VP-Secretary Duterte urged to lead multi-agency probe of alleged abuses in PHSA

Vice President and Department of Education (DepEd) Secretary Sara Duterte was urged to lead a multi-agency investigation on the alleged abuses in the Philippine High School for the Arts (PHSA).

Vice President Sara Duterte during the ceremonial turnover of DepEd leadership on July 4, 2022. (Photo courtesy of DepEd)

Child Rights Network (CRN), in a statement issued Friday, July 8, called attention of Duterte to look into the alleged cases of abuses in the country’s premier art school which is also an attached agency of DepEd.

“We ask Vice President Duterte to immediately act on these concerns as the newly minted education chief,” said CRN Convenor Romeo Dongeto.

Dongeto stressed that the government leaders, especially in DepEd, should be the ones to “first recognize the fact that the trauma” expressed by PHSA alumni as published in an article online.

“Just because these alumni are no longer enrolled in the educational institution doesn't mean that the abuses allegedly committed against them are already closed cases,” Dongeto said, noting that the trauma from these abuses may have long-term effects.

CRN said that DepEd, led by Duterte, should partner with the Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in investigating the allegations of abuse in PHSA.

“We strongly urge our government leaders to do everything in their power to ensure that not one more student would be subjected to sexual abuse and harassment, especially within the confines of their educational institutions,” Dongeto said.

CRN also emphasized that “schools should be safe spaces, not places where abuse and violence are committed with impunity.”

Related to this, CRN also called for a national review of procedures on child protection in educational institutions as prescribed by existing laws to ascertain if the PHSA issue also “persists in other schools throughout the country, and what immediate actions can be taken as we move forward.”

Meanwhile, CRN urged the PHSA administration to conduct its investigation and “hold responsible parties to account at the most immediate time”

The group also called out PHSA for calling the issue “unfair” which shows its administration's “lack of remorse and institutional accountability.”

"No one is questioning the quality of education in PHSA and its performance when it comes to producing world-class artists,” Dongeto said.

“Rather, the fact that numerous disclosures have surfaced shows that preventative and responsive child protection measures in the institution are not in place and personnel who reneged their duties to protect the students against sexual violence can get away scot-free,” he added.