MANILA—Ateneo de Manila University should have waited until the holidays were over before it dismissed the junior high school student caught bullying his classmate, human rights lawyer and advocate Rene Saguisag said.
In an opinion column published online by Inquirer.net on Sunday, Saguisag said the Jesuit-run school was "bullied and panicked to announce the right thing at the wrong time."
The former senator noted that even the Allies and the Germans observed a truce on Christmas Eve and even sang carols and played football in the middle of World War I.
"What Ateneo has done may have satisfied the high feelings of the moment, but in the sober afterglow may come the realization that its timing was questionable, to paraphrase Catholic Justice Frank Murphy, a staunch human rights advocate," he wrote.
In an earlier column published by the Manila Times, Saguisag said he would have preferred Ateneo to take the matter "under advisement in the spirit of the season of grace and goodwill" and not heed the cries to “crucify him, crucify him.”
"Christmas was pushed into irrelevance at a trying time. Ateneo was tested, and from where I humbly sit found wanting. If the Yuletide spirit does not work there at this time, then when and where?," he said.
Bullying the bully, he said, is akin to raping the rapist: "Disproportionate, not fitting the offense."
Instead, Saguisag believes the bully, caught on camera using his taekwondo skills to hurt his fellow student, should be given a second chance.
"In punishment, there must be equivalence or proportionality and the possibility of change and subjective growth. I have benefited from forgiveness for my many failings," he wrote.
In both of his writings, Saguisag noted that President Rodrigo Duterte was visibly silent about the issue when he was "usually quick to comment on most anything and condemn."
Duterte, he recalled, skipped graduation rites at the San Beda Law School after standing investigation for shooting classmate Octavio Goco, who had taunted him as a "promdi" (from the province).
Saguisag, who "virtually ran the law school" then, had said he regrets not expelling Duterte at that time.
"I suppose given his own colorful past. It would have been weird if he had condemned it. He may not be a bully, perhaps in the sense that he may be a Nike 'Just Do It' poster boy," wrote the human rights lawyer.
If the 14-year-old dismissed Ateneo student becomes president some day, Saguisag noted that he would be the third Atenean after Duterte and current Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, in conflict with the law or school norms, to attain the country’s highest elective post.
Yet, he wrote, if the boy reforms and becomes president some day, "he might yet understand the reason for the season of grace and goodwill."
"He is learning that in life, when you laugh, the whole world laughs with you, but you weep alone," said Saguisag.