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Bullying is a perennial and recurring problem in the Philippines, but what is it, and how it can be addressed?

 
 
Since October is an “anti-bullying month”, and the 2nd week is “mental health awareness” it is only proper to dedicate this space for this discussion.
 
In the Philippines, we eat free speech for breakfast because this is one of our core values. Because of this, it is but normal for hate speeches or abusive creative expressions to take place.
 
Since by default we are biased in protecting free speech, in my opinion, we should exert a conscious effort to protect the right to safe spaces and privacy.
 
Articles 5 and 12 of the universal declaration of human rights speak of the right against torture (including mental) and safe space and privacy.
 
 

bullying (free speech) and safe space, whose right will you protect?

screen grab of Sonnie’s talk about (cyber)bullying


 
 
This article focuses on bullying for kids, but at the end of this post, you can find the links for office discrimination and bullying, and (cyber)bullying involving adults.
 
 

Statistics: Bullying Cases Increased in the Philippines

 
The last publicly reported Department of Education (Dep Ed) report about bullying from public and private schools, the Philippines recorded a dramatic 21% increase in 2015.
 
In 2018, 6 out of 10 Filipinos said they were bullied, according to a survey facilitated by the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). Unicef, in 2019, also reported  1 of 3 young individuals have experienced online bullying in 30 countries.
 
With classes in all levels mostly being held online for 2 school calendar years, I’m curious about the current state of cyberbullying among minors.
 
 

But what is bullying?

 

RA 10627,  the anti-bullying act of 2013, defines it as

SEC. 2. Acts of Bullying
 
Any severe or repeated use by one or more students of a written, verbal or electronic expression, or a physical act or gesture, or any combination thereof, directed at another student that has the effect of actually causing or placing the latter in reasonable fear of physical or emotional harm or damage to his property; creating a hostile environment at school for the other student; infringing on the rights of the other student at school; or materially and substantially disrupting the education process or the orderly operation of a school; such as, but not limited to, the following:
 
a. Any unwanted physical contact between the bully and the victim like punching, pushing, shoving, kicking, slapping, tickling, headlocks, inflicting school pranks, teasing, fighting and the use of available objects as weapons;
 
b. Any act that causes damage to a victim’s psyche and/or emotional well-being;
 
c. Any slanderous statement or accusation that causes the victim undue emotional distress like directing foul language or profanity at the target, name-calling, tormenting and commenting negatively on victim’s looks, clothes and body; and
 
d. Cyber-bullying or any bullying done through the use of technology or any electronic means.

 
 

In Philippine context,  bullying is

 

  1. An act committed by an individual or group of students*, directed to another student*
  2. An act in the form of written, verbal or electronic expression, physical gestures, or combination.
  3. An act, whether severe or repeated, that will produce any of these effects to its victim (1) fear of physical or emotional harm, (3) damage to his/her property  (4)  a hostile environment at school, (5) infringement of his/her rights and (6) disruption of the orderly operation of the school
  4. An act that can be in the form of
    • Sec 2 A- Physical
    • Sec 2 B- Social & Emotional
    • Sec 3 C- Verbal
    • Sec 4 D- Cyber

 

*refers to elementary and high school students

Though we are free to use the same definition for adults (aggressor and victim), the anti-bullying law is applicable only for primary and secondary students.
 
 

What the bullying law requires from the school:

 
 
stop bullying in the Philippines
 
 
1. Come up with policies defining and prohibiting:

  • Bullying inside school premises
  • Bullying outside school premises (cyberbullying) resulting in the definition above
  • Retaliation against a person who reports bullying incidents or bullies.

2. Come up with admin procedures and disciplinary actions.
3. Rehabilitation program for the bullies.
4. Strategies and procedures for

  • Recording and Reporting system
  • Reporting and Investigation
  • Filter false reports and disciplinary action for students making false reports
  • Safety and security of students
  • Support services such as counseling for victims
  • Privacy students involve
  • Education for parents and students on bullying dynamics

5. Mechanism

  • Who is accountable for the implementation: Principal or anyone w/ comparable role.
  • Who can report incidents of bullying: a member of school admin, parent, student, or volunteers
  • Who should handle bullying cases: Principal and/or person designated by the Principal
  • Expected actions:
    • investigate promptly
    • take appropriate disciplinary actions
    • report to law enforcement agency if provisions of revised penal code were satisfied
    • notify parents or guardians of perpetrators
    • notify parents or guardians of victims and inform them of the actions that have been taken and preventive measures

6. Reporting requirements:

  • six months after the effectivity of this law, the school will inform their division superintendent, in writing, of the policies, procedures, and strategies they have formulated. This shall also be a requirement before the operation of new schools commences.
  • annual reporting of schools to division superintendent on relevant statistics and data. These in turn will be summarized and reported to the Dep Ed secretary. The Dep Ed Secretary shall summarize these and report the same to the committee on basic education of both houses of Congress

 
 

Dep Ed Order 40: Child Protection Policy, the forerunner of the law.

