By JIGGER J. JERUSALEM
and LITO RULONA
THE former Xavier University law professor who was ordered suspended by the Supreme Court for sexual harassment in April was barred from teaching law in the Jesuit-run institution 17 years ago.
Yet lawyer Cresencio Co-Untian Jr. proceeded to teach in another school — Liceo de Cagayan University — after Xavier decided not to renew his teaching contract.
Lawyer Carlo Antonio Almirante, dean of the College of Law of Liceo de Cagayan University, said none of Liceo’s decision makers knew about the sexual harassment complaints against Co-Untian and about Xavier’s decision because these were not made public.
“Everyone was surprised [with the SC decision]. No one knew about the complaint,” said Almirante, adding he doubts if Liceo’s decision makers would allow Co-Untian to teach there had they known.
He said Co-Untian was no longer teaching at Liceo when he assumed as its law dean in 2013.
On April 10, 2019, the SC ordered Co-Untian’s law practice suspended for five years. He was also ordered not to teach for 10 years. The decision was only made public this week.
Xavier University, in a statement, said the SC ruling was an affirmation of a similar decision reached by its committee on decorum on Sept. 5, 2002 about the complaints against Co-Untian, then a part-time member of the faculty of the university’s college of law.
“Xavier Ateneo welcomes this decision of the Supreme Court…,” reads part of Xavier’s statement released on Wednesday night.
The SC ruling was an offshoot of the complaints of three of Co-Untian’s students who subsequently completed their law studies — one is a lawyer and another is a prosecutor now.
The matter was brought to the attention of the SC by a law practitioner who hid under the cloak of anonymity.
The then law students, one of whom is said to be a relative of an associate justice, have alleged that Co-Untian made sexual advances, forwarded text messages with “romantic undertones,” and even sent flowers to students. The SC decision also cited instances when the law professor supposedly invited a student to Camiguin, and another when he allegedly showed one a photo seen as obscene.
As for Xavier, it said its committee on decorum found Co-Untian guilty of violating the school’s Anti-Sexual Harassment Guidelines, and resolved not to renew his contract in 2002.
Xavier said it “does not take lightly the issue of sexual harassment, particularly in an academic setting where students should feel safe and secure in studying their respective courses. Any form of sexual harassment has no place in learning institution.”
The school said it stands by the SC decision of making the lawyer accountable for his actions based on the Anti-Sexual Harassment Act of 1995.
It said Xavier, which sees sexual harassment as an unacceptable behavior, has strictly implemented rules and regulations for the purpose of prescribing the proper decorum for administrators, faculty, staff, formators, and students and for the resolution, settlement, and disposition of cases of sexual harassment.
“We remain committed to strengthening our formation programs and protocols to ensure that all members of the [XU] family, especially our students, fully enjoy a conducive learning environment, free from fear, intimidation, and harassment,” it added. (with reports from Herbie Gomez)