PHSA sex abuse claims: School is 'not perfect', 'sympathizes' with alumni

The Philippine High School for the Arts (PHSA) building in Los Baños, Laguna, Philippines.
The Philippine High School for the Arts (PHSA) building at the National Arts Center, Mt. Makiling, College, in Los Baños, Laguna, Philippines. (Photo: Philippine High School for the Arts/Facebook)

The Philippine High School for the Arts in Laguna said in a statement dated Wednesday (July) that it "sympathizes" with alumni who complained of past abuses.

"PHSA, just like any other institution, is not perfect. But please be assured all our school personnel are working hand in hand towards providing our students a safe learning environment, whether online or in Makiling."

PHSA also hits out against the "sweeping generalization" of the school as a "haven for abuse", which it called "unfair".

PHSA, a prestigious boarding school with a limited intake of students who must qualify to attend, was responding to a Vice News piece last month that alleged an entrenched, decades-old culture of sexual, physical and emotional abuse.

The report cited more than a dozen former and current PHSA students and faculty members. One former student claimed that he had been molested by both a senior and a teacher, while another alleged that a current school employee had been harassing female students for years.

Quoting a "well-placed source within the PHSA", the article added that the school has "consistently downplayed and ignored numerous allegations", which continues to this day.

'Hindi pwedeng palagpasin ito'

In its statement, PHSA said that the complainants had been advised to file complaints "with the proper forum" and also urged them to approach the school's designated committees. It added that the school "has its own processes" which have been duly recognised by institutions such as the Civil Service Commission.

Pointing to its record of producing world class artists, educators and cultural leaders for the past 45 years, PHSA noted that it had implemented measures before the pandemic to ensure the safety and well-being of students.

For example, strict curfew hours were imposed, while rehearsals and group activities after curfew hours will continued to be disallowed when in-house classes begin. Student services monitor and address on a daily basis students' connectivity and communication problems, and conduct house visits of Luzon-based students.

Sharing the Vice News article on Twitter last Wednesday, Senator Risa Hontiveros said, "Bilang may-akda ng Safe Spaces Act, handa kaming makipagtulungan para mabigyang hustisya ang bawat bata na nabiktima ng karahasang ito."

(As the author of the Safe Spaces Act, we stand ready to work together to bring justice to every child victim of this violence.)

The Safe Spaces Act covers abuse or harassment committed in schools.

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