Ateneo president apologizes over sexual harassment cases
Janvic Mateo (The Philippine Star) - October 20, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Ateneo de Manila University president Jose Ramon Villarin on Friday issued an apology after the school administration drew criticism on how it handled cases of sexual harassment allegedly involving faculty members.

“I deeply apologize for all the terrible hurt and pain our community has been going through the past few days. Sexual harassment and sexual assault tear at the very heart of human dignity. It assaults our very sense of personhood, of who we are as holy, sacred and inviolable,” he said in a memo addressed to the university community.

“No one should ever feel unsafe in the classroom, in the office, on campus or anywhere in our community,” he added.

Villarin said he acknowledged gaps in their systems and processes, noting how these impressed upon many that the administration was cold and unfeeling.

“In truth, we too, are struggling with how to proceed best, given all the ethical imperatives and legal concerns that surround the issue. When both complainant and respondent are part of the same family, the load is heavier to bear,” he added.

Members of the university community held a protest last Tuesday after another case of sexual harassment involving a faculty member surfaced on social media.

Sanggunian, the university student council of the Ateneo, condemned the increasing cases of sexual harassment despite previous commitments made by the administration to address the matter.

It called on the administration to assure the community that they hold accountable those who commit sexual misconduct and violence.

“The systems put in place in institutions like the 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,” the student council said.

Villarin also announced that the university will create an anti-sexual harassment manual in line with the recent passage of the Safe Spaces Act.

But the university’s initial response to the protest has not eased criticisms, including from alumni who have launched a signature campaign asking the university to amend its sexual harassment policy.

Ateneo alumna Sen. Risa Hontiveros also scored the university for misusing the Safe Spaces Act that she authored to refuse disclosure of the details of the ongoing cases.        


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