Hontiveros calls on Senate to investigate ‘culture of abuse’ at school

SEN. Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros has called for a Senate investigation into the “culture of abuse”, harassment and violence at the Philippine High School for the Arts (PHSA).

The senator tabled a resolution to investigate allegations of gender-based sexual harassment, emotional abuse and other abuse suffered by former students and students of the government-run boarding school.

She also wants the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations, and Gender Equality to look into possible violations of the Safe Spaces Act.

“Education and training institutions should be the safe spaces for our children,” Hontiveros stressed in a statement on Wednesday.

“It is imperative that the Senate, exercising its oversight powers, launch a thorough but expeditious investigation into the matter to ensure that PHSA and other educational institutions are safe spaces, especially with the upcoming co-ed/ face to face in August,” the resolution said.

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Hontiveros, lead author of the Safe Spaces Act, said earlier that victims have come forward and revealed their “heartbreaking experiences”.

His office met with some of them and was told that a PHSA student, who was an underage, formally filed a complaint against a non-teaching PHSA staff member after being summoned to campus in November 2019.

According to a report, other complaints were filed, but they were “downplayed” by the PHSA administration, labeled as hearsay and not upheld for failing to follow the “format required by the existing civil service rules“.

“Worse still, survivors of abuse claimed to have been blamed by victims, silenced and neglected by PHSA administrators,” Hontiveros said.

Under the Safe Spaces Act, Hontiveros said schools are “required to provide a gender-sensitive environment and a confidential mechanism for the reporting and redress of sexual and gender-based harassment grievances.”

Martha K. Merrill