Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has expressed concern over the reported incidents of bullying involving Filipino youth even as she called on the authorities to seriously probe the occurrences to find out its root cause.
A known human rights defender here and abroad, De Lima underscored the importance of knowing why bullying happened in the first place to find ways that would prevent it from happening again.
“This isn’t schoolyard bullying, this sounds like expert-level sadism. He learned it from somewhere,” she said in her recent Dispatch from Crame No. 239.
“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?” she asked.
De Lima’s statement was issued after several videos of a student from the Ateneo de Manila Junior High School showing him verbally and physically assaulting another teen inside their campus became viral on Facebook.
One of the videos showed the student asking his schoolmate to choose between “bugbog o dignidad?” only to later proceed to beating up the latter when he refused to answer the question.
To highlight the possible effects of bullying, De Lima cited the Boston Globe Spotlight Team documentary entitled “Gladiator” which showed how a young, gifted athlete turned 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,” she said.
As such, the lady Senator from Bicol said she believes that the actions of children are mere reflection or manifestation of the things that are happening in the society.
“If a child does something ‘bad,’ we have to ask where it is coming from,” she maintained. “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,” she added.
In investigating bullying incidents involving children, the former justice secretary reminded that the goal is “to end the cycle of bullying” and not to shame the bully.
“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,” she said.
“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,” she said.
De Lima said parents should remain accountable to their child’s behavior, especially if it involves other kid/s, saying that children “are human beings that parents have a responsibility to raise as well-adjusted and productive members of society.”