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Protests vs sexual harassment rock Ateneo

MANILA, Philippines — Students and faculty of the Ateneo de Manila University-Loyola Schools (ADMU-LS) staged a protest on Tuesday over the growing number of sexual harassment and misconduct cases in its campus on Katipunan Avenue, Quezon City, and what they claimed was the “impunity” of the offenders.

At least three professors were named in the incidents that have since gone viral on social media, including Twitter, the ADMU Freedom Wall on Facebook and Reddit.

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In a Facebook post, one victim noted that a professor who had “preyed on vulnerable students” was allowed to teach again after being suspended for 15 days.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Sanggunian ng mga Paaralang Loyola ng Ateneo de Manila, the university’s student council, lamented that “the systems put in place in institutions like Ateneo have failed in creating a safe environment for its students, and neglected to uphold the very morals that it aims to instill in its constituents.”

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The organization called on the school administration to assure the Loyola Schools community that acts of sexual violence would be met with swift and proper sanctions.

“We trust, time and time again, in a system that is supposed to protect the student body from all these abuses, but we see our hopes being shattered by menial punishments and the administration’s short-term memory loss,” the student council said.

Ateneo president Jose Ramon T. Villarin has yet to respond to the Inquirer’s request for comment, as well as the university’s official position on the issue raised by the protests.

Cases since 2017

Under the country’s Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995, educators can be penalized if found to have solicited sexual favors in exchange for giving passing grades or granting scholarships or awards to students, or if the sexual advances made were found to have created an “intimidating, hostile or offensive environment” for the student.

Under the law, sexual harassers can be sentenced to one to six months in prison and fined P10,000 to P20,000, at the discretion of the court.

Incidences of sexual harassment on campus had surfaced as far back as 2017, recalled Ia Marañon, an Ateneo graduate and a former student council president.

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But it is only now that victims have found the voice and courage to fight back against their abusers, she said during the rally.

“I was often told then that we should protect Ateneo’s name, that we need to protect the institution,” Marañon said. “But how can we do so when the institution itself protects the harassers?” she asked.

Accused professor

The recent incidents recalled a similar complaint filed in October 2018 by the student council against a professor who was accused of accepting sexual favors from his students, the Sanggunian said.

The case was forwarded to the university’s Committee on Decorum and Investigation and the Discipline Committee based on the process outlined in the Ateneo antisexual harassment policy.

But the student body said it was kept in the dark on the progress of the investigation into the complaint last year and its subsequent resolution.

The Sanggunian quoted Ateneo as saying that disclosing any information about the disciplinary proceedings could have legal repercussions.

In a statement on Aug. 12, the Sanggunian cited Section 3, Article 12 of the Data Privacy Act, which states that “… the disposal of such proceedings, or the sentence of any court in such proceedings,” is sensitive personal information.

The Ateneo antisexual harassment policy states as much in Section 5.12: “All records and proceedings shall be considered as strictly confidential.”

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