Is STC Cebu placing itself above the law by defying the TRO?

So perhaps Saint Theresa’s College (STC) Cebu had all the valid reasons for disciplinary measures when rules are not followed. But to defy the temporary restraining order (TRO)? STC Cebu defied the order of the court to allow students, who were earlier barred from joining the graduation rites, to take part in yesterday’s high school commencement exercises of the school. (See photos of sheriff turned away and this No graduation rites)

STC Cebu through lawyer Romeo Balili claims “They (court) have no basis to cite STC for contempt because the court did not comply with the requirements of the law by not putting bond to cover the damages of the parties,”

STC Cebu is using the same argument that DOJ Leila De Lima used in refusing to honor the TRO issued by Supreme Court. In both instances, the recipients of the TRO claimed that it was defective. The larger issue now is if this becomes widespread. What if the TRO does not concern the right to attend the graduation but the right to liberty or shelter? It could be a situation where a demolition order of houses is being enjoined as in the case of informal settlers. Will the party who wants to enforce the demolition simply ignore the TRO by claiming it is deficient?

This can set a dangerous precedent where the rule of law is not respected.

Lawyer Enrique Lacerna, counsel of the petitioner said they will be filing contempt of court against the school. However, Cornelio Mercado, counsel of the intervener said they will not file contempt of court against the school since it was the court order, which the school violated.

Twitter discussion on the TRO defiance did not sit well for some. @Chase China asks “Is STC now above the law?”

@wawam says “STC Cebu teaching kids by example to disobey courts”

Antonio Tinio adds that ” You can’t insist on enforcing your “rules” then defy a court order. It shows you don’t care about rules.”

Patrick Jude Ilagan says “STC not only defied the ruling of a judge but also trampled the dignity of the students and took away a milestone.”

Red Monstrosity suggests that the “Court should take actions against the school. This is too degrading for SC.”

In an Inquirer post, PinoyAkoPinoyTay comments that “Well, STC can always tell the court that if DOJ and PNoy can order not to follow the court, why can’t they? Better yet, to any institution or any individual who doesn’t like the decision of the judiciary, don’t follow them! PNoy is doing it, so should you!”

panhase asks:

Are Catholic schools really above the law in your country?
They can disobey orders of a court as they wish?
Then why do you need courts at all?

kapitanBagwis exclaims “STC is the epitome of hypocrisy …version of modern day Pharisee”

Earl Bonachita, Cebu City Chapter president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) says “it might create a bad impression that some people can just ignore and not respect a court order”

I believe that if the judge does not do anything with STC Cebu defiance of TRO, he will be inutile. His authority is gone! Eroded!

The parents of three of the five girls filed a complain for grave oral defamation in relation to the Anti-Child Abuse Law (RA 7610) and violation of the Anti-Photo and video Voyeurism Act of 2009 or RA 9995 to the Cebu City Prosecutor’s Office.

Meanwhile, twitter discussion still revolves on the obscenity of the photos. Most would want to see the photos. As Justice Potter Stewart said “I know it when I see it” is a “colloquial expression in the United States by which one can attempt to categorize an observable fact or event, although the category is subjective or lacks clearly defined parameters”. I have been asking from friends based in Cebu about the obscenity of the photos. Being an alumna of STC Cebu, I am concerned about the future of the students. This will not be the last time it will happen. Most of my friends are supportive of the school. Testimonies from those that claim to have seen the photos label it as “obscene” and “masyadong bastos”. I can’t really decide if they were obscene unless I saw it. Descriptions of the photos may not be enough.

I can only hope the girls are not traumatized. I am comforted by the fact that the girls will probably remember their parents who used all legal means to let them join the ceremonies. The 5 girls may feel pain right now but the mere fact their parents tried their best will help them heal. Love and family support important.

Most importantly , a Theresian is a “woman of faith and a seeker of truth with a strong sense of mission” and as such will respond “creatively to the cry of justice and fullness of life.” The girls can transform this pain to help others who may be in the same situation they are in today.

Here are some twitter reactions.