Fighting Bullies with the Law

If you’re a bully (or if you the victim of bullying), you better read this. If you’re one of those who believe that enacting a law to fight bullies is not an effective way of teaching children to stand on their own, better accept the fact that the Philippines now has a law to fight bullying. On 12 September 2013, President Aquino signed Republic Act No. 10627, also known as the Anti-Bullying Act of 2013. [See also: Anti-Bullying Act of 2013 Primer]

This law characterizes bullying as 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.

Kids, particularly boys, normally engage in physical acts like pushing, shoving, kicking, slapping, tickling and headlocks. Kids engage in school pranks. Kids tease each other. While these acts may be fun  to many, our lawmakers consider these acts (yes, including tickling) — so long as the act is unwanted by the victim — as bullying.

We must note that the law does not use the term “kids” (and it generally use the term “perpetrator” instead of bully). We use the term “kids” because the law only covers elementary and secondary schools. It does not cover college students.

Bullying is not limited to the usual physical confrontation like punching and fighting. Bullying includes any act that causes damage to a victim’s psyche and/or emotional well-being, as well as 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. Call someone a jologs and you’re probably in for bullying.

Because kids have access to social networks online, there’s also cyber-bullying or any bullying done through the use of technology or any electronic means.

And the penalty? No, there’s no imprisonment provided under the Anti-Bullying Act. Government social workers already have their hands full with children in conflict with the law or CICL. This law does not impose any criminal penalty for bullying, but requires schools to promulgate rules and regulations which must include disciplinary actions. This is, of course, without prejudice to criminal liability under other laws, like physical injuries under the Revised Penal Code.

So, what do you think of this new law? [See also: Anti-Bullying Act of 2013 Primer]