Outrage and chagrin now fill the halls of the Philippine Science High School (PSHS) following the refusal of its Board of Trustees (BOT) to discipline 14 graduating male students who supposedly uploaded naked photos of female classmates on the internet.
Parents, faculty, alumni, and fellow students are now up in arms, with many taking to social media to express their anger over the incident.
Earlier this week, the BOT announced it is allowing the errant boys to graduate despite the gross misdemeanor following a short meeting.
Reports said members were there to discuss the recommendation of the PSHS Management Committee to remove the boys from the graduation roll.
The Inquirer reported that the school’s Student Discipline Office (SDO) earlier established that the offenders were “in possession of ‘voyeuristic’ images of PSHS female students which had been uploaded and shared online without the victims’ consent.” The act is considered a violation under the PSHS code of conduct that could cost a student his scholarship.
The SDO’s findings were submitted to the Management Committee which in turn made the recommendation that the BOT eventually overturned.
Junking the recommendation means the BOT allows the 14 boys to join their classmates, among them the girls whose privacy and rights they violated, during the graduation ceremony set May 29.
More voices of dissent
The PSHS 2019 Batch Council, considered the council of peers, made its sentiments known by bringing up the code of conduct saying “a student’s scholarship may be terminated after committing two major offenses within a school year.” The misdemeanor in this case is considered a “Level III violation” which makes the offender “not eligible for graduation.”
The student council has now accused the BOT of undermining school rules and misrepresenting “the true sentiments” of the PSHS community.
The school’s Executive Parent Teacher Council (EPTC) also announced its disapproval of the BOT decision.
“The recent decision of the BOT to reverse the findings of the PSHS Management Committee in connection with the voyeurism, sexual harassment, lewd acts, grave threats, and possibly other criminal acts by a cabal, nay, a syndicate of students belonging to Batch 2019 is a travesty to (Pisay’s) core values, now seemingly mere empty rhetorics,” the EPTC said in a statement included in the Inquirer report.
Only a reversal of the BOT decision, the group added, would “begin to assuage the wounded feelings, besmirched reputations (and sleepless nights that the victims and their families suffered and continue to suffer because of the prurient minds of the perpetrators in their wanton disregard of women’s rights, privacy, and attack on their youthful, chaste, and innocent persons.”
Sen. Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV (@bamaquino), a BOT member by virtue of chairing the Senate science and technology committee, said the case is “now up for reconsideration” in a Twitter post.
The message, in response to a netizen’s query, was also apparently sparked by the adverse reaction to the BOT decision.
Good morning! Yes we do have a seat on the board of Pisay. My representative raised the issue with me and the matter is now up for reconsideration. We will vote in favor of the recommendation of the Discipline Committee and Management Committee,….
— Bam Aquino (@bamaquino) May 23, 2019
“We will vote in favor of the recommendation of the Discipline Committee (SDO) and Management Committee which is not to allow the identified students to graduate based on the degree of their offenses and previous decisions in similar cases,” he promised in two consecutive tweets.
The Inquirer news report said that the PSHS operates as an “attached agency of the Department of Science and Technology.” Science Secretary Fortunato dela Peña and Education Secretary Leonor Briones serve as chair and vice chair respectively of the BOT.
Apart from Aquino, other ex officio members are Bohol Rep. Erico Aumentado, PSHS executive director Lila Habacon, Science Education Institute director Josette Biyo, University of the Philippines System president Danilo Concepcion and PSHS National Alumni Association president Honesto Franz Nuqui Jr.
Social media is now rife with comments, especially from parents who empathize with the victims.
One Facebook post from Lorraine Marie Badoy, whose daughter is among the graduating batch (but not among those victimized), asserted that the offenders “ought to be expelled at the very least—with criminal charges filed against them.”
Badoy hinted that revenge was the main motive of the male students after their relationships with the girls ended. Apparently compromising photos were exchanged in the course of the relationships.
“When they broke up, these boys found each other (water seeking its own level) and shared these photos among themselves. What’s worse is some of them even uploaded these images of their underage exes online,” Badoy said.
Other batches involved?
More alarming details are in the Batch 2019 PSHS-MC PTC statement posted several times online which said the Discipline Officer learned that aside from the graduating Grade 12 students, some from the “lower grade levels, as well as some in the previous batch, were also involved.”
It added that even after the Management Committee “conscientiously considered the appeal (filed by) the perpetrators,” it continuously encountered “strong evidence…in different levels” during months of investigation that the BOT only “took a few minutes…to unjustly modify….”
The pouring of outrage means the PSHS community will be vigilant as the BOT holds another meeting for its “reconsideration” of the decision allowing the student offenders to graduate.
There are many issues involved here, of course. Among them privacy, respect, and human rights. Also exploitation, the brashness of youth, the lack of scruples, the confidence that someone would have one’s back while committing acts of evil.
Surely apathy in the case of BOT members with little regard for the consequence of their decision to reverse a disciplinary act.
The case also shows how a young girl’s silence also becomes her offender’s accomplice. This is just one of so many cases that feed on fear of scandal, guilt, and shame.
We maintain however that consensual sex between two people is a private act that should be respected. Trouble begins when consensual sex carries different motives unknown to both parties. Or is later used as a means to “get even” for perceived offenses.
Clearly there are still many things that we, as parents and elders, need to teach our children constantly, consistently, again and again especially in instances when institutions we expect to help reinforce these values would rather choose not to.
But for now, we will be looking closely at this ongoing story.
Header image courtesy of Patricia Beatrix Villanueva/Unsplash
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Writer: CATHY CAÑARES YAMSUAN