Worse than the violation of an individual’s rights is the collusion of parties bound by duty to protect and uphold the very rights of the victim.
In a letter dated Dec. 29, 2023, parents, teachers, and alumni complained to the president and the board of regents of the Cebu Technological University (CTU) about a faculty member who sexually harassed students and job order employees.
Ralph Martinez reported in SunStar Cebu last Jan. 5 that this abuse of authority was carried out with impunity because of the collusion of administration officials, who ignore the grievances against or cover up for the professor, a favored ally.
“There appears to be a pattern of overlooking and concealing cases of sexual harassment or molestation in our university, resulting in offenders evading consequences,” noted the signatories in their letter of complaint.
The complainants alleged that CTU officials and non-teaching personnel with past and ongoing inappropriate sexual relationships with students and staff in the main and satellite campuses are not investigated due to the “strategic handling” by the former head of the committee on decorum and investigation (Codi).
There is no lack of laws and regulations addressing sexual harassment in places of learning, training, and work. Yet, as the CTU case demonstrates, the challenge remains in the implementation.
Section 4 (a) of Republic Act (RA) 7877 (The Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995) tasks employers and heads of public and private offices to enforce rules and procedures to investigate cases of sexual harassment and carry out administrative sanctions against offenders.
Civil Service Commission (CSC) Resolution 01-0490 mandates every institution to create a Codi, which receives all complaints concerning sexual harassment, conducts an investigation and forwards its recommendations to the disciplining authority.
Beyond adjudication, a Codi has an advocacy to conduct trainings and organize other events to raise awareness and prevent personnel from committing, accidentally or deliberately, acts that demean and destroy the dignity of a person through the solicitation of sexual favors or other utterances that may be interpreted as an inducement for the exchange of sex for employment, training or education.
Through a campaign of regular information, education, and communication at a place of work, education or training, the Codi contributes to creating an institutional culture that encourages not just the promotion of the highest moral and professional conduct but also empowers victims and disciplines predators and perpetrators of sexual violence.
In any institution, it is unconscionable that speech or acts traumatizing a person through intrusions into his or her sexuality go unpunished and are even condoned.
In schools, relationships are not just defined by organizational hierarchy and protocols. Teacher-student relations are embedded in social expectations of the former’s moral ascendancy to groom and guide the latter’s scholarship and transformation into a person actualizing his or her full potentials.
At state colleges and universities (SCUs), such as the CTU, a code is set down explicitly in Section 4 of RA 6713 (Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees), which specifies the norms expected in public officials and employees, such as but not limited to the commitment to public interest “over and above personal interest;” the discharge of duties with “professionalism” and “intelligence;” and actions that “respect the rights of others” and uphold their dignity.
Violations of this formalized code of conduct and ethical standards do not only reflect on the person of the violator but more crucially, the institution—both its leaders and constituents—that condones and abets the violations stipulated in RA 6713.
Sanctions can be applied to perpetrators of sexual harassment. What are the penalties for institutions that breed impunity?