Surrender photos, STC toldBy Ador Vincent Mayol
Cebu Daily News
A Cebu City court ordered St. Theresa’s College (STC) to surrender all photos of the students who were barred from joining the high school graduation rites last March.
Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Raphael Yratorza of Branch 14 issued a writ of habeas data against the school.
The school, its computer teacher and others were ordered to identify the source of the photos they said were taken from a Facebook account.
STC, its computer teacher Mylene Rheza Escudero, and some unidentified respondents were given five days to answer the accusations leveled by the parents of the two girls.
The July 5 order also mandated the school to state whose Facebook accounts were accessed and what data, information, and digital image were saved or stored as soft copies.
The court wants to know how many soft copies were made, how many were printed, and how many were labeled.
Judge Yrastorza said STC should identify all persons who saw the photos of the minors.
A hearing is set on July 19 and 20.
Lawyer Cornelio Mercado, counsel of the petitioners, said the court has to determine whether there was an invasion of his client’s privacy.
“The writ of habeas data was meant to make it transparent,” he said.
If STC refuses to obey the court order, Mercado said the respondents may be cited in contempt.
STC lawyer Joan Largo , in an interview, said she would file an answer in court and submit the same photos they asked the family court to safeguard.
“As held by the Supreme Court, writ of habeas data applies only in cases of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearance. This case is most definitely not contemplated by the write,” she said in a text message to Cebu Daily News.
Largo said the private school will make sure to safeguard the photos to protect the minors.
“It was not the school that posted the photos on the Internet but these students,” she said.
A writ of habeas data is a remedy available to any person whose right to privacy in life, liberty or security is violated.
The writ is intended to “protect a person’s right to find out what information is kept, what is the use of such information and why these data about him are collected.”
It also grants the petitioner a chance to question the data and to seek for its “updating, rectification, or destruction.”
Facebook photos of the students which STC described as “lewd, obscene, and immoral” were cited as one basis for banning five seniors from joining the March 30 graduation rites.
Four went to court. Two later withdrew their lawsuits after reaching an amicable settlement with STC officials.
Only two complainants are left. Their parents alleged that the students privacy was violated by the school and that the punishment was excessive and did not follow due process.