Academic Freedom and the STC “Bikini Girls”

“The issue is not just the bikini. It’s wearing skimpy clothing, acting suggestively, provocatively and sexually. It’s not about teenagers wearing bikinis in the poolside. Dili baya na bastos ang pag wear og bikini [Wearing a bikini per se is not lewd]. To wear a bikini is not a mortal sin,” said Allan Trani, HR Officer of the Saint Theresa’s College (STC) of Cebu City.

That the act of the college is part of its academic freedom is recognized. This is noted by former UPLaw Dean Raul Pangalangan in his Inquirer article, although he went on to note that “the school actually intruded into the student’s privacy”.

[We’ve opened a new entry on Academic Freedom at the Legal Wiki. Please let me know if you want to volunteer and help update this entry, or any other entry in the Legal Wiki. Thanks.]


STC recently ended its silence because, it said, it suffered an beating from the media and eventually received an unfair negative backlash from the public. Many STC alumni, including my sister, agree with the action of their alma matter. If students and parents don’t agree with the policy, they should enroll in public schools or non-sectarian schools. Far from being unfair, failure to enforce the rule at this time would be totally unfair to past students, particularly those who joined beauty contests with swimsuit competition, who voluntarily left STC and still love the school. Far from being un-Christian, the fact that the students were made to graduate, notwithstanding this serious violation of the school’s code of conduct, is a tempered response.

[Feel free to express any opinion, contrary or otherwise, at the comment section below.]

A summary of the press conference is provided by Peter Romanillos (with thanks):

  • Due process was observed. The students involved were required to explain, in writing and in their own words, what actually transpired during the party in Crimson Hotel. The written explanation was read by the parents who signed it.
  • It’s not true that the school banned the girls from attending the graduation rites simply because they posed in bikinis. The girls were not in a beach. They were inside a hotel room. The photographs were obscene and sexually provocative. STC said it could release the photos but chose not to because they want to protect the dignity of the five students. This matter was purely internal until the students filed a case in court.
  • STC did not hack the facebook accounts of the girls, contrary to the insinuations of many news articles. Some STC students who didn’t like the photos reported the matter to the school admin. The school has always reminded the girls to uphold responsible use of social networking sites for their own protection and security. To ensure the students’ adherence to this, the student handbook prohibits “posing and uploading pictures on the internet that entail body exposure.” [In addition, some acquaintances saw the photos, which means these photos were not private.]

Finally, the girls were sill allowed to graduate. They were not expelled. The only penalty imposed was the prohibition from joining the graduation ceremonies.

Getting into trouble by reason of social networking is not new. Unfaithful spouses have been sued for unfaithfulness using photos and statements in facebook accounts. We have clients dismissing employees because of their internet activities and we have handled internet libel cases. In short, be careful of what you say or do in the world wide web. As the the GMA7 advocacy says, think before you click.

[Now, do you agree with STC or the students on this issue? Use the comment section below.]


  1. what the girls do in their own time is their business. they earned the right to graduate based on their grades. cast the first stone all ye who have have not thought of (sex, pleasure, etc), desired, fantasized, and acted on the goading of the Id. because of existing moral hypocrisy, violence and aggression in our repressed society, the girls’ mistake was having their photos uploaded on facebook. the morally ‘righteous’ are smart enough not to do the same.

  2. The parents are partly to blame. They know the strict policies of the school and they enrolled the child in that school. They failed to guide their children and left the ‘discipline’ with the school. Theres no ‘own time’ because whatever the student do affects the school. If the child is an addict outside the school does this mean the school cant impose sanctions? If the girl is a model for a condom but does the modeling only on weekends, does that mean the sectarian school cant impose sanctions?

  3. As an STC alumna, I know what I put myself into when I enrolled in the school. STC is an institution that upholds the dignity, chastity, and goodness of its students. It has always inculcated in us just that kind of culture. The nuns never failed to remind us of our womanhood, the pride that we must wear is honor above all. Those girls knew what they did, and they must answer for it.

    First off, their posing in bikinis is not the only issue at hand. We all know they did more.

    Secondly, the handbook clearly states its rules for the student body. A new handbook is given to its students every year to constantly update them. It is also a requirement for both parents and the student to sign a pledge or meeting of minds that they in fact read the rules stated by the school. The signatures will then be checked by the advisers.

