Not that fast.
In an interview with GMA Ilocos news, Atty. Jaime Agtang, counsel for Saviour’s Christian Academy, said the issue—that of 3 Grade 8 students kicked out of school for speaking Ilocano—is closed. However, parents of one of the kids have denied this.
“How can it be closed when they have not even acted on our formal complaint?” wonders Lamar Abadilla, mother of Carl. She said they filed on Thursday (Aug. 8) at the Department of Education Division of Laoag City a letter of complaint addressed to Superintendent Araceli C. Pastor. The six-page complaint presented the details of the case, and sought for administrative sanctions on Shah. The parents are also demanding for a public apology.
Meanwhile, DepEd Assistant Secretary for Legal and Legislatve Affairs Tonisito Umali is keeping a close eye on the issue. In a television interview yesterday, he categorically stated that speaking in the vernacular is not a valid ground for expelling students. “Mali po talaga yun. Walang batang dapat patalsikin dahil nagsalita lang naman ng Ilokano kahit may English-speaking policy,” he told ABS-CBN’s Anthony Taberna. Moreover, Umali said expulsion of a student is a penalty that must be approved by the Office of Education Secretary Armin Luistro.
Reached by riknakem.net through phone, Pastor said she has not yet informed Umali that a formal complaint has been filed.
Last Thursday, Pastor called the parents and Rev. Brian Shah, the SCA president for a dialogue. During the meeting held at the division office, Shah apologized to the families and offered to admit the kids back at SCA. He also offered to pay the fees incurred by the parents in transferring the kids to other schools. Carl is now enrolled at the Divine Word College of Laoag while Samboy Bautista has moved to the Sarrat National High School. The parents of Carl and and of Samboy have refused the offer. Shah confirmed to riknakem.net that Kleinee seems inclined to go back to SCA where he has been enrolled since pre-school.
“We just want justice for our child,” said Mrs. Abadilla. She said she want to be put on official records that her child was not dismissed or advised to transfer to another school, and that the school erred in punishing her child, who has earlier suffered bullying in a minor seminary. She also expressed hope that no more children would suffer the same fate. Many “legal minds” have advised them to file a court in case and seek moral damages against SCA, said Abadilla, but that their family has not taken that course of action.
During the meeting on Thursday, Abadilla said, Pastor urged all parties to agree on a news blackout. Following that agreement, Abadilla refused interviews by both local and national media organizations in the hope that DepEd would act on the compliant.
However, Abadilla decided to call this writer to express their disappointment over Agtang’s pronouncement to the media that the issue is now “closed and settled.” She said SCA violated their agreement on a news blackout. Also, Pastor granted a Bombo Radyo interview last night to say that everything has been settled and that parties have agreed to veer away from the media.
“Other” Division Superintendent more pro-students
SCA is under the DepEd Division of Laoag City headed by Pastor. There is another division, though—that of Ilocos Norte, and its superintendent has condemned the expulsion of the three students. Dr. Cecilia Aribuabo said while DepEd has been trying hard to encourage students to finish school, there are schools, like SCA, that are driving them away. “This is the danger when we expel students, we are not guiding them and worse, we lose control of them when they are out of school,” Aribuabo added.
Asked to comment on the public perception that Aribuabo is more supportive to the dismissed kids, Pastor replied, “Well, let it be like that.”