STC’s defiance sets bad precedent – lawyer

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01:32 PM April 1st, 2012

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April 1st, 2012 01:32 PM

St. Theresa’s College sent a dangerous message when it chose to defy a court order allowing female students to attend their high school  graduation  last Friday, said a lawyer.

“It might create a bad impression that some people can just ignore and not respect a court order,” said Earl Bonachita, Cebu City Chapter president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP).

Bonachita issued the statement even as Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma said he saluted the Catholic school’s decision to bar the graduating students  from attending the ceremonies as part of enforcing  policies on student conduct.

“I appreciate STC for trying to enforce their policy.  I understand the life of the young, but I also appreciate STC,” he told reporters.

“To us the contribution of the Catholic educational institution, to try to provide solid academic education and also Christian values, ( is important). That’s why  the school is applying their policy.”

He had no comment on the school’s decision to ignore  a court order to allow   two of the students march in Friday’s graduation rites.

The six teenage seniors were  sanctioned for allegedly engaging in lewd behavior while posing in bikinis in separate  family outings based on photos in their Facebook accounts.

In explaining the school’s move, lawyer Romeo Balili said  the  temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by RTC branch 19 Judge Wilfredo Navarro was “deficient” because the judge did not order a bond put up to answer for possible damages.

But lawyer Enrique Lacerna, counsel of the main petitioner in a lawsuit filed against STC,  said Balili’s claim was baseless since the school didn’t invoke the bond requirement during the hearing last week.

“The requirement of a bond is not mandatory”, he said and is left to the discretion of the judge.

Lacerna said a bond  will only be required if the TRO causes damage which the party has to prove.He said the judge can then compute the amount of the bond to be paid.

Lacerna said he heard Balili  even  say the  school would abide by the court’s decision.

“They never asked for that in court.  Had they invoked it, the court  would have addressed the issue,” Lacerna said.

Bonachita of the IBP Cebu chapter said the bond wasn’t required in this case probably because the judge didn’t see any damage to the school.

“That’s the only purpose of the bond…if there’s no damage on the other party,a  bond requirement is unnecessary,” he said.

Bonachita said a bond requirement is usually issued  for a  preliminary injunction and not a  TRO, which has a lifetme of a few days and is for immediate relief.

He also said a TRO isn’t subject to a motion for reconsideration.

Lacerna said his client, a doctor who lives in Lapu-Lapu City, will also join the filing of the criminal case against the school officials who are accused of insulting and humiliating the students during a March 1 meeting at the principal’s office.

The parents of three of the five girls filed a complain for  grave oral defamation in relation to the Anti-Child Abuse Law (RA 7610) and violation of the Anti-Photo and video Voyeurism Act of 2009 or RA 9995 to the Cebu City Prosecutor’s Office.

Lacerna said the incident only made his client’s family stronger.

He said they may file a contempt charge against STC in court tomorrow.

Archbishop Palma said he hopes there won’t be another incident like that again.

“If it happened to my niece, I would tell her that it’s the school policy and you broke it, forget it. Anyway you can still march (when you graduate) in college,” he said.

Palma said the Archdiocese may conduct an inquiry but only if the parties concerned ask.

“If  the verbal abuse was true, it’s wrong. It’s unjustifiable. But we don’t know what really happened,” he said.

STC is run by the sisters of the Immaculati Cordis Mariae (ICM) or the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

In their  complaint was filed against principal Sr. Purisima Pe, asst. principal Mussolini Yap and discipline-in-charge Kristine Rose Tigoll, the students said they were humiliated when the teachers, “without explanation” used “abusive words” in calling them “bigaon” (slut), “cheap”, and drug addicts.

Palma said he feels for the five girls who were sanctioned by the STC.

If the allegations against the students were true, Palma said their  families should not have accepted the sanction.

“It’s unfortunate that it has to be brought to the court,” he said.

All five girls are considered graduated; they were only barred from the commencement exercise.

The mother of one of the girls said they went to Ayala Center  last Friday evening to celebrate her daughter’s graduation.

“We want to celebrate their graduation as normal as possible so the trauma they experienced won’t worsen,” the mother said.

She said the four girls and their parents ate in a restaurant and played computer games last Friday.

The mother of the 16-year-old girl said they will see a psychologist within the week to evaluate and address the trauma suffered by her daughter.

She said she and two other parents decided not to pursue a contempt case against STC officials as advised by their lawyer Cornelio Mercado, who said this would just delay resolution on the main case for damages.

The mother said they may also seek a meeting with Archbishop Palma to  complain about the school’s actions.

Originally posted at 07:39 am | Sunday, April 1, 2012

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