Gabriela: UST admin emboldening sexual offenders, silencing victims
Militant women’s party-list group Gabriela on Wednesday slammed the administration of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) for “shamelessly victim-blaming” one of its students who was supposedly harassed sexually by another student in a public transport vehicle, even as school authorities said claims on social media “did not conform to records on file.”
Gabriela was referring to the case of fine arts student Yssa Celestino, whose brother Geo took to Facebook to denounce UST’s Student Welfare and Development Board (SWDB) for sanctioning his sister over “falsely accusing another student of wrongdoing.”
“Instead of vowing to assist the Fine Arts student, the UST administration chose to lay the blame on her for non-compliance with the ‘due process requirements under the law.’ We found this deeply alarming, as the UST’s primary concern is the defense of due process and its reputation rather than the protection of its sexually molested student,” Gabriela said in a statement.
“In effect, the UST administration is emboldening sexual offenders and silencing many more students who may have experienced the same situation,” the group added.
In the now viral Facebook post dated Jan. 29, Celestino said his sister felt a hand brushing up her leg while on board a UV Express vehicle on the way home last July 2016. The fine arts student then posted a photo of the alleged perpetrator, a fifth-year UST engineering student, on Twitter and warned the public to be careful when commuting.
But Celestino said the UST SWDB summoned her sister and directed her to take down the post and make a public apology to the graduating engineering student, instead of reprimanding the latter. He added that their parents were being asked to sign a “Notice of Resolution” signifying that they were accepting the results of SWDB proceedings, which apparently stemmed from a complaint of false claims from the engineering student.
Celestino said his sister, who did not file a complaint, wanted to keep the matter private. His Facebook post has been shared more than 32,000 times as of writing.
In an official statement released on Tuesday, the UST administration, citing an investigation of the administrative case, said “the facts and evidence that Mr. Geo Celestino posted in his Facebook account do not conform to the records on file.”
“The University of Santo Tomas knows that it stands in loco parentis over the students and it has the duty to safeguard the students’ health and well-being. It has adopted measures as may be reasonably necessary to discharge such duty in order to protect its students from unfair or false accusation,” the statement read.
“The University is under obligation to maintain and keep the confidentiality of student discipline cases; hence, it is with deep regret that it cannot reveal any details of the case except to say that the due process requirements under the law and jurisprudence were observed and duly complied with,” it added.
For its part, the UST Central Student Council said it is conducting its own probe into the incident, adding that “each student has the right to due process and that each misconduct should be properly addressed with just measures and given necessary sanctions.”
“We call everyone to comprehend the situation as a whole, and to not merely presume and conclude based on a single standpoint. As representatives of the Thomasian student body, the Central Student Council is currently undertaking a thorough investigation with regard to the recent circulating issues,” the student government said.
Gabriela said their lawyers had met with Celestino’s sister a day after the Facebook post went viral and they were now studying the next legal step. JE
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