The Palawan National School (PNS) reiterated its stand early this week that it did not force its students to watch the screening of the anti-bullying themed film “Thank God I’m Free”, telling the City Council on Tuesday they merely “encouraged” even parents to watch it.

“Hindi naman mandatory, hindi ko rin ni-require at ‘yong encouragement, talagang in-encourage ko, I really encouraged not only the students but all the parents, as well as the teachers to watch the movie simply because it’s really very good. It’s really very beautiful because if you’ll be able to watch this movie, mayroon[g] moral at mayroong lesson na mukukuha kung papaano natin maa-address itong bullying sa PNS, though na-mi-minimize namin pero ito’y isa sa mga strategies na ginamit na paraan para mas talagang mawala na yung bullying,” PNS principal Dr. Eduardo Santos said to the committee on education.

Santos also said that he instructed the teachers to lay down the movie information to the parents if it’s okay with them to accompany their kids during the cards giving day. He also added that he called for another meeting that is by grade level to again inform the parents of the said indie film.

The City Council had another hearing relative to the complaints of the parents of PNS students regarding the alleged mandatory requirement to watch an indie film.

“Thank God I’m Free” was endorsed by Santos and its teachers. The initial ticket amount is P200 but if a parent would join a student, an additional P100 would have to be paid.

“Actually, hindi naman talaga nila sinabing directly the word ‘forced’, sabi nga they just encouraged, in fairness, ini-encouraged nga naman nila talaga, pero kaya lang kung ini-encourage nga sila, bakit maraming parents at students ay gusto nilang ibalik ang hawak-hawak nilang ticket, if they encouraged that much?” Ernesto Saranggaya, representative of the complaining parents and students, asked during the hearing.

“If we’re just going to keep our mouth shut and dapat may punahin, this will continue, ang akin lang kung may mali, ayusin lang. But if we’re not going to talk, we’ll remain silent, what’s going to happen to all of us? If our concern is talagang for the kids, maganda talaga ‘to. Maganda talaga ‘yong intention ng anti-bullying because maganda nga ang pinaglalaban niyan,” he added.

Teachers who were present during the hearing said they did not require their students to watch the film.

They also said that contrary to claims, they will not give them examinations regarding the movie. However, if some will submit reflection papers about it, they will give “bonus” points so as not to waste efforts, particularly if the students need to compensate low scores due to tardiness or being absent.

Dr. Servillano Arzaga, division school superintendent in the city, who was also present during the hearing said the education committee has to figure out two issues.

“Kung ni-require ba talaga ang mga estudyante na manood ng indie film? At pangalawa, kung nirequire nga, sino ang nag-require? But we are going to leave that to our committee kung ano po ang inyong magiging solusyon doon. But definitely ang DedEd ay may sariling ginagamit na rules of procedures in administrative cases. Kami sa DepEd ay administrative cases lang,” Arzaga said.

Arzaga said that to date, they have received three reports about the matter and these had already been endorsed to the regional director of DepEd.

He added that the parents could always go to their office to file complaints if the school will not listen or help them regarding their concerns.

Atty. Arnel Pedrosa of the City Legal Office (CLO), on the other hand, recommended that the hearing be terminated, stating that they can no longer probe deeper into the issue.

He said the Department of Education (DepEd) is the proper forum to conduct further investigation.

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