Saturday, October 25, 2014

Supreme Court Decision Reached on Bikini Girls of STC Cebu -#CebuPhilippines

The Winner

In April 2012, I wrote about the five senior students of St. Theresa's College (STC), Cebu, whose pictures in Facebook showed them scantily clad. Photos of the students drinking and smoking in a bar had also been posted. When the officials at the exclusive Catholic school, where the girls attended, learned about the pictures, they barred the students from attending graduation rites. The whole matter was quite a drama - read my earlier account - and resulted in the parents suing STC all the way to the Supreme Court.

The Supreme Court recently reached it's judgement, denying the petition of the parents, and reminding all that posting online material, even if tagged "private" is never really such. I'm quoting the last paragraphs of the Supreme Court's judgement:

It has been said that “the best filter is the one between your children’s ears.53 This means that self-regulation on the part of OSN users and internet consumers in general is the best means of avoiding privacy rights violations.54 As a cyberspace community member, one has to be proactive in protecting his or her own privacy.55 It is in this regard that many OSN users, especially minors, fail. Responsible social networking or observance of the “netiquettes56 on the part of teenagers has been the concern of many due to the widespread notion that teenagers can sometimes go too far since they generally lack the people skills or general wisdom to conduct themselves sensibly in a public forum.57

Respondent STC is clearly aware of this and incorporating lessons on good cyber citizenship in its curriculum to educate its students on proper online conduct may be most timely. Too, it is not only STC but a number of schools  and  organizations have  already  deemed  it  important  to  include digital literacy and good cyber citizenship in their respective programs and curricula in view of the risks that the children are exposed to every time they participate in online activities.58 Furthermore, considering the complexity of the cyber world and its pervasiveness, as well as the dangers that these children   are   wittingly  or   unwittingly  exposed   to   in   view   of   their unsupervised activities in cyberspace, the participation of the parents in disciplining and educating their children about being a good digital citizen is encouraged by these institutions and organizations. In fact, it is believed that “to limit such risks, there’s no substitute for parental involvement and supervision.59

As such, STC cannot be faulted for being steadfast in its duty of teaching its students to be responsible in their dealings and activities in cyberspace, particularly in OSNs, when it enforced the disciplinary actions specified in the Student Handbook, absent a showing that, in the process, it violated the students’ rights.

OSN users should be aware of the risks that they expose themselves to whenever they engage in cyberspace activities. Accordingly, they should be

cautious enough to control their privacy and to exercise sound discretion regarding  how much information  about themselves  they are willing to give up. Internet consumers ought to be aware that, by entering or uploading  any kind  of  data  or  information  online,  they  are  automatically   and  inevitably making it permanently  available online, the perpetuation  of which is outside the ambit of their control. Furthermore, and more importantly, information, otherwise  private, voluntarily  surrendered  by them can be opened,  read, or copied by third parties who may or may not be allowed access to such.

It is, thus, incumbent  upon internet users to exercise  due diligence  in their online dealings  and activities  and must not be negligent  in protecting their rights. Equity serves the vigilant. Demanding  relief from the courts, here, requires that claimants  themselves  take utmost care in safeguarding  a right which they allege to have been violated. These are indispensable. We cannot  afford protection  to persons  if they themselves  did nothing  to place the  matter  within  the  confines  of  their  private  zone.  OSN  users  must  be mindful enough to learn the use of privacy tools, to use them if they desire to keep the information private, and to keep track of changes in the available privacy settings, such as those of Facebook, especially  because Facebook  is notorious for changing these settings and the site's  layout often.

In  finding  that  respondent  STC  and  its officials  did  not violate  the minors'  privacy rights, We find no cogent reason to disturb the findings and case disposition of the court a quo.

In light of the foregoing, the Court need not belabor the other assigned errors.

WHEREFORE,   premises  considered,  the  petition  is  hereby DENIED.  The Decision  dated  July  27, 2012  of the Regional  Trial  Court, Branch  14 in Cebu  City  in  SP. Proc.  No.  19251-CEB  is hereby AFFIRMED.

Matter closed.

STC High School picture with me in the back row, 6th from left. The STC nuns had rules, and we all knew them. Our parents also knew those rules. In fact our parents placed us in STC, precisely because the nuns had high standards. 

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Tags: St. Theresa's College, #STC, #Cebu, #Philippines, #lawsuit, #SupremeCourt, #decision, #bikinigirls

This is all for now,

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