MANILA – Viral videos of an Ateneo de Manila University junior high school student bullying fellow students can be used as basis for an investigation, which could lead to sanctions, the head of the Department of Education said Friday.
The viral videos showed the alleged Ateneo student taunting several students in different locations, even bloodying the nose of one of the students.
Education Secretary Leonor Briones said the viral videos can be used as leads for the investigation and allow other students to come forward and give their version of what happened.
She cited as example the 90-day suspension of a school administrator of Bicol Central Academy after a video of him torching school bags of erring students went viral.
"[The videos] were used as basis to ask people around. Naglabas na ang mga bata kasi may nagsubmit na ng video. Madami cases na nati-trigger ang inquiries, which lead to facts," Briones said.
She noted the case can also be subject to criminal action "if there is damage to the child."
"Kasi may batas tayo sa child protection, depende sa edad ng bata kung anong penalty ang ipinapataw pero ang first responsibility is really the school administration," she said.
Republic Act No. 10627 or the Anti-Bullying Act of 2013 prohibits bullying on school grounds or property immediately adjacent to school grounds, school-sponsored or school-related activities, functions or programs whether on or off school grounds; at school bus stops; on school buses or other vehicles owned, leased or used by a school.
The law states that the school principal or any authorized representative is required to report to the law enforcement agencies if he or she believes that criminal charges under the Revised Penal Code may be pursued against the bully.
DepEd also noted that private schools that fail to comply with the requirements of R.A. 10627 or the Anti-Bullying Act of 2013 may face penalties under the law.
"Kung maximum, kung talagang extreme, extreme, and I hope hindi 'yan mangyayari, mamemeligro ang permit to operate ng school. Sometimes, it is not just students bullying fellow students but teachers bullying students or students bullying teachers," Briones said.
DepEd Order No. 40, series 2012, or the “DepEd Child Protection Policy,” institutionalized zero tolerance against any form of violence against the child and provided for the establishment of a Child Protection Committee (CPC) in all public and private schools.
'An evident act of violence'
The president of the Ateneo de Manila University earlier issued a statement, saying it will not hesitate to issue dismissal or expulsion in the bullying incident involving its Junior High School students.
University President Jose Ramon Villarin said the school is not silent on its stand on violence, and is treating the matter “with the highest priority and urgency”.
“Let me be very clear: the school does not condone such behavior,” he said in the statement addressed to the university community and uploaded on their Facebook page.
Although he made no reference to bullying, Villarin said the school principal immediately launched an investigation on the matter.
“I request you to be mindful of consequences spiraling out of control when specific videos and comments are shared on social media,”
The video he was referring to shows a student of the Ateneo Junior High School challenging his schoolmate to a fight in a comfort room.
The video has gone viral on social media and has sparked public uproar.
The ADMU Junior High School earlier said it "is dealing with this matter seriously beginning with an immediate investigation that ensued the moment the report reached us."
It said the video of the fight "depicts an evident act of violence that constitutes a serious violation of disciplinary misconduct."
The Philippine Taekwondo Association has also condemned the bullying incident following reports that the student behind the assault is a taekwondo practitioner.
Can a school reject an enrollee for bullying?
In the interview, Briones stressed the responsibility of teachers, saying it is part of their duty to observe students' behavior in relation to each other.
"Dapat alerto ang teacher dahil ma-se-sense na niya, mahahalata na niya kung sino ang nambu-bully, sino naman ang di kaya ang pambu-bully," she said.
However, she also noted that some bullied students refuse to talk about the bullying to their parents for fear of even more abuse.
"'Yung peer groups ang nagsasabi sa teacher. Kasi may stage na ang bata hindi nagsasabi sa parents," she said.
She said that the school, its teachers, and parents all have responsibilities to the learners.
"Sometimes, it can be traced also to issues in the home, family upbringing etc, kaya all of us have roles," she said.
Asked if a school has a right to reject a student who was kicked out from another school because of bullying, Briones said students have a constitutional right to education and should be given a chance to reform.
"Meron kaming mga instances na ang bata ay linilipat sa ibang school. If you change the environment, school, klase, relationships- minsan may effect," she said.
"Usually may nalilipatan naman sila na schools pero siyempre todo ang counseling niyan and the teachers should be aware that this child had a problem...We have to give the child every opportunity to develop and to reform," she said.
Creating a bully
Psychiatrist Dr. Bernadette "Babes" Manalo, meanwhile, explained other factors that could lead to a child becoming a bully.
"Meron presence ng dysfunctional family. Ibig sabihin very poor ang image ng mga magulang or the lack of discipline or problem arising doon sa family. It could be problems of conduct and ito ay pwedeng may tinatawag tayong childhood disorders that can cause this," said Manalo.
Manalo said parents need to focus on what led their child to bully a classmate. They also need to know their child's unresolved issues.
"Kailangan talaga tutok ka sa kaniya. Malay mo, na-bully na din siya before kaya niya ginagawa yun," she said.
But in some cases, parents also need the help of experts.
"Minsan ang mga magulang at a loss na rin kung anong gagawin nila sa anak nila. Minsan ang mga magulang ang problema ng mga anak. In that sense kailangan talaga ng outside forces--child psychiatrist, ito ang makakatulong sa kanilang mga anak," she said.
She likewise stressed the importance of communication in the family.
"Yung intervention, the earlier, the better kasi kawawa rin naman yung batang binu-bully at nambubully. Habang maaga pa kayang agapan ang problema."