    Lastly, the fundamental thought here is that the parents should be the first disciplining body. The school is but a second family. But what happened here is that the school seemed to be the tougher ‘family’. And I believe it served its right to, basing on the rules in the handbook. The girls knew beforehand that they would in fact receive sanctions if they violated the written rules.

    If you would ask the girls’ batchmates, you would see that they too side with STC. And this is because they know what really happened.

    No one can conclude that this is a violation of the rights of the girls alone, because from a different perspective, the school’s image was also violated and perverted. We students have always upheld a dignified and responsible image, because the school taught us to be so. STC should not be blamed for this. They only did their part in making the girls better women for the future.

  4. I also agree with the school. I find it funny how people these days think that these kinds of issues are OA and ‘ultra-conservative’. Being open-minded is a lot different from being TOO liberal. Some even castigate the nuns for being strict. In my time, just laughing out loud and being too close with the boys was enough for one nun to talk to you and lecture you. That was just 2 decades ago. Now, we have a PBB housemate getting 2nd place and winning 1M for what? for opening her mouth and legs so inappropriately the whole time she was on TV?? a recently turned 17yo actress in a popular soap who plays a newlywed wife with kissing and bed scenes again on TV!! I know these are the roles that can get them recognition (and oh they really did), but are they the ideal roles for women especially the younger generation? NO. I have a 19yo maid who takes pics of her on her cp pouting her lips and posing like she’s on a men’s magazine. These days, if you’re the prim and proper type, you’re no longer that popular and called boring or depressing and just not the fun type. This STC story is not yet over coz there’s that legal issue of them defying the courts. It was fascinating that the parents were able to sue that fast. It’s not possible these parents are very rich and have connections if you know what I mean. I just hope STC wins in this largely ‘moral’ battle so that our girls of today can wake up a little and smell the scent of rapists and molesters around them.. things that they might no longer think about when they think of boys and other ways to be popular or simply just growing up. Lastly, children of today are amazingly hard-headed, and the more we have to guide them and find ways for them to follow the real right and wrong.

  5. Ano ba kayo…

    Unang una… kayo nagisip ng sexual whatever nang mga pictures…
    Pangalawa… Teenagers yan… “Parents partly to blame?” Are you stupid? Sample lang ha… Ginawa ng parents ko lahat ng makakaya nila para mapalaki ako ng matino… pero kapag dumating ka na sa edad na yan eh sadyang nagiging curious tayo… tapos “parents should guide them”? WTFudge naman… kahit noong high school ako, kahit anong pagpapalaki sa akin… gumawa padin ako ng kalokohan… Hindi maiiwasan ang kalokohan sa ganyan edad… lahat nagkakasala… ano sila? Diyos? … Hindi sila perpekto… “Moral values?” sige… oo, nagkasala ang mga bata… ok fine… so sisirain mo na ang kinabukasan nila dahil dun? AT wag niyo sasabihin na “konti lang epekto ng pag march sa buhay nila” dahil malaking bagay yab sa edad nila… isa pa, ulitin natin… “Moral Values? haven’t you heard? tinawag yung bata na slut at drunkard. Imagine niyo, nakatatak na sa isip ng mga bata yung mga salitang yun… Magaral kayo ng Psychology (kahit premed lang) para malaman niyo ang mga effects sa pagtawag ng mga matatanda sa mga teenagers ng ganun… very emotional at information magnet ang age gap na yan… pwede nilang maabsorb yun at tuluyang mabago ang landas nila…. wag kayong magpakabanal please lang… please lang…

    School yan… hindi yan RA Laws… Gets niyo?

  6. Funny, but I searched for the press conference by Peter Romanillos on Google, but found nothing except this article alone.

  7. It is written in the handbook. Handbook is just like the Philippines Constitution. If a certain law is not followed, certain punishments are imposed. They should’ve been more careful. Rules are rules.

  8. I find many young philipino girls dress like sluts in day today life, when did this women start thinking femail r born to be eye candy for men, specially the philipno women have degraded them selfs to a new low. Most girls grow up looking at their sluty mother who is a mistress to an old foreigner so the goal for the child is no better, work her body to become a entertainment to this old scumbags. It’s really sad to c what’s happening here but who will stop this circle of sluts?? And when??

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