Senator Risa Hontiveros has urged the Senate to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, into the alleged gender-based sexual harassment, emotional abuse, and other violence experienced by alumni and students of the Philippine High School for the Arts (PHSA).
Hontiveros made the call after she filed a resolution directing the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality, which she chairs, to investigate the matter and to look as well into possible violations of the Safe Spaces Act, a law she principally authored.
Her resolution states: “It is imperative that the Senate, exercising its oversight powers, initiate a thorough but expeditious investigation on the matter to ensure that PHSA and other educational institutions are safe spaces, especially with the upcoming blended/face-to face-classes in August.”
The Senator earlier voiced her support for the alleged victims who “revealed their harrowing experiences to her office.” She said she was informed that a PHSA student who is a minor, has formally filed a complaint against a PHSA non-teaching staff after being catcalled in November 2019 inside the campus.
Under the Safe Spaces Act, schools are required to provide a gender-sensitive environment and confidential mechanism for the reporting and redress of grievances on matters of sexual and gender-based harassment.
If the accounts are accurate, Hontiveros’ resolution pointed out, that “the repeated failure of PHSA administration to address the violence and abuses is a blatant violation of the Safe Spaces Act and a flagrant disregard of the interests of PHSA students — interests they are duty-bound to protect and promote as persons reposed with special parental authority.”
The senator also underscored the “urgent need to review the reporting protocols and the procedures of the Committee on Decorum and Investigation of educational institutions tasked to investigate and address complaints of abuse and harassment.”
The investigation the resolution seeks primarily aims “to look into and determine the lapses and to propose corresponding reforms to improve implementation of the Safe Spaces Act and other child protection policies.”
“We treat schools as our second home that is why it should be safe and we, parents, are assured that they are when we turn them over to them. Educational and training institutions should be our children’s safe spaces. There is no place there for abusive individuals,” Hontiveros stressed.
Vice President Sara Duterte, who is also Education Secretary, recently sent a letter to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) asking for an urgent “comprehensive report” on the alleged abuses in the PHSA.