The Ateneo de Manila University community must confront the ways that it has been complicit in sexual violence, Time’s Up Ateneo (TUA) said in a statement on Friday, October 15, as it marked the second anniversary of the protest against sexual violence and impunity that rocked the university in 2019.
“The path before us invites not only survivors and advocates, but the larger community: away from the complicity that enables sexual violence, toward a future defined by care,” TUA said, as it launched a series of anniversary events with the theme “From Complicity to Care.”
TUA also asserted that Ateneo as an institution must make amends for past injustices, even as it implements the new reforms that were crafted with the participation of TUA and other survivors and advocates. Noting a disappointing response by the university, TUA said that previously specified demands for redress have been unmet.
TUA said that while it had previously welcomed the implementation of the new Code of Decorum and Administrative Rules on Sexual Harassment, Other Forms of Sexual Misconduct, and Inappropriate Behavior since September 2020, particularly in a joint statement with the student government’s Commission on Anti-Sexual Misconduct and Violence (CASMV) last 15 February 2021, the specific demands that were made in this statement remain unaddressed.
“In our February statement, we expressly asked the University administration for a genuine apology for and a clear rectification of the 23 October 2019 memorandum from the Office of the President, which, as we have previously said, ‘misled the community on the issue and discredited the stories and voices of survivors and their advocates,’” TUA said in its anniversary statement.
The October 23, 2019, memorandum in question, issued by previous university president Fr. Jose Ramon T. Villarin, S.J., effectively cleared two erstwhile faculty members of sexual harassment in public, even as survivors testified to the opposite, as revealed for example in a March 2020 report by The GUIDON. Survivors have decried the highly damaging impact of the said memorandum, such as in a video interview published by TUA in October 2020.
TUA also said that it “called on the administration to formally release survivors from any NDAs signed with University offices and to refrain from weaponizing these and the Data Privacy Act against survivors and their supporters.”
However, TUA said that the university’s response to these demands has been “disappointing.”
“While we appreciate the correspondence we have had with the University Gender and Development Office, we have never received a reply, even after a follow-up, from University President Fr. Roberto C. Yap, S.J., to whom the joint statement was sent and who is ultimately in the best position to address the demands made,” TUA said.
“We are deeply troubled that even just the concern about the 23 October 2019 memorandum remains unaddressed. The said memorandum put survivors in harm’s way, and the fact that it remains unrectified to this day constitutes active, continuing harm that damages survivors’ well-being.”
TUA also warned against the seeming erasure and exclusion of the group from efforts to address the issue of sexual violence in the university.
“Many of our members have contributed greatly to the task of reforming the University’s broken processes, including rigorous participation in the Independent Audit and the drafting of the new Code. Many of our members and allies have, at great cost, spoken out and broken the silence,” TUA said.
“And yet we, a grassroots movement on the ground, have felt continuously excluded in institutional efforts to address the problems we have fought hard to bring to light.”
TUA noted that while it is proud to see its contributions adopted by University offices or officially recognized bodies, it is pained “to see such contributions presented thoroughly cleared of our fingerprints as Time’s Up Ateneo.”
“We have been a part of Ateneo history for the last two years, but the institution, it feels to us, cannot deign to acknowledge that. We may be acknowledged in private, official correspondence and in closed-door meetings, but never, it seems, in the resulting documents or in public releases,” TUA said.
TUA said that this “enables retaliation against survivors and advocates, playing into the hands of hostile quarters who seek to drive us out of the community.”
“Erasing us from the picture reproduces the violence that sidelines and silences survivors,” said TUA.
Among the events open to the public are a feminist community night called Conspiring Against the Patriarchy, to be held on 23 October 2021 from 8 pm to 9:30 pm via Zoom. There will also be a lecture called Confronting GBV in Pop Culture, to be held on 30 October 2021 from 8 pm to 9:30 pm via Zoom. Registration links are available on the website.