Sen. Risa Hontiveros reminded school administrators in both private and public education institutions to comply with the Safe Spaces Act (Republic Act No. 11313), also known as the Bawal Bastos Law, to protect students from sexual abuse.

“Schools need to do better in protecting our children and young people from sexual harassment. The Bawal Bastos Law mandates all schools at all levels to enact an anti-sexual harassment policy that will protect students and teachers alike from sexual harassment,” she said in a statement.

Hontiveros, principal author of the Bawal Bastos Law in the Senate, was reacting to allegations of sexual misconduct and harassment towards students from teachers in several schools that recently surfaced online.

Miriam College recently came out with a statement promising to address social media posts from its students alleging various cases of sexual harassment from their teachers.

READ: Miriam College to investigate alleged sexual harassment of students by faculty

Under RA 11313, schools are required to provide a safe and confidential mechanism for the reporting and redress of grievances on matters of sexual and gender-based harassment.

“Hindi na nakakagulat na ang mga estudyanteng biktima ng sexual harassment ay napipilitang magsiwalat ng hinaing sa social media. Oftentimes, when victims are dismissed by their own school heads, they turn to social media communities for support,” she stressed.

Hontiveros also urged schools to put their students’ safety and welfare at top priority.

“Alam kong knee-jerk reaction kadalasan ang pagtakpan ang mga kaso at perpetrators ng sexual harassment para protektahan ang imahe ng school. Pero mali ito. Students’ safety and welfare should be our top priority,” she said.

“Survivors of sexual harassment and abuse must be given full support. They should not be judged or dismissed. Perpetrators of sexual abuse, especially those in positions of power, should be punished and in some cases, turned over to the authorities.”

The Senator also called education regulatory bodies like the Department of Education, the Commission on Higher Education, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, and the Philippine Commission on Women to regularly perform their obligations to monitor educational institutions’ compliance under the Bawal Bastos Law.

“Kapag may perennial lapses at non-compliance, dapat kasama ito sa pag-review ng kanilang license to operate,” she added.  (Rommel F. Lopez)