the graduation of students renting their venue because I am a woman of transgender experience and that I am a BBM supporter. I was double-canceled,” she said.
Response of COG
In a letter released on June 4, COG Senior Pastor Anthony Velasco claimed to have pointed out to SPIST their conditions on allowing their graduation ceremony to be held on their facility.
This included not allowing an LGBTQ member to be a guest speaker on their pulpit.
“We do not allow LGBTQ to perform a special number or even be a guest speaker on our podium or ministry pulpit,” Velasco said.
He also noted in the letter that the facility was not an events place.
COG only agreed to SPIST’s request on the basis of their “desire to be of service to the community.”
“I respect school institutions. I respect the LGBTQ community. They are human beings and for this reason, we should respect life. But how about respect for one’s belief, respect for church’s rules and regulations, respect for the holiness of the pulpit?” Velasco said.