Uriel C. Quilinguing .
THERE have been bullies all these years and countless individuals have been victims of bullying but most of them prefer to keep mum about the painful episodes in their lives. This abusive behavior— often from those who believe of their superiority—of inflicting physical harm and verbal abuse on others may occur in any environment, regardless of age and status in life.
Even heads of states are bullies.
Frankly, I cannot find a single valid reason why the Philippines’ Anti-Bullying Act of 2013 (Republic Act No. 10627) is directed only to elementary and secondary schools.
So when acts that constitute bullying occur in colleges and universities, in the technical-vocational training centers, in work places be it in public and private offices, in military and police camps, in legislative session halls, and even in detention cells, the Anti-Bullying Act of 2013 does not have legal bearing.
There’s so much bullying among teachers who are supposed to be educators and being looked up to by students.
Specific acts deemed bullying are indicated under Section 2 of RA No. 10627 and these include punching, pushing, shoving, kicking, slapping, tickling, headlocks, pranks, foul and profane language teasing, name-calling, and negative comments on person’s appearance, clothes and physical condition.
The law covers cyber-bullying as well and these include the use of unwanted comments through texting, e-mails, chats and social media posts.
There are so much of these outside the campuses of elementary and high schools, hence bullying cannot be confined only among kids 18 years old and younger.
Just like any other legislative measure, the mill started to grind House Bill No. 5496 sometime in 2012 in the House of Representatives. Correspondingly, the Senate also had a counterpart Senate Bill No. 2677.
Curiously, four of the six anti-bullying proponents in the House came from Bicol Region — the main author was the late Rep. Salvador Escudero of the first district of Sorsogon while Reps. Christopher Co, Rodel Batocabe and Alfredo Garbin Jr. were all from Ako Bicol Party-List. The other two are Caloocan second district Rep. Mary Mitzi Cajayon and then Aurora Lone District—also adjacent to Bicol region—Rep. Juan Edgardo”Sonny” Angara Jr. who is now a senator. Escudero died of colon cancer a month before the bill he principally authored was enacted into law.
In the Senate, the principal author of Senate Bill No. 2677, which calls for the creation of Anti-Bullying Committees in all elementary and secondary schools, was the late Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago.
Now I wonder why other legislators in the House and in the Senate did not share a piece of their mind in the crafting of the anti-bullying measure. I do not believe not one of them has never been bullied; perhaps, they are either embarrassed or afraid because the bullies are still there.
The findings of a study Plan International and Unicef conducted in 2009 that showed four out of 10 in grades 1 to 3, and seven out of 10 in grades 4 to 6 (all in public schools) experienced bullying are revealing. These should open the eyes of policy and decision makers, much more for lawmakers. In fact, bullying could even be worse in private schools, and in high schools. And nobody can ever claim there’s no bullying in college.
For pushing for the crafting and enactment of the Anti-Bullying Act of 2013, the authors deserve to be commended, more so for Angara and Santiago’s admissions they personally experienced bullying. But they should have broadened their perspective since there is no exclusivity in bullying.
For now, Republic Act No. 10627 should be known as Anti-Bullying in Elementary and Secondary Schools Act of 2013. Should Sen. Grace Poe— and other lawmakers—succeed in pushing or shall we say, in lobbying for amendments in the Anti-Bullying Act of 2013, the new version should be all encompassing.
For now, Child Protection Committees in schools, if there are as mandated by Department of Education, should serve as Anti-Bullying Committees. Guidance counselors must be hired to fill the vacancies in public elementary and high schools since they have crucial roles in the observance of acts deemed bullying.
Often, those who hold the reign of power, albeit temporarily, have the tendency to lord over as if the rest are their subjects, unmindful they are not indispensable at all. They deserve to be reminded that one will never understand the damage he has done to someone until the same is done to him.
(Uriel C. Quilinguing is a former president of the Cagayan de Oro Press Club. He is also a former editor in chief of this paper. For reactions, please email them to firstname.lastname@example.org.)