Dispatch from Crame No. 439: Sen. Leila M. de Lima’s Statement on Bullying


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When we face incidents of bullying, especially involving children, there is only one legitimate goal: to stop the bullying. It is not to seek retribution. It is not to shame and punish per se. Any shame and punishment that an apparent “bully” might experience should be secondary to their understanding that what they did was wrong, and that they should never do it again. Punishment, especially in this case, should be a means to an end: to end the cycle of bullying.

To merely pass judgment is counterproductive: society – especially social media – wags and points an accusatory finger, the child gets defensive, the parents get defensive, the victim might get some relief, but it doesn’t solve the underlying problem. Everybody takes sides when, really, we all want the same thing. To make sure the kid never bullies again.

Cases of bullying involving children tend to be complex. These are impressionable human beings. Their identities are not yet fully formed. More often than not, they are a reflection or a manifestation of what is not quite right about their environment. If a child does something “bad”, we have to ask where it is coming from.

Especially when they do something this unthinkable. Ang hirap isipin kung saan mapupulot ng isang musmos na bata ang linyang: Bugbog o dignidad? Clearly, he knows that a person’s dignity is important enough to be held hostage, and at least at par with a person’s physical well-being that it would be difficult for his victim to make a choice. This isn’t schoolyard bullying, this sounds like expert-level sadism. He learned it from somewhere.

And that’s the important thing to investigate: where or why is a child so young exposed to such level of abuse? Is there abuse in the family? In his circle of relatives? At school? Among his peers? From figures of authority?

Lalo na kung titingnan natin ang paliwanag niya kung ano ang ibig-sabihin ng pagpili ng “dignidad”, which apparently involves some form of sexual humiliation. Hindi ito ordinaryong “bullying”. And we do a disservice to everyone involved to dismiss it as such.

As a parent, I understand that there is a level of independent self-determination that a parent is entitled to. So at some level, I can understand when a parent tells others not to tell them how to raise their child. But that is not absolute. When the child’s behavior hurts another, and exposes a problem that society would have to deal with, the parents become accountable to others and to society.

Children aren’t chattel. They are human beings that parents have a responsibility to raise as well-adjusted and productive members of society. You can’t raise someone who does monstrous things and unleash it into the world with impunity.

And this goes for other figures of authority, such as schools, teachers and those having supervision of the child in extracurricular activities. Recently, the Boston Globe Spotlight Team produced an audio documentary, entitled “Gladiator”, about the complex factors that led a young, gifted athlete from being a high school varsity hero, to a multi-million dollar professional athlete, to becoming a multiple murderer and, eventually a suicide victim. It revealed an abusive childhood, and an environment that was inclined to overlook his violent tendencies and psychological issues in favor of his athletic abilities.

Every story has a beginning. We are only seeing a snapshot in time of this child’s short life. Surely we can do better than that.

He and his victims all deserve a shot at a better future. They all have to know why it happened, so they can prevent it from happening again. And we, as a society, can better help others who are in the same situation. Otherwise, the cycle will never end. All we’ll be good at is at passing judgment, and collecting internet points.

Office of Senator Leila de Lima
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