DepEd told: Sexual abuse in schools could be worse than reported

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
DepEd told: Sexual abuse in schools could be worse than reported
Students of the Marikina Elementary School in Marikina City attend a two-hour class orientation before the formal school opening on August. 23, 2023.
The STAR / Walter Bollozos

MANILA, Philippines — A group that keeps its own record of sexual harassment incidents in schools said that there is “no way” that just 70 sexual abuse incidents have taken place on Philippine campuses since 2022.

Enough is Enough on Tuesday urged the Department of Education (DepEd) to look into the potential underreporting of sexual harassment among students, saying that the 70 complaints reported to DepEd’s student safety hotline are “lacking.”

“There is no way that there were only 70 cases of sexual abuse of students in the past year,” said Sophia Reyes of Enough is Enough, a group formed by sexual harassment victims in schools.

“DepEd has not been making the necessary efforts to foster an environment where victim-survivors in schools are encouraged to report incidents, so 70 is definitely an understatement,” Reyes said.

According to the DepEd’s Learner Rights and Protection Office on Monday, its direct hotline for student safety concerns has received 70 complaints related to sexual harassment since its creation in 2022. Other incidents like verbal abuse (77) and physical bullying (66) have also been reported.

But the bulk of the complaints lodged with the Telesafe Contact Center Helpline — around 1,500 — are “operational concerns” related to enrollment and the collection of fees, DepEd told Philstar.com in a Viber message. 

Vice President and Education Secretary Sara Duterte told reporters on Monday that DepEd deals with child abuse cases by either filing criminal complaints to the police, lodging an administrative case against the erring personnel, or “helping both parties reconcile” in cases of “misunderstandings.”

Transparency needed for trust

Reyes also pressed the education department to provide more transparency in how it investigates or handles cases of teachers sexually abusing students.

The EIE convenor said that students often do not feel safe in reporting sexual abuse as they have “no idea what happens to predators once their behavior is exposed.”

“If anything, the figures released by DepEd are more alarming than reassuring, since we don’t know how many of the perpetrators from these 70 cases of sexual abuse still walk free inside campuses,” Reyes added.

Based on its own efforts to track the progress of sexual abuse complaints in schools, Enough is Enough has observed that “multiple cases remain unresolved, and multiple predators have not faced any repercussions.”

The group also cited as an example one teacher in a Quezon City school who “still walks freely” in campus despite being the subject of a sexual harassment complaint.

“We could also cite the case of the Bacoor National High School, which remains unresolved after over a year, the Philippine High School for the Arts, or Samuel Christian Colleges, where perpetrators have victimized over 100 students, to name just three others,” Reyes said.

DepEd told House lawmakers in August that just two teachers under the agency have been charged with “child grooming” cases, acknowledging that it struggles to conduct investigations due to the reluctance of victims or witnesses to submit a formal affidavit testifying to their experiences.

Studies have shown that survivors of sexual assault struggle to seek justice in formal channels due to fear of retaliation and often experience revictimization when interrogated by authorities about the incident.

Helpline not enough 

Reyes said that DepEd’s helpline is inadequate in ensuring students remained safe on campus.

“We laud the bravery of the 70 who did report cases of sexual abuse in schools and hope that they receive the support that they need,” Reyes said.

“But until DepEd takes the next steps, students as well as their parents will continue to come to school not knowing if they are safe from sexual abuse,” she added.

vuukle comment




  • Latest
  • Trending
Are you sure you want to log out?

Philstar.com is one of the most vibrant, opinionated, discerning communities of readers on cyberspace. With your meaningful insights, help shape the stories that can shape the country. Sign up now!

Get Updated:

Signup for the News Round now

or sign in with