Anti-bullying bill goes to plenary

Posted at 10/10/2011 1:34 PM | Updated as of 10/10/2011 1:34 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Conscious of becoming a laughing stock, the House of Representatives Basic Education Committee has approved amendments to the proposed Anti-Bullying Act by striking out provisions such as “eye-rolling” and “keeping secrets away from a so-called friend.”

Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara, one of the bill’s sponsors, had these provisions struck out and replaced with a more generic provision that penalizes anything that could be hurtful to the victim. Angara was conscious that the lower House may become a laughing stock if it approves a bill that is this detailed and restrictive.

House Bill 5248 originally defines bullying to include such acts: unwanted physical contact like pushing, punching, shoving, kicking, slapping, tickling, headlocks, school pranks, teasing, fighting and use of available objects as weapons, spreading malicious rumors, keeping the victim out of a “group,” getting certain people to gang up on the victim, ignoring the victim on purpose, whispering to another in front of someone, keeping secrets away from a so-called friend,  eye-rolling, silent but hurtful body motions such as pointing or any act that causes harassment or provocation, directing foul language at the victim, name-calling, tormenting and commenting negatively on someone’s looks, clothes and body.

Angara’s motion was approved, paving the way for the bill to be sent to plenary for deliberations.

Angara said the problem of bullying in schools has reached alarming proportions.

While the bill doesn’t penalize bullying with any specific penalty, it empowers and compels schools to address bullying in schools.

If approved, it will empower superintendents to make sure schools comply with anti-bullying policies. Schools who fail to do this risk administrative sanctions from the education secretary.

Citing a study by UNICEF and the Council for the Welfare, Angara said most students in the grade school and high school levels have experienced various forms of abuse either from their peers or from their teachers.

Angara said the study shows at least 5 of 10 children in grades 1-3, 7 out of 10 in grades 4-6 and 6 out of 10 in high school have experienced some kind of violence in school.

Verbal abuse is said to be the most prevalent form of violence, and this includes being ridiculed and teased, shouted at and cursed or spoken to with harsh words. In the same study, it was revealed that children’s peers, more than the adults, are the perpetrators of violence in schools.