The Department of Education (DepEd) has launched an investigation of the case of a salutatorian of a Catholic high school in Quezon City who was stopped by school authorities while delivering her graduation speech.
Tonisito Umali, DepEd assistant secretary for legal and legislative affairs, on Tuesday said they had directed their legal team to coordinate with DepEd-National Capital Region and Quezon City Schools Division Office to inquire into the circumstances behind the incident wherein Krisel Mallari, the salutatorian of Santo Niño Parochial School (SNPS), was prevented from completing her speech.
“The investigation shall focus, among others, on what was actually said, or prevented to be said by our student [and on the other matters raised or that were not raised in her speech like the alleged issues on transparency on the computation of her grades],” Umali added.
He said the Education department “will also look as to whether the school acted within or beyond its authority when it stopped its student from delivering her prepared speech to [the]graduating class.”
Umali noted that students should not be deprived of their constitutional rights to express their opinions on public matters.
“We shall always respect the right of our students to express freely their thoughts and feelings, in light of existing laws and the provisions of our Constitution and in a manner and forum that is appropriate,” he said.
“Pending this investigation, we beg for the indulgence and understanding of everybody if DepEd will refrain from making any further comment on the matter,” the DepEd spokesperson added.
In a video uploaded on YouTube, Mallari was seen being stopped by her adviser, director and principal as she spoke at the podium.
She was talking about lack of justice in her school, how she was victimized by the school’s dirty politics in relation to honors and awards.
Mallari was also thanking her family, teachers and friends who supported her in her fight when she was prevented from finishing her graduation speech.
“Maraming tao ang nagbulag-bulagan sa isang sistemang marumi at kaduda-duda. Ngunit ‘di ko ito tinularan. Ipinaglaban ko ang sa tingin ko’y tama. Nanindigan ako bilang isang Pilipino na palaban at may takot sa Diyos [Many people play blind in the face of a dirty and doubtful system. I am not one of them. I will fight for what I believe is right. I will stand my ground as a courageous, God-fearing Filipino],” she said as she criticized the school on its alleged cheating and favoritism.
“I am Krisel Mallari, a Filipino citizen who would rather choose to fail with honor, than win by cheating,” Mallari added, concluding her speech.
Meanwhile, the school defended its officials’ action in a post on social media, saying the speech of the high-school salutatorian was not appropriate for a welcome speech.
It said the speech that Mallari delivered during their commencement exercises on March 21 was also not the one she submitted and was approved by school officials.
Also on Tuesday, student group National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) lauded the SNPS salutatorian for her courage to assert herself.
“While the SNPS administration vilifies Krisel’s speech as unfit for the occasion and unapproved by the school, NUSP strongly believes that there is no venue more appropriate to voice out her plea for justice than her ‘welcome message.’ The commencement exercises and her welcome speech then became not merely traditional school-officiated exercises but alternative avenues to speak for justice,” NUSP said in a statement.
“As a matter of fact, the injustices, lack of transparency and censorship have realistically pushed Krisel to deliver a heartfelt, genuine speech, even if this was ‘unapproved’ by school administrators. It would be an understatement to say that we should understand why she delivered the said speech, especially in the light of the school’s censorship,” the group added.
NUSP challenged all schools to uphold freedom of expression and justice.
“The Philippine educational system always tells us to persevere, when in fact, it boxes us in the vicious politics of grades and conservatism. Historically, this has consigned many a student from freely saying the truth. But, historically also, this has produced many a student who do not merely express freely but also act and join the collective call for genuine freedom of expression and justice,” it said.
NUSP urged all students across the country to speak for the truth in their schools and to use the hard-earned freedom of expression and organization to serve the people.