The Philippine High School for the Arts deemed it unfair that the school was recently portrayed as a “haven for abuse” online following Vice News’ report about it.
The state-run academic institution in Laguna finally released a statement on July 6 in response to the allegations of abuse reported by Vice News last month.
“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 haven for abuse, is unfair,” the school said.
“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,” it added.
The PHSA also reminded the school community that the school itself is an “attached agency” of the Department of Education.
“Please understand that the school, being an attached agency of the Department of Education, has to comply with government rules and regulations. Rest assured, in dealing with disciplinary matters, PHSA has its own processes which have been duly recognized by the Civil Service Commission, Commission on Human Rights, Cultural Center of the Philippines and the Department of Education,” it said.
On July 28, Vice News published a report titled “At an Isolated Boarding School, a Culture of Sexual Abuse Thrived for Decades” that tells the testimonies of several PHSA alumni about the alleged abuses they have experienced from the schools’ teachers and staff.
Former and current PHSA students were the ones who described these incidents as a “culture of abuse” in the report.
Measures for students’ safety
In its statement, the PHSA listed the following measures it executed to ensure the safety and well-being of the students:
- Strict curfew hours before the COVID-19 pandemic
“We shall continue to monitor and disallow rehearsals and group activities after curfew hours when in-house classes begin,” the PHSA said.
- Student services’ psycho-social interventions upon the request of the students and the parents
- Student services’ house visitations of Luzon-based students during the pandemic
- Educational drives on updates about the Safe Spaces Act and other related laws, particularly to its employees
- Regular parent-teacher conferences (weekly or more frequently) with the guidance counselor and the director upon the request of advisers
- COVID-19 package kits delivered to affected families
- Constant reminders to teachers to use child-friendly materials in productions and final artistic outputs
The PHSA further addressed the students that its teaching and non-teaching staff are ready to lend them a listening ear to their concerns.
“Mahal natin lahat ang PHSA, kailangan natin ang suporta at kooperasyon ng bawat isa,” the school said.
Calls to address allegations
Child Rights Network Philippines, an alliance of child rights groups, demanded for PHSA administrators, DepEd, the CCP and other related agencies and bodies to address these complaints from the victims.
In a statement, the CRN renewed its call for an end to the cycle of abuse among children in educational institutions such as the PHSA.
Prior to this, PHSA’s own student publication called “Variations” also launched a signature campaign to call on school administrators to formally probe these allegations before the students returned to their classes for start of the next school year.
Sen. Risa Hontiveros, the primary author of the Safe Spaces Act, offered to help the victims and put a stop to the alleged crimes.
“Nakapanlulumo. Bilang may-akda ng Safe Spaces Act, handa kaming makipagtulungan para mabigyang hustisya ang bawat bata na nabiktima ng karahasang ito,” Hontiveros tweeted.