Senator Win Gatchalian is urging public and private basic education institutions to mobilize their Child Protection Committees (CPCs) against violence and abuse on learners.
Gatchalian made this call over mounting student reports of sexual harassment at the hands of teachers, which have gained social media traction. The lawmaker underscored that CPCs should stay vigilant and proactive in monitoring and handling sexual harassment and other child abuse cases, especially since the postponement of physical classes does not remove the threat of abuse from teachers, other school personnel, and the peers of learners.
It was recently reported that some high school students from Miriam College have complained of sexual harassment and emotional manipulation committed by some teachers, which is now the subject of investigation by the Department of Education (DepEd).
According to the National Baseline Study on Violence Against Children in the Philippines published in 2016, around 17.1 percent of children aged 13-18 experienced any form of sexual violence, the prevalence of which is in schools is at 5.3 percent.
The creation of CPCs was mandated in DepEd’s Department Order No. 40 s. 2012, which outlines the department’s child protection policy. CPCs are tasked to create schools’ child protection policies, identify learners who may be experiencing abuse and exploitation, and to report cases involving child abuse.
CPCs are also expected to coordinate with the PNP-WCPD, the Local Social Welfare and Development Office (LSWDO), other government agencies, and non-government organizations.
The school head or administrator chairs the CPC, while a guidance counselor or teacher serves as the vice-chairperson. Parents and students are also represented in the CPC. The Punong Barangay also appoints a representative of the community, usually a member of the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children, to join the CPC.
“Hindi natin dapat pinapalagpas ang ano mang uri ng pag-aabuso o karahasan sa ating mga kabataan sa tahanan man o sa paaralan. Dahil sa panganib na maaaring umakyat pa ang bilang ng mga kaso ng karahsan at pang-aabuso ngayong nasa gitna tayo ng pandemya, lalo nating dapat paigtingin ang mga hakbang upang bigyan ng proteksyon ang mga kabataan,” said Gatchalian.
The Chairman of the Committee on Basic Education, Arts and Culture also warned that aside from abusive school personnel, learners are also at an increased risk of violence at home, where most learning will take place when classes reopen.
Citing data from the Philippine National Police Women and Children Protection Desks (PNP-WCPD), the President’s 6th report to Congress on the implementation of the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act (Republic Act 11469) reported 521 cases of crimes against children as of April 30. By June 11, the cases soared to 2,077.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) also reported last May 25 that cases of online sexual exploitation of children (OSEC) surged by 264 percent. The DOJ Office of Cybercrime said 279,166 OSEC cases were recorded from March 1 to May 24. From the same period last year, there were only 76,561 cases recorded.