The Department of Education (DepEd) on Thursday urged victims of alleged sexual harassment to come forward and file their complaints against seven teachers in Bacoor, Cavite.
In a hybrid joint press briefing, DepEd spokesperson Michael Poa said this would strengthen the case, if there is any, against the accused teachers.
“The problem is that not many complainants have filed their affidavits, so we hope you could help us encourage alleged victims to come forward and file their affidavits to strengthen the case if there is any,” he said.
Poa said the investigation is ongoing and a fact-finding report is set to be submitted to the regional office on Friday for further determination of administrative proceedings.
He said if proven guilty, the seven teachers may face dismissal from service.
“The most severe punishment would be dismissal because the DepEd, it’s more of an administrative proceeding. If it will merit the severest penalty, (the) penalty will be dismissal,” the spokesman added.
Amid allegations, the DepEd assured they are firm on having “zero tolerance” against any form of abuse in schools nationwide.
These allegations originally posted on Facebook were turned down for “violation of community standards.”
They eventually resurfaced on Twitter, with threads including supposed conversations where teachers invited learners to engage in sex.
Poa said Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte-Carpio has emphasized the need to intensify the presence of DepEd’s Child Protection Unit.
He said the direction includes further strengthening of programs down to the school divisions’ offices up to the regional office levels.
“That is something that we are looking to soon strengthen to really aid our learners that are experiencing abuse,” he said.
The child protection unit was set up in 2020 to ensure safe spaces for learners, as well as provide them a way to report abuses.
Earlier, Senator Risa Hontiveros sought an investigation into the reports, filing Senate Resolution 168 on Tuesday.
It urges the Senate committee on women, children, family relations, and gender equality to conduct the probe with the end in view of “creating safe spaces for students that are conducive for their learning and making perpetrators accountable for the consequences of their actions, consistent with the provisions of the Safe Spaces Act.”
Hontiveros, chairperson of the Senate panel, is the principal author of the Safe Spaces Act.
She cited the reported incidents of harassment and abuse involving teachers at the Bacoor National High School in Cavite, St. Theresa’s College in Quezon City, and the Philippine High School for the Arts in Los Baños, Laguna.
Hontiveros said that such acts could not just be let go as many students are suffering in silence.
“I am sure incidents of violence, abuse, and harassment are not only happening in these schools. Often, victim-survivors do not report because their abusers are persons of authority. How many more of our students are suffering in silence? We can’t just let this go,” she said.
The senator also previously filed Senate Resolution 26, urging the Senate to investigate the reported culture of abuse, harassment, and violence at the Philippine High School for the Arts.
“The issues in both resolutions will be tackled in the hearing next week, in time for the opening of face-to-face classes. This should be addressed as our children return to schools,” Hontiveros said.
She also pointed out that the Safe Spaces Act mandates all schools, whether public or private, to publish grievance procedures and to assign an officer-in-charge who can receive complaints regarding violations of the Act.