By Jigger J. Jerusalem
THE Supreme Court (SC) has ordered the suspension of a lawyer in connection with 2002 complaints for sexual harassment by three of his erstwhile law students at the Jesuit-owned Xavier University.
Slapped with a suspension order by the SC was lawyer Cresencio Untian Jr.; he has been prohibited from practicing law for five years, and from teaching law in any school for 10 years.
This paper learned that Untian ceased from teaching law at Xavier years ago, and then he taught in another law school. He reportedly taught laws on taxation, and even authored a book.
The high court’s decision was based on the complaints filed by three of Untian’s female law students.
In their respective affidavits, the complainants alleged that their teacher at the time subjected them to sexual advances in varying degrees on separate occasions.
The SC noted that in his defense, Untian said the complaints were made by disgruntled students who failed in their classes. He said the incidents happened years apart but the complaints were made all at the same time.
In an initial ruling, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines said Untian was not guilty of violating the law on sexual harassment, and that there was no proof that the law teacher demanded or requested sexual favors from the complainants.
But the SC decision states that a sex-related offer is not necessary for sexual harassment to be established.
“Clearly, respondent abused the power and authority he possessed over the complainants. His sexually laced conduct had created a hostile and offensive environment which deeply prejudiced his students,” the SC decision said.
“In what was supposed to be safe place for them to learn and develop, they were instead subjected to unwarranted sexual advances,” it said.
“What makes respondent’s act of sexual harassment even more reprehensible is the fact that he is both a professor and a member of the legal profession,” the ruling added.
As of this writing, the Xavier University has yet to issue an official statement on this issue. Untian could not be reached for comment at presstime.
The 11-page order was promulgated April 10, 2019 but was made available to the media on Wednesday.
The decision was penned by Associate Justice Jose Reyes Jr., with the concurrence of Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin, and Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Diosdado Peralta, Marvic Leonen, Alexander Gesmundo, Andres Reyes Jr., Ramon Paul Hernando, Amy Lazaro-Javier, Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, and Rosmari Carandang. On leave were Associate Justices Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Francis Jardelez, and Mariano del Castillo.