Why PH needs an anti-bullying law

by Caroline J. Howard, ANC

Posted at Oct 27 2011 07:58 PM | Updated as of Oct 28 2011 04:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - House Bill 5248 or the Anti-Bullying Act of 2010 is now up for plenary debates after it was unanimously approved by the House Committee on Education and Culture earlier this month.

Aurora Representative Juan Edgardo Angara said, given that the issue of bullying is not as controversial as other pending measures in Congress, the bill he co-authored may be approved by the House by the middle of next year.

"If it's passed by both houses, I don't see it being vetoed at all. It's not a contentious subject," Angara said on ANC's "Headstart."

The bill consolidated proposals from Angara, Caloocan City Rep. Mary Mitzi Cajayon, and Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Christopher Co.

The bill defines bullying as "a severe and repeated harmful act" done by one student against another, whether written, verbal, or electronic expression, or a physical act or gesture, or any combination directed at another student and placing him or her under reasonable fear of physical or emotional harm or damage to property.

But Angara admits, cyber-bullying which is covered by the measure may be more difficult to prove.

"It can be done thru texting or Facebook...It's a different kind of bullying in terms of proving, because a lot of cyber-bullying is anonymous."

While the bill is not meant to penalize abusive students, it includes a provision for counselling aimed at reforming bullies.

Angara notes, bullying, if not addressed, may have more serious consequences for both victims of bullying and the perpetrators.

"You can't penalize minor but you can raise awareness. It's damaging. If you don't do anything about it, it only begets violence. Studies show victims of bullying inclined to engage in violent behavior. They're likely to carry a gun, engage in drugs. As for bullies, there's a study in the states that by age 24, 40% will have a conviction."

The measure compels schools to address bullying and provide a safer environment for children.

HB 5248 "seeks to protect all students from irreparable physical, psychological, emotional and mental harm, and re-quires the Education Department to adopt policies prohibiting harassment, intimidation and bullying in all schools."

Under the measure, schools that fail to impose such measures risk administrative sanctions from the education secretary.

Adults are not covered by the provisions in the bill.

Angara explains, there are enough laws that penalize adults who commit abuses against children.

"Kids can't take care of themselves, adults in society have to be the one to provide a safe place for them."

A study commissioned by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the Council for the Welfare of Children, and Plan International shows, most students in the grade school and high school levels have experienced various forms of abuse, mainly verbal abuse either from their peers or from their teachers.

This was the case for 5 out of 10 children in grades 1-3, 7 out of 10 in grades 4-6, and 6 out of 10 in high school.

The study also shows, the child's peers, more than the adults, were the ones who commit the acts of violence.