Sen. Risa Hontiveros offered to help the victims of abuse of a state-run boarding school in Laguna that was featured in a news publication overseas.
Hontiveros tweeted this on June 29 reacting to a report by Vice News about the alleged culture of abuse at the Philippine High School for the Arts in Los Baños, Laguna.
The report titled “At an Isolated Boarding School, a Culture of Sexual Abuse Thrived for Decades” tells the testimonies of several PHSA alumni of alleged sexual, physical and emotional abuses from the school’s teachers and staff.
In the report, former and current PHSA students were the ones who described these incidents as a “culture of abuse” in the school.
Hontiveros, health and women’s rights advocate, was alarmed over these allegations.
“Nakapanlulumo. Bilang may-akda ng Safe Spaces Act, handa kaming makipagtulungan para mabigyang hustisya ang bawat bata na nabiktima ng karahasang ito,” she tweeted.
“The law covers any abuse or harassment committed in schools. Hindi pwedeng palagpasin ito,” she added.
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 pwedeng palagpasin ito.https://t.co/navYbyqB9X
— risa hontiveros (@risahontiveros) June 29, 2022
The PHSA has a reputation for being an elite institution for young Filipino artists since it opened atop Mount Makiling on June 11, 1977.
The National Arts Center (NAC) is also situated within the PHSA complex.
Some Filipinos who saw Hontiveros’ tweet expressed their dismay at the school which they looked up to before.
“Grabe [ang] taas ng tingin ko dito sa school na to (pwede ding literal) tas ganito,” one Twitter user said.
“I thought PHSA was a cool school, I was wrong,” another user tweeted.
A few online users also shared they have terrible experiences during their stay there.
Call for safe spaces
PHSA’s student publication called “Variations” launched a signature campaign to call on school administrators to formally investigate these incidents before the start of the next school year.
Variations posted this campaign on its Facebook and Twitter pages.
“In light of the recent article released by VICE News, PHSA Variations would like to reiterate the Safe Spaces Demands passed by the PHSA student body in January earlier this year. We would also like to call for signatories from the general public in order to amplify these calls,” the tweet reads.
In light of the recent article released by VICE News, PHSA Variations would like to reiterate the Safe Spaces Demands passed by the PHSA student body in January earlier this year. We would also like to call for signatories from the general public in order to amplify these calls. pic.twitter.com/Rr3XZEONzW
— PHSA Variations (@phsa_variations) June 29, 2022
In the petition, the students called for a safe return to their campus.
“It is one thing to feel unsafe within our school campus, but in our case, as this is also where we live, it raises a cause for alarm that cannot be ignored. When we call for a safe return to Makiling, we mean it in every sense of the word,” the petition reads.
Individuals who are not part of the PHSA can also sign their petition addressed to the school administration.
All types of gender-based sexual harassment and abuse in schools are punishable under the Safe Spaces Act or the Bawal Bastos Law.
These acts include the following unwanted acts:
- Groping, making offensive body gestures at someone, and other similar lewd sexual actions
- Statement of sexual comments and suggestions
- Catcalling or unwanted remarks directed towards a person
- Any advances, whether verbal or physical, that is unwanted and has threatened one’s sense of personal space and physical safety
Punishment for offenders ranges from 12 hours of community service to imprisonment of up to six months.