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Court to decide if students will be allowed to attend rites

Will she or won't she be able to make it?

A judge will decide today on the fate of the 16-year-old high school student of St. Theresa's College who was barred from attending the graduation rites. The student isn't alone in her misery.

Four other female students executed an affidavit against the school officials after they were also prohibited from attending the ceremonies.

They accused the school officials of labeling them as “having loose morals, drunks and drug addicts” in a March 1 meeting held inside the principal's office.

The school through their lawyer Romeo Balili submitted to the court yesterday nine photos which showed the 16-year-old dancing “suggestively” and engaging in provocative behavior.

“The photographs attached herewith speak in volumes more than words that the Catechism of the Catholic Church has been transgressed and as such the transgressor deserves action,” said STC lawyer Romeo Balili in a memorandum.

The girl's mother filed a suit in court against five school officials for not allowing her daughter to join her class in marching up the stage to receive the diploma tomorrow.

Qualified to graduate

The parties were required to submit their respective memoranda yesterday.

Regional Trial Court (RTC) Judge Wilfredo Navarro of Branch 6 is set to release a ruling today on whether or not to allow the girl to join the graduation rites.

The petitioners sought a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the school officials in order to allow the students to join the commencement exercises on Friday.

Assisted by their lawyer Cornelio Mercado, the three students executed an affidavit, a copy of which was secured by Cebu Daily News.

They said have completed their high school requirements, and are qualified to graduate.

They said they and two other classmates were told to head to the principal’s office.

Among those present during the meeting were Sr. Purisima Pe, the school principal and three other school officials.

‘Deeply hurt’

They said Pe along with Musollini Yap, moderator of the Student Affairs; Roswinda Jumiller, and Kristine Rose Tigol. Discipline-In-charge scolded them for posting their photos of them clad in their swim wear in their Facebook accounts.

They said they were ashamed with what the students did in the photos and added that the students “cheapened themselves” and that the boys would take advantage of them.

The students said they “were deeply hurt and cried” after being scolded by the officials whom they accused of humiliating them with abusive language by calling them “easy, drunks and addicts.”

They said they weren't notified in advance about the charges against them. The students said the privacy settings of their Facebook accounts meant that only their friends and families had access to the photos.

“The school and its officials are not listed as our friends, and they have no authority to intrude, poke into, extract, and use for their own purpose and benefit any information posted at our FB account,” they said.

They said their parents were informed about a meeting on March 2 and were later presented with a paper citing the violations committed by their daughters of the school's handbook such as engaging in “indecent and immoral activities.”

They said they were barred from joining in pre-graduation activities like recollections.


They maintained that the photos posted in their Facebook accounts were about past events held outside the school and were not offensive.

But Balili said the photos were considered by the school as “offensive to the virtues” espoused by the Catholic school.

He said someone informed school officials about the photos involving the students.

“There was a complainant. STC is not a hacker. Someone gave the photos,” he said.

Balili said the girls particularly violated the rule on modesty which is defined as “refusing to unveil what should remain hidden.”

Since St. Theresa's College is a Catholic educational institution, Balili said it is committed to abide by the Church's teachings unlike non-sectarian schools.

Balili said STC is just exercising its academic freedom.

“The sanction imposed on (the girl) not to join the commencement exercises, instead of expulsion, is justifiable,” he said.

Balili said the 16-year-old's mother voluntarily signed the paper conforming to her daughter's sanction.

Some members of the school’s faculty, who refused to be named said the student and her four classmates have long been reprimanded for their immoral behaviour.

“It is not true that they were not given due process. They have been warned for so many times already,” a teacher said.

The sanction imposed on the students was based on the provisions in the STC Handbook.

The handbook bars students from drinking outside the school, engaging in lewd behavior and dress in clothing that exposes underwear.

The students were also barred from uploading photos in the Web showing them clad in underwear or having “ample body exposure.”

House rules

Another teacher said the violations disclosed to media were only part of the acts done by the students. “That was only the tip of the iceberg,” she told Cebu Daily News.

Named defendants in the petition were STC High School Department represented by Sister Celeste Ma. Purisima Pe, the school principal; assistant prinicipal Mussolini Yap; Marnie Racaza, moderator of student affairs; Kristine Rose Ligot, disciplpine incharge; and Edita Josephine Yu, homeroom adviser.

Balili said if the court rules in favor of the petitioners, they will comply with the decision and allow the students to join the graduation ceremony on Friday.

“Well, if the petition is granted we have no choice but to follow, we are law-biding citizens. St. Theresa produces law-abiding citizens,” he said.

Msgr. Achilles Dakay, media liaison officer of the Cebu Archdiocese, said the school has the right to sanction its students when they violate provisions stated in their academic constitution.

“That is the college’s house rule. Every college has a house rule. It’s just the same as the case with casinos. You are not allowed to enter when you are wearing slippers. Don’t tell me you will violate that,” he said. /Ador Vincent Mayol and Patricia Andrea Pateña

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