 
Child protection refers to programs, services, procedures, and structures that are intended to prevent and respond to abuse, neglect, exploitation, discrimination, and violence.
 
Under Dep Ed 40 and  RA 7610 (Special Protection of Children against Abuse, Exploitation, and Discrimination Act ), teachers who humiliate students will face administrative sanctions. DepEd continues to equip teachers and school heads with knowledge on child protection policies of the government through a series of forums and consultations.
 
This policy mandates all public and private schools to create a Child Protection Committee (CPC), and observe the following protocols:

  1. The Child Protection Committee (CPC) established by DepEd Order 40 shall also be the Anti-Bullying Committee
  2. Composition of Committee:
    • School Head/Admin-Chair
    • Guidance Counselor/Teacher-Vice Chair
    • Rep of teachers designated by faculty
    • Rep of parents as designated by PTA
    • Rep of students, except in kinder, as designated by student council-optional for private schools
    • Rep from the community as designated by Punong Barangay, preferably from the Barangay Council for the Protection of Children (BCPC)
  3. Jurisdiction for complaints of bullying and other acts under the IRR: exclusive: DepEd or private school and not subject to barangay settlement
  4. Procedures must include:
    • Immediate responses-ANYONE who has personal knowledge must immediately call the attention of ANY school personnel
    • School personnel once notified is expected to intervene:
      • Stop the bullying immediately
      • Remove students from harm and provide medical attention if needed
      • Bring the bully to the Guidance Office or designated personnel
  5. Anonymous reporting to be entertained
  6. The person reporting to be afforded protection
  7. Fact-finding and documentation:
    • Designated school official to:
      • Interview parties involved separately
      • Assess threat level, devise intervention strategies
      • Inform parents of both parties of the steps to be taken
      • Make recommendations to CPC
  8. CPC to determine the intervention programs for parties involved.
  9. Schools may refer parties to trained professionals outside the school
  10. Disciplinary measures must be according to nature, the gravity of the bullying, and attendant circumstances
  11. Due process must be observed
  12. Community service may be a form of punishment if the same is in the rules and regulations of the school
  13. CPC supervises the intervention programs
  14. On due process:
    • Student and his parents to be informed IN WRITING of the complaint
    • Students to be given the opportunity to answer with the assistance of parents/guardians
    • The decision of the school head shall be IN WRITING, stating the basis thereof
    • The school head’s decision may be appealed to the Division Office of DepEd
  15. False accusation of bullying also to be sanctioned
  16. Bullying incidents are confidential and breach thereof by school personnel is likewise sanctioned

 
 

When teachers are bullied

 

Interestingly, there is also a growing restlessness among teachers as described in this news report. Because of Dept. Order # 40 and the growing boldness of kids to harass adults, teachers are also endangered.
 
When I wrote about cyber baiting or the bullying of teachers by students, I never thought it can lead to a death of a teacher.
 
A common Q among teachers now is, who will protect us? This  also confirms the feedback I’m getting from some parents and guidance peeps, “that kids of this generation, are tad bolder, and not afraid to bully their teachers.”

 
Since classes are held online since the pandemic broke out, I am wondering if online violence against teachers increased.
 
 

Workplace bullying

 
Office bullying is similar yet different from our discussion here. If you are interested to know how to handle incidences of office politics or discrimination, you can read my article about workplace harassment.
 
 

How to stop (cyber) bullying?

 
I also wrote a  separate piece on practical, technical, and legal ways to put a stop to bullying.
 
 

Since it’s clear who are co-responsible for the well-being of our kids, let’s be vigilant and help them be accountable to keep and maintain safe spaces for our kids.
 
Likewise, while the exercise of free speech can help mental resilience, let’s co-create safe shared spaces, virtual or not, for everyone’s mental wellness.
 
If you have some suggestions to do this, let us know in the comments section below

 
 
 

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