Facebook Scandal in Cebu, Philippines Ends in Court Case

The parents of four of five high school graduates who were barred from joining the graduation rites last March 30 by St. Theresas’s College (STC) in Cebu City seek P1.5 million in damages and a public apology from the school.

Named respondents in an amended complaint before the Regional Trial Court in Cebu City were STC High School Department principal Sister Celeste Ma. Purisima Pe, assistant principal Mussolini Yap, student affairs moderator Marnie Racaza, discipline-in-charge Kristine Rose Ligot and homeroom adviser Editha Jospehine Yu.

In the complaint, the petitioners said the girls were qualified to graduate from high school.

The girls’ names were also listed in the invitations given to parents and guardian for the commencement exercises.

But on March 1, or 29 days before graduation, the girls were required to report to the principal’s office, where they were “maltreated and verbally abused.”

”Not contended in hurling the defamatory words and taking advantage of their minority, defendants coerced the minors to write about alleged lewd photos posted on Facebook,” the amended complaint, prepared by lawyer Cornelio Mercado, read.

On March 2, the parents were made to acknowledge receipt of the school’s summary findings and rulings” contained on a sheet of yellow paper captioned as “probation.”

The findings stated that the girls were “engaging in immoral, indecent, obscene or lewd acts.”

The sanctions include prohibition from joining the graduation rites.

”As educators, defendants school official sought to know the grave and serious implication of labeling a person, especially minors, as having committed ‘immoral, indecent, obscene, or lewd’ acts” said Mercado.

Mercado said the minors were deprived of due process as provided in the student’s daily guide, pursuant to the Education Act of 1982.

”It is important to first stress that photos portray still images, not acts or actions. The photographs defendants printed and reproduced are “stolen shots.” Recordings made without the subjects’ consent is against law, violates privacy, and cannot be used as evidence,” said Mercado.

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