UST says viral post on SWDB victim blaming false
"The facts and evidence that Mr. Geo Celestino posted in his Facebook account do not conform to the records on file."
(Third Update: Feb. 1, 7:32 p.m.) – The viral Facebook post alleging that the Student Welfare and Development Board (SWDB) had victim blamed a College of Fine Arts and Design (CFAD) student is false, said the University of Santo Tomas in a statement released this afternoon.
“We have investigated the administrative case involving the sister of Mr. Geo Celestino but unfortunately, the facts and evidence that Mr. Geo Celestino posted in his Facebook account do not conform to the records on file,” the statement read.
“It has adopted measures as may be reasonably necessary to discharge such duty in order to protect its students from unfair or false accusation.”
UST said that it stands in loco parentis, or in place of parents, and said that “it has the duty to safeguard the students’ health and well-being.”
“[T]he six-month ordeal really took a toll on her,” Celestino told TomasinoWeb in a phone call.
“When she told us the story, she was crying. She was saying, ‘Wala naman akong nabagsak, napasa ko lahat,’” he said.
Celestino said that he is not surprised with UST’s statement but at the same time he is disappointed with it.
He has refused to give out a detailed response as his family is still consulting with lawyers.
While the University has broken its silence on the matter, it still refuses to disclose the full details of the case, saying that “is under obligation to maintain and keep the confidentiality of student discipline cases.”
The Central Student Council (CSC) also released a statement last night, appealing “to comprehend the situation as a whole, and to not merely presume and conclude based on a single standpoint.”
The CSC assured that they are currently investigating the issue.
“UST-CSC will do everything in its power to in the event that there will be such situations of injustice in order to ensure that everyone’s right to due process will not be denied,” the statement read.
Along with the statement, the CSC also released a flowchart that shows the procedure of disciplinary action based from the student handbook. The student council does not have any direct role in disciplinary actions.
TomasinoWeb is still reaching out to officials from the College of Fine Arts and Design and the SWDB. The Faculty of Engineering Dean’s Office has refused to be interviewed.
Meanwhile, the Central Student Council (CSC), College of Fine Arts and Design Student Council (CFADSC) and the Faculty of Engineering Student Council (ESC) are still mum on the matter.
“But rest assured that I’m doing my function as an auxiliary to the Central Board to protect the people involved. Since two colleges are involved, the Central Board is the one taking the necessary steps needed in order to address the matter,” ESC President Iris Chuatoco said.
Asked for comment regarding the silence of these student representatives, Celestino said that it is the perfect response and that he told them to put his sister’s case off their agendas until they have received legal aid.
“I’m also empathizing with them because I’ve been reading, and the public clamor that there is unnecessary blame being put on the student councils,” he said.
Celestino, a graduate of the Ateneo de Manila University admits that he is unfamiliar with the student politics of UST.
“Ang sabi sa akin ng sister ko, these councils really depend on the approval of the administration before they can carry out any of their actions. If that’s the case and the admin is being, I’m sorry for the word, bigoted about this, then the councils will be rendered helpless.”
“I was hoping that maybe, given the right time, the student councils will operate out of protocol and actually stand up against the administration,” he said.
Celestino said that several officers of the CSC, CFADSC and ESC have reached out to him. He also said that Randolph Ian Clet, Quadricentennial Faculty of Civil Law Student Council president and former Central Board speaker, told him that he will call during the day, but Celestino has yet to receive a call.
Celestino said that he feels ecstatic as his post has prompted other students who have fallen victim to the administration’s supposed mishandlings to surface.
“If you get to read what they say, it’s really bothering,” he said.
Among the swarm of comments on the post is an allegation that members of the SWDB once told a female student who got pregnant and suffered a miscarriage that she did not deserve to be a mother.
“Not only are they seeking justice for my sister, they’re also seeking against the administration so we correct them from them unethical practices,” Celestino said.
Celestino is currently working with several cause-oriented groups, including women’s party-list Gabriela.
But he fears that the case may drag on for too long, causing it to lose momentum.
“I haven’t taken much rest because I feel like if we rely on the administration’s cooperation and they might be dragging the process so much that the momentum dies,” Celestino said, adding that he is still welcoming an alternative answer from the administration.
“We would really appreciate it if we can keep the momentum going because we wouldn’t want what happened with my sister to happen again,” he said.
Celestino is appealing to the public to continue supporting them.
“We are up against very powerful people here. They have all the means to shove us into the corner,” he said.
“Us, being not really rich or powerful, it would be… we are at the mercy of the public here.”
Emboldening sexual offenders
Gabriela released a statement this morning, denouncing the administration for “shamelessly” resorting to victim blaming in order to protect the university’s reputation.
“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,” the statement read.
The party-list slammed the administration for “emboldening sexual offenders and silencing many more students who may have experienced the same situation.”
The group’s lawyers have already talked to Celestino’s sister and they are currently planning their next move.
Gabriela also guaranteed to push for amendments to the Republic Act 7877 or the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995, widening the scope of sexual harassment to include peer-to-peer offense.
A study conducted last year by the Social Weather Stations found that women are vulnerable to sexual harassment.
58% of the sexual harassments happen on streets and alleys. Physical harassment often occur in public transportation.
Under RA 7877, sex offenders can be imprisoned for one to six months, fined P10,000 to P20,000, or both.
Editor’s Note: We previously reported that Randolph Ian Clet is the current Central Board speaker. We have corrected this.