MALAYA: Respect bloggers’ rights, QC school officials told

January 19, 2009

SCHOOL officials, including the principal of the Quezon City Science High School, who imposed a 10-day suspension on four students for posting criticisms in a blog could face charges of violating the anti-child abuse law and the freedom of expression, according to the Commission on Human Rights.

The education department’s National Capital Region office on Friday stopped the suspension ordered by the principal, Zenaida Sadsad, which was supposed to take effect today.

CHR chief Leila de Lima said: “Certainly there are human rights issues here in the case as well as issues related to the protection of child or minor pursuant to the United Nation provisions on child protection.”

“Since the students were in high school level, they are naturally below the age of 18 and therefore considered child or minor,” she added.

De Lima asked the parents of the students to file a complaint so the CHR could initiate an official probe.

Sadsad said blog entry which criticized her and other school officials damaged the school’s reputation. Sadsad also ordered the closure of the school’s two publications, the The Electron and Banyuhay, and sacked the publication’s adviser, Rex San Diego.

One of the four students said he said he was being punished for writing about students’ complaints about ineffective teachers and why students have called for the ouster of the principal.

In an interview with Malaya, a student said he was suspended after “kangaroo court proceedings” presided by Sadsad.

“Dr. Sadsad would ask me a question but when it was my turn to reply, she would cut my explanation and talk,” said the student.

The student said his blog was for private reading only as it can only be accessed by his friends in the social networking and blogging site

According to the junior student, protests erupted in September last year after Sadsad scrapped the traditional week-long school anniversary festivities in favor of a one-hour program.

He added he was also supposed to have become assistant managing editor of The Electron, the official QCSHS student publication, this school year but Sadsad unceremoniously dismissed the entire staff and the adviser.

Sadsad has also been accused of allowing an applicant to enrol in QCSHS despite flunking the entrance tests after a purported exchange of bribe money.

The student’s father said the offenses being imputed on his son were not found in the school’s student handbook and lamented the lack of due process.

The student’s mother said she has lost trust in the administration and vowed to challenge the charges hurled against her son.

She said that during their first meeting called by Sadsad to discuss her son’s case, the principal banged the table many times with printouts of the blog posts, shouting “Pucha! Pucha! Pucha!”

She said Sadsad has sent emissaries offering for the dropping of charges in exchange for an apology and a promise never to write again about the issues.

Malaya tried but failed to reach Sadsad.

London-based QCSHS alumnus Rafael Joseph Maramag urged through an open letter that the Quezon City government and the DepEd investigate Sadsad.

Maramag said the “for naked abuse of power alone, it is Sadsad who should be suspended or thrown out of school.”

The College Editors Guild of the Philippines expressed support for the students and asked the QCSHS and the DepEd to respect students’ constitutional rights to free speech and free expression.

Vijae Alquisola, CEGP president, said the DepEd should be wary of the “emotional, social, and psychological effects” of the assailed suspension order on the students.

The Supreme Court, echoing a ruling by its US counterpart, has repeatedly held that students at all levels have fundamental rights to free speech and free expression.