Written by: Kelly Punzalan
We hear stories about sexual harassment on campus an awful lot on the news and on social media, behind the protection of our screens. Rarely does it ever happen in such close proximity but when it does, we would much rather believe it to be mere gossip.
The country was horrified to learn about such an incident involving Pisay students that surfaced in local and international news not too long ago, wherein male students spread explicit photos of their female peers online – an offense that is punishable by law, especially since the entire affair transpired while the girls were still minors.
Even more appalling, the institution’s Board of Trustees initially allowed the male students involved – not one, not two, but six of them – to graduate despite their crime. Thankfully, through the efforts of the victims’ parents, friends, and fellow classmates, staged demonstrations took place at Pisay’s main campus in Quezon City days before the graduation rites. They expressed their disdain for the Board’s decision to let these boys off the hook.
The issue swiftly gained traction online through the PSHS students’ movement and petition named #BOTtledUP, which has received over 3,600 responses from students and alumni across all PSHS campuses in just 48 hours since its launch, all demanding for the reversal of the BOT’s resolution.
The main campus’ discipline office, executive committee, management committee, as well as key personalities including Bam Aquino who is a board member of the school, urged the board to reconsider their controversial decision. These committees have deemed the six male students ineligible for graduation on grounds of committing multiple “level 3” offenses, and recommended they be given certificates of completion instead of diplomas.
On May 28, 2019 (8:00 PM), the day before graduation, the BottledUp page released a statement titled “ANUNA, BOT???” detailing what had transpired the day before. A representative of the PTC, or the Parent-Teacher Council, was sent to the Office of the Executive Director for updates on the matter. Deputy executive director Rod de Lara then instructed her to return by 5:00 PM since no decision had since been reached. When she came back, however, Dr. De Lara had left the premises.
Minutes before May 29, news sources released statements from insiders stating that the students were barred from graduation rites, but three are to be given diplomas, while others given certificates of completion. Students and parents, were outraged due to the lack of transparency between the board and the Pisay community.
Although students of Batch 2019 have already graduated, victims are willing to take legal action against the offenders.
As a premier public high school held in high regard not only in the Philippines but in the ASEAN region as a whole, it is concerning how the PSHS Board of Trustees deals with issues such as this. It seems as if they are implying that it’s okay to objectify and take advantage of girls. That “boys will be boys.”
These series of events are a reflection of bigger issues in Philippine society, namely the pervasive rape culture and patriarchy. The fact that this blatant act of revenge porn is going unpunished perpetuates victim-shaming and sends the message that a man’s future matters more than a woman’s lived experience – a message we sadly know all too well. Perhaps it was foolish for the girls to trust their high school boyfriends with intimate photos but sharing of images without consent speaks more on the character of the boys who shared them.
These girls are victims, plain and simple. They were betrayed, humiliated, and this will follow them for the rest of their life. Why are they being punished by the BOT’s silence and lazy attempt at burying the issue? Justice for female victims is almost always denied while the male perpetrators get to go on their merry way and move on as if nothing happened.
Albeit we hold the issue with extreme disdain, we thank the victims and their concerned parents and friends for standing up. Through the events that transpired, we have shown a larger truth: that speaking up for what’s right and collective action can bring about the change that is desired.
Photos from Rappler, Manila Bulletin
Article by Kelly Punzalan; Edited by Cebo Cruz