Girl’s Facebook pics provoke case

CEBU CITY -- A private school in Cebu City is facing a lawsuit for allegedly prohibiting a high school student from attending her graduation rites, over “lewd” photos posted on her Facebook account.

A physician filed the petition for injunction and damages, on her daughter’s behalf, against the St. Theresa’s College (STC) High School Department.

She asked the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Cebu City to issue an injunctive relief to allow her daughter to attend the Catholic school’s graduation rites on March 30.

The school administration allegedly decided on the sanction because the minor posted “obscene” photos on her Facebook page. It referred to pictures of the student wearing a two-piece swimsuit while holding a lighted cigarette.

Named defendants to the suit were Sister Celeste Ma. Purisima Pe, STC High School Department principal; Mussolini Yap, assistant principal; Marnie Racaza, Student Affairs moderator; Kristine Rose Ligot, discipline in-charge; and Editha Josephine Yu, homeroom adviser.

Upon request of lawyer Enrique Lacerna, counsel for the petitioner, Sun.Star Cebu is withholding the names of the mother and her daughter, a minor.

The five-page petition was raffled off to Judge Wilfredo Navarro of the RTC Branch 19.

He tackled yesterday afternoon the petitioner’s prayer for a preliminary injunction against the school management.

Due process

Judge Navarro told both parties the sole issue to be resolved is whether the student was afforded due process by the school administration, before they decided to bar her from the graduation ceremony.

Lawyer Cornelio Mercado, also speaking for the petitioner, said the school’s quick action contradicted the school manual given to all students, which provides that a student or her parents should be given due time to explain their side.

“That’s very harsh because there was no due process,” Mercado said.

Romeo Balili, counsel for STC, said the petitioner may be entitled to seek a court injunction, but the school will submit their memorandum and opposition to the claim for damages.

Interviewed after the hearing, Balili also defended the sanction imposed by the Catholic school, saying it was carried out to “uphold the teachings of the church.”

In a separate interview, Lacerna pointed out a Department of Education policy that requires “ample time” for a student to answer any issues raised by school administrators, before any penalty can be handed down.

Birthday

Lacerna said that what STC did was also “contrary to the teachings of the church.”

The judge directed both parties to file their respective memoranda within 24 hours, along with other supporting documents.

In the petition, the doctor said her daughter was surprised when she received on March 1 what she called a “harsh sanction.”

“Since the sanction was given, she suffered sleepless nights and (was) compelled to bear hate toward the school, which she is supposed to honor as her alma mater,” the petition said.

The doctor added they sought an audience with the school administration but were ignored.

She also alleged that the school officers accessed her daughter’s Facebook account without her permission, allowing them to see the supposedly “obscene and indecent pictures.”

She also said the photos were anything but obscene. These were taken during a birthday party in January held in Lapu-Lapu City. The occasion was “a private social activity” and did not involve the school’s supervision and control, the petitioner said. (Sun.Star Cebu)