Amid sexual abuse allegations, PHSA says working to provide 'safe learning environment'

Amid sexual abuse allegations, PHSA says working to provide 'safe learning environment'
This photo from the Philippine High School for the Arts website shows the Mabuhay Lounge

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippine High School for the Arts in Laguna, which is facing allegations of abuse, said in a statement that its school personnel are working towards providing a safe learning environment for its students.

This comes after an in-depth report from Vice News on allegations of sexual, verbal and emotional abuse by teachers and staff.

In its statement on July 5, the state-run high school for young artists said it sympathizes with "alumni who complained of past abuses", but cautioned against making generalizations about the school as a place of abuse.

"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," it 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," the school added. 

The premiere school for young artists said that it strives to improve measures to ensure its students' safety and wellbeing. 

Before the pandemic, it was already implementing strict curfew hours, adding that it will observe the same once in-house classes resume. 

The institution also said that it constantly reminds its teachers to use child-friendly material and refer to Movie and Television Review and Classification Board guidelines in production and artistic output. 

In the Vice news report dated June 28, a former student narrated that his teacher would molest him while having rehearsals at the latter's house, while another was in shock after her teacher made her and her classmates watch explicit material at the Cultural Center of the Philippines without the knowledge of their parents.

Due process

PHSA said that victims can file their complaints with the school's designated committees, which can guide them on the format required under the civil service rules. 

"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, the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the Department of Education," it said.

READ: Nakapanlulumo’: Alarms raised over alleged abuses in Laguna boarding school

The PHSA is an attached agency of the Department of Education (DepEd), has not yet given any comments on the matter, as of writing.

Sen. Risa Hontiveros, a children and women's rights advocate, said in a tweet that the alleged abuses at the PHSA are appalling, adding that they are ready to give justice to every child who has been a victim of abuse. Hontiveros principally authored the Safe Spaces Act, which covers abuse or harassment committed in schools. 

Separately, PHSA Variations, the official campus newspaper of the school, repeated its call for safe spaces for its students, and urged the public to sign the demands. 

 — Angelica Y. Yang




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