School punishes Filipino boys for Facebook kissing

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By OLIVER TEVES, Associated Press

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — A Philippine Catholic school is withholding the diplomas of six high school boys who uploaded Facebook photos that appear to show them kissing one another, an education official said Friday.

A day earlier, a Philippine court rejected another Catholic school's decision to bar five girls from graduation ceremonies because they had posed in bikinis for photos posted on Facebook. The cases test the limits of privacy in a conservative Catholic nation that is also among the world's most prolific users of social networking sites.

Department of Education officer Samuel Mergenio said the six boys told him they had taken prank photos to make it appear that their lips touched. One of the boys uploaded the pictures on Facebook and mistakenly made them available to others, Mergenio said.

The pictures were not taken at the boys' school, Infant Jesus Academy in the Manila suburb of Marikina, but the students were wearing school uniforms, he said.

Mergenio said the school's chancellor informed the department late Thursday that the boys will be allowed to participate in the graduation ceremonies but "the release of their diplomas will be delayed." He said the school did not say when the diplomas will be handed over and that he was awaiting a formal written report from the school.

The school chancellor was not available for comment Friday.

The mother of the boy who uploaded the photos said she works as a nurse in Saudi Arabia and went home only to attend the graduation of her son, one of twins.

She said she refused to attend the graduation ceremonies because her son would only be subjected to ridicule since he won't be called to the stage to receive his diploma. "It will be like an insult," she told The Associated Press.

On Thursday, a judge in central Cebu city issued a restraining order against St. Theresa's College High School, ordering it to allow the five students who appeared in the bikini photos to take part in Friday afternoon's graduation ceremonies.

The school, which declined to comment to the AP, asked the court to reconsider. The girls' lawyer, Cornelio Mercado, said Friday that the school was still insisting on banning the students while its motion for reconsideration is pending.

Mercado said one Facebook photo at issue showed a girl holding a cigarette and a liquor bottle, while others showed all five wearing bikinis at a beach party on the 16th birthday of one the girls in late December.

The mother of the girl who hosted the party said a security guard barred the group Friday from entering the school campus.

"They were really hurt," she said.

School officials took action against the girls for what they called "engaging in immoral, indecent, obscene or lewd acts," according to court records. They said the students would graduate but could not participate in activities or ceremonies.

Earlier this month, the five girls were summoned by the principal and other school officials, "dressed down" and called "sluts," Mercado said.

The judge, Wilfredo Navarro of the Regional Trial Court, castigated school officials for calling the girls "inappropriate names." He said not allowing them to participate in graduation activities "would indeed be most un-Christian if not entirely inhuman."

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