By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Risa Hontiveros on Thursday called out officials of the Ateneo de Manila University for using the Safe Spaces Act in order to cover up the sexual harassment allegations that are now being leveled against some of its faculty members.
Hontiveros, the primary author of the law, urged ADMU officials not to misuse the provisions of the law which defends those who are harassed, and not the perpetrators of harassment.
“The school’s marketing and communication office has clearly misunderstood the law. The Safe Spaces Act protects the identities of the accused if they are minors, not adults accused of being sex offenders,” Hontiveros said in a statement.
“While the law recognizes the right to due process, it does not promote non-transparency, nor does it condone any culture of secrecy regarding cases of sexual harassment, especially if it favors the harassers,” she said.
“I respectfully admonish the office for its misuse of the law, and wish to set the record straight,” the opposition senator added.
As a woman, Atenean and mother, Hontiveros said she is extremely concerned about reports of sexual harassment at the ADMU allegedly committed by professors against their students and colleagues.
Hontiveros is head of the Senate Committee on Women, Children, Family Relations and Gender Equality.
“Sexual harassment has no place in any educational institution. It is not only a crime clearly punishable by law, it also undermines the safety and integrity of the academic community and is an attack against the dignity and human rights of the victims,” she stressed.
But the lawmaker said she finds it incredulous for Ateneo’s Marketing and Communication’s Office to invoke the Safe Spaces Act or the “Bawal Bastos Law,” as one of its reasons for refusing to heed the call for greater transparency regarding the identities of the harassers and the overall conduct of the school’s investigations into the matter.
“It is patently false and a misrepresentation of the intent of the law,” she said.
“The Safe Spaces Act was passed into law to keep potential victims safe from different forms of gender-based harassment and abuse. It is not meant to insulate offenders from accountability. Because the first safe space is the truth,” she emphasized.
As such, Hontiveros said she hopes that the ADMU officials will do the right thing and hold the people accused of sexual harassment fully accountable.
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“As a woman, alumna and mother, I trust that Ateneo will do the right thing, hold these people fully accountable, and place the welfare of the students above all other things,” she said.
“No space is ever safe for as long as sex offenders are allowed to thrive,” she stressed.