Statement on the Allegations of Abuse in the Philippine High School for the Arts (PHSA)

Statement on the Allegations of Abuse in the Philippine High School for the Arts (PHSA)

August 16, 2022
Signatures: 510Next Goal: 1,000
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Why this petition matters

We, select members of the Ibarang community, lament the recent turn of events affecting the PHSA: a school we call home, and deeply revere and love.

We are disturbed by the reports of abuse that surfaced through news reports and social media. And we are equally alarmed that the issues became journalistic highlights — a symptom that there is no effective mechanism in place to address them.

Despite this, we commend the persons who spoke about these abuses; mindful that by telling their stories, they relive the unwelcome encounters with their abusers, and open themselves to judgment and criticism. Yet hoping, as we do, that to bring these stories out into the world would bring systematic change and put an end to these abuses.

Telling a story that is both intimate and painful requires a different breed of courage: one that needs to be heard, acknowledged, and supported. As such, we welcome the efforts of the DepEd, the NBI, and the Laguna Provincial Police to uncover the facts behind these reports; and of some PHSA alumni who spearheaded programs to provide legal or emotional support to affected students. 

We appreciate the recent updates released by the PHSA administration on the status of the two personnel implicated in the complaints and the measures being implemented by the school. But, these are not enough. 

The death of one and the resignation of the other should not make us complacent. For us, the offenders are not only the two personnel who were openly accused, but also those who, by tolerance or negligence, allowed these abuses to happen. They are people distinct and separate from the school, who must all be held accountable for their actions or inaction before the proper forum. Although authorities are working on that, we are left with a broken institution with a traumatized student body, damaged by the indiscretion of a select few. 

Also, we are concerned that tolerance to abuse, inaction, and neglect would be forever tied to the name of our school. While new measures are in place, these should not give us a false sense of resolution. There is room for progress in these mechanisms.

That said, in order for our school to continue its vision and mission of training young artists, we have to: (1) seek justice for the victims, (2) work towards institutional reforms in the PHSA administration to prevent further abuses, and (3) organize the PHSA alumni to provide consistent support to students and other alumni who experienced abuse.

Now, we dare to move beyond the conservative framework and call on the PHSA community to set things into motion towards achieving these action points. 

We, therefore, call for:

1. Justice for the students by holding the offenders and all responsible persons accountable through:

a)  the conduct of a thorough investigation that would afford all parties the right to due process; and

b) suspension from employment of all responsible persons during the conduct of investigation;

Once the investigation concludes, steps should be taken towards:

c)  the filing of appropriate criminal, civil, and/or administrative cases against all responsible persons;

d)  the imposition of criminal, civil, and/or administrative penalties, if found liable; and

e.  removal from office with disqualification from reemployment in any government office, if found liable.

2.  Reforms in the PHSA to be institutionalized by the administration through:

a)  a Committee on Decorum and Investigation (CODI) created pursuant to the Safe Spaces Act, to address gender-based sexual harassment complaints committed in school or in school-related activities, with representation from members of the PHSA community (administration, faculty, parents, students, and alumni organization);

b) a Grievance Machinery created to address complaints on other forms of abuses (physical, verbal, emotional, and psychological) committed in school or in school-related activities with representation from members of the PHSA community;

c) concrete policies and clear guidelines on access to the CODI and grievance machinery to ensure that all students can secure immediate action on their complaints;

d) safe spaces in and off campus that are free from any action or remark that would be detrimental to the well-being of the students;

e) a fully-staffed, effective, and efficient psychological services unit in the PHSA created to provide psychological, emotional, mental, and social support to the students; and

f) a review and revision of the qualification standards, screening, and hiring process of all PHSA faculty and staff, with a requirement to undergo comprehensive psychological examination prior to hiring to ensure their mental and psychological fitness for the job.

3.  Organized and consistent support by the PHSA alumni organization to the students and other alumni who are victims of abuse through: 

a) a committee or group created to provide legal assistance or guidance;

b) a committee or group created to provide psychological and/or emotional support; and

c) concrete policies and clear guidelines on how these committees or groups may be accessed.

We are ready to assist with the second and third action points, should these be considered. As to the first action point, we defer to the authorities and respect the ongoing investigations and legal processes.

We share the desire for PHSA to continue its legacy of nurturing artists, educators, and cultural leaders in future generations to come. We echo the call for a better, improved, and safer PHSA. But, we too desire more than just a positive statement. This is why we put these action points on the table, to shift the discussion from a reactive to a proactive lens. 

We stand firm that in moving forward, the PHSA should upgrade its systems and policies, improve its services to the students, elevate the qualifications of its faculty and staff, and most importantly clean its ranks and rid its operations of practices that encourage or tolerate the commission of abuses. 

We call on the PHSA community, particularly the school administration and the alumni organization, to immediately act on these points.

Dakilain ka ng bayan, dakilain magpakailanman. 

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Signatures: 510Next Goal: 1,000
Support now