By Merlina Hernando-Malipot
The Department of Education (DepEd) said on Friday it is coordinating with concerned offices regarding a public school teacher accused of child abuse and who was featured on a television program.
DepEd Undersecretary and Spokesperson Annalyn Sevilla told the Manila Bulletin that the legal team of the agency’s Central Office is “still coordinating with the regional and division offices concerned,” particularly the National Capital Region (NCR) and in Manila. “We will wait for their validated status report first,” she added.
Meanwhile, lawyer and education advocate Atty. Joseph Noel Estrada appealed to the public to hear the teacher’s side. “The public school teacher deserves the right to be heard,” he said.
Estrada offered to help Melita Limjuco, 55, who was featured on broadcaster Raffy Tulfo’s television show after a student’s relatives complained of alleged child abuse on her part. “I do not see any abuse done by the teacher,” he said. “The disciplinary action imposed by the teacher is the necessary consequence of the child’s misconduct,” he added.
Earlier, the grandmother of the child sought Tulfo’s help to file a case against Limjuco to “teach her a lesson.” This was after the teacher was seen on CCTV footage sending a boy out of a classroom. The child’s family claimed the boy “was traumatized” and “humiliated” because of the teacher’s action.
Estrada told the Manila Bulletin that he met with Limjuco on Friday to assess her situation and possibly provide legal assistance. “We only saw the video but what we don’t know is that the child was sent out of classroom because he was fighting with other classmates,” he explained in Filipino. “Aside from the issue of the [report] card that [was] repeatedly forgotten by the child, there was a previous incident where the card was splashed with water and that must have been the reason why the teacher was concerned about it,” he added.
During the show, the staff called Limjuco for her reaction on the case. The teacher admitted her “mistake” and apologized, but the child’s family wanted her punished through revocation of her license so “she could rest” from teaching.
Tulfo then asked the teacher to choose between facing a child abuse case – which is a criminal case – or resigning from her job.
Estrada claimed that Limjuco was not aware that her conversation with the host was live on TV. “It’s unfair for her and this is violative of her right to due process,” the lawyer said.
After meeting with Limjuco, Estrada said that they will face the complaint and possible charges in a “proper forum.”
Estrada appealed to the public not to drag out the issue further. “[Limjuco] has children who work as overseas foreign workers (OFWs) and when they learned of this, they were very worried,” he said Filipino.
Estrada also said that the CCTV recording should not have been shared with the public without the consent of those who are captured in the clip. “It’s not only the teacher was there, other children who are minors and parents were also captured in the video,” he explained. “I also encourage everyone to make sure the personal details and photos or videos of minors involved are not shared or divulged,” he added.
Based on their initial meeting, Estrada said there were other issues related to the incident. “The grandmother and parents already talked with the principal and the teacher already apologized but they still want her to resign from teaching by revoking her license,” he said.
Limjuco, Estrada said, has been a public school teacher for 29 years. “She does not deserve this public humiliation and ridicule or to lose her job and license to teach…our teachers are special parents of the students while they are under their supervision, instruction, or custody” and “as a special parent, the teacher’s authority includes the duty to discipline the students.”
Estrada also reminded parents that their duties as parents include “coordinating and cooperating with the school in implementing school discipline.”