THE counsel of three other girls who sued St. Theresa’s College for not letting them attend their March 30 high school graduation rites said the the case will continue for his clients.
He said the compromise agreed by STC and the original petitioner, a fourth girl,does not affect the course of their own complaint.
“Eventually the public will known who is telling the truth when the court resolves the issue,” said lawyer Cornelio Mercado, who represents the intervenors.
He said his three clients and their daughters would pursue the criminal and civil charges pending in court.
Meanwhile, St. Theresa’s College lawyer Joan Largo said that it would be in the best interest of the minors involved if the lawsuit is handled by a family court, where records are safeguarded.
“For me, it’s hard to have these photos being presented in a court that is not a a family court without the requirement of confidentiality of records. The photographs are the kind you do not want to see circulated,” she said.
The school plans to file a motion for partial reconsideration on the order of Regional Trial Court Judge Manuel Patalinghug.
The judge refused to act on the compromise and ordered the case to be re-raffled to a regular court.
The judge, who said he would inhibit from handling the STC case, earlier said the injunction case filed against STC should not have been sent to a Family Court like his, even though it involves minors, because the court has jurisdiction over criminal, not civil cases.
But Largo said she believes family courts do have exclusive jurisdiction over cases that involve violation of Republic Act 7610 also known as the Child Abuse Act.
She said although the injunction case filed against the school was a civil case, all the allegations in the complaint pointed to RA 7610.
“We will be seeking clarification from the court on that point,” she told a news conference.
Five STC graduating seniors were barred from attending their commencement rites as punishment for “serious” violations of the Student Handbook, including posting “lewd” bikini photos in their Facebook accounts. The school said there were more shocking photos of the students drinking liquor in a bar and engaging in “obscene” conduct that they didn’t want to show in public.
“These are not just bikini photos, it’s so much more. Hopefully, when he’ll (Judge Patalinghug) take a second look, he’ll see the benefit of this being in a family court,” she said.
The judge was presented an April 17 compromise agreement between the mother of one of the complaining students, her daughter and the school to withdraw the lawsuit.
The judge, however, said another court will have to decide on this.
Largo said she hopes the judge will reconsider his inhibition.
“If you’ll try to look at the way things have progressed, there won’t be a trial on the merits of the case hopefully, because if he takes jurisdiction what he will find is the compromise agreement with the petitioner of the case saying we do not want to proceed anymore with the case and STC has decided to drop the counter claims in the spirit of reconciliation,” she said.
She clarified that their motion for reconsideration to be filed in court will be partial in nature as there are certain grounds in Judge Patalinghug’s order which they agree with.
She said they agree with Judge Patallinhug’s observation that the the three intervenors joined the original petitioner without the courtesy of seeking the court’s permission.
“They barged into the case without even asking the court’s permission,” she said.
She described the amended complaint against STC filed by the intervenors as a mere scrap of paper.
Mercado, lawyer of the intervenors, said their presence in the cases was legitimate.
“To compromise is a matter exclusive and personal to the parties involved and will not affect others. The view that the intervention was not admitted misleads. They defied TRO and it now appears that they may not have read it all,” he said.
He said the students were the victims, not the offenders of controversy, and were were judged unfairly and denied their right to privacy and due process by the school.
Largo, meantime, said the private Catholic school is not closing its doors to a settlement with the three remaining families.
“We are not here to fight. We are just here to enforce our rules and enforce those rules with compassion” she said.
She said they can’t issue a Certificate of Good Moral Character to any of the five students involved, including the daughter of the original petitioner who already withdrew her lawsuit.
She also said there was no need to amend the STC Handbook, which she said was well suited for the times with its clear provisions on not uploading offensive material on social networking sites.
“I would have been the first one to advise kung dunay angay usbon. For me the STC Handbook is really suited for the times because while we live in a cyber age and there is also recognition of the need for cyber responsibility,” she said. /Patricia Andrea Pateña, Correspondent