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Ateneo alum Hontiveros says university 'misused' Safe Spaces Act in harassment cases

Senator Risa Hontiveros on Thursday admonished the Ateneo de Manila University administration for invoking the Safe Spaces Act, which she principally authored, in its refusal to disclose details regarding the alleged cases of sexual misconduct hounding the school.

The Marketing and Communications Office of Ateneo on Wednesday said it has meted sanctions on the accused sexual harassers in instances where formal complaints were filed, but kept mum on specific details to avoid revealing the identities of the concerned.

Hontiveros, a graduate of Ateneo, said the university misrepresented the law by using it to “insulate offenders from accountability.”

“The school's marketing and communication office has clearly misunderstood the law. The Safe Spaces Act protects the identities of the accused if they are minors, not adults accused of being sex offenders,” she said.

“While the law recognizes the right to due process, it does not promote non-transparency, nor does it condone any culture of secrecy regarding cases of sexual harassment, especially if it favors the harassers,” the senator added.

The Safe Spaces Act penalizes “any unwanted and uninvited sexual actions or remarks against any person” including cat-calling, wolf-whistling, and rape jokes.

Students staged a protest on Tuesday against the university’s alleged inaction on sexual misconduct within the institution, following now-deleted posts on social media that detail acts of sexual harassment by professors.

Under the Anti-Sexual Harassment Policy of Ateneo, a committee composed of representatives from the different sectors of the school will investigate cases of sexual misconduct and submit recommended sanctions to the university president.

It requires all concerned parties to “ensure confidentiality of the issue and all matters related to the incident” to respect individual privacy.

“Sexual harassment has no place in any educational institution. It is not only a crime clearly punishable by law, but it also undermines the safety and integrity of the academic community,” Hontiveros said. —Julia Mari Ornedo/JST, GMA News