By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
Education Secretary Leonor Briones on Monday vowed to make the school and the officials involved liable for failing to protect the rights of their students amid the controversial burning of bags incident in a private school in Camarines Sur in Bicol.
Briones, in a phone interview with the Manila Bulletin, stressed that DepEd has been strictly monitoring the development regarding the incident in Bicol Central Academy (BCA) located in Libmanan, Camarines Sur wherein the school administrator-owner identified as James Jaucian reportedly ordered the burning of students bags for not complying with the “no-bag” policy during a school event. Additionally, a video of him berating students are currently making rounds online along with photos of the burned bags and other properties of the students.
On Sunday, Briones said that she already received the partial report on the incident from DepEd Region 5 Regional Director Gilbert Sadsad. She also instructed the regional director “to go to the school to investigate himself” and that DepEd is “expecting a more comprehensive report on the incident” after the said visit.
Classes to continue
Despite the incident, Briones believes that classes in the school should continue.
Briones said that DepEd is not yet making a recommendation to cancel classes because the school calendar will be affected. “We have graduating kids there… it’s the administrator who is at fault so why should the students suffer?” she asked.
“I would not want the classes to be derailed,” Briones continued. “He [school administrator] should be persuaded that he takes the leave and not the children because if he is not there, he cannot do anything,” she added.
“My main position is that classes should continue, he should take a leave and somebody has to be appointed – temporarily – as per recommendation of the regional director or superintendent and the Board should take immediate action,” Briones said. “He should take a leave so he can calm down and face the charges against him,” she explained.
Meanwhile, Briones noted that DepEd will try to make sure that the BCA will take action – particularly in the matter of choosing the school administrator. “We should make the school board answerable on their choice of school administrator,” she said.
“A school administrator who rages and has a temper cannot have a place in an educational institution,” Briones said. “I believe that the school has to do something about it, especially on their administrator, because obviously, he should not be in an institution which takes care of young children,” she added. At DepEd, she noted that “we have to take action so we will not be setting an example for other schools to follow.”
Meanwhile, an education lawyer also condemned the incident calling it “unacceptable.”
Atty. Joseph Noel Estrada, in a phone interview with the Manila Bulletin, said that what happened in BCA is not acceptable “on the part of the administrator and the educational institution” and should “not be tolerated.”
“If they are minor, that administrator may be liable for child abuse,” Estrada said. “That can also be a violation of CPP of DepEd particularly that prohibits anti-corporal punishment,” he added. The school, he explained, may also be held “liable for damages because that is unreasonable.”
Damaging the properties of the students, Estrada said, is “already beyond the function to discipline students.” If the administrator is a professional teacher, he said that “he is liable personally for his license to be revoked” by the Professional Regulation Commission (PRC).
Parents, Estrada said, can also file a criminal case for child abuse. “There is psychological trauma, I think the intention was really to humiliate or terrorize the students,” he explained. “They do not have to wait for DepEd because it is a different matter,” he added.
The causes of action available to the parents and/or the students, Estrada said, include a violation of DepEd Order 40, s 2012 or the Child Protection Policy; RA 7610 or the Anti0-Child Abuse Law; and Civil Case of Damages.
Levels of action
Briones maintains that there are two levels of action that can be done by parents and students regarding the incident. “If there are two levels of action, there are two levels of venue for the action: one is at the level of government itself outside of DepEd and other is at the level of DepEd,” she said.
“The parents, on their level, they can act because these are their children and the properties of the children themselves.” Briones said. In filing a complaint, she noted parents can either act on it “individually or as a group” outside DepEd and it has to be “a complaint to the police authorities or the appropriate agency” and they can cite all the relevant circulars of DepEd.
Briones also advised the parents of affected students to tap the Parents Teachers Association (PTA) or the broader governing body inside the school. The parents, she noted, can “complain to the authorities directly, either singly or as a group and they can demand restitution or payment for the damage to the children’s property” which was reportedly under Jaucian’s instructions.
On the part of DepEd, Briones said that it will ensure that the rights of the children are protected in line with its national commitment. DepEd said it has regulatory functions on private schools and it can also look into the financial assistance being given to the school, if any.
DepEd, in a separate statement, said that if the school administrator’s accountability for the incident is established, it has regulatory tools for private schools at its disposal which may include a “possible suspension or revocation of the school’s permit to operate; or disqualification of the school to participate in the Education Service Contracting and Senior High School Voucher Program; or non-issuance of favorable recommendation for tax exemption, like import duties.”