Amicus Curiae

Nathan J. Marasigan

The Anti-Bullying Act of 2013: Finally, a Law we need

Nathan J. Marasigan

March 06, 2014

On September 12, 2013, Republic Act No. 10627, entitled “An Act Requiring All Elementary And Secondary Schools To Adopt Policies To Prevent And Address The Acts Of Bullying In Their Institutions” was signed by President Aquino, officially placing executive imprimatur on the Bill passed by the 15th Congress.

Also referred to as the “Anti-Bullying Act of 2013”, the law defines the act of 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” that is “directed at another student.” Furthermore, such use must have 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.”

The law includes a non-exclusive enumeration of such acts of bullying, thus:

  • Any unwanted physical contact between the bully and the victim like punching, pushing, etc. and the use of available objects as weapons;
  • Any act that causes damage to a victim’s psyche and/or emotional well-being;
  • Any slanderous statement or accusation that causes the victim undue emotional distress like directing foul language or profanity at the target, name-calling, etc.; and
  • Cyber-bullying or any bullying done through the use of technology or any electronic means.

Under the law, all elementary and secondary schools are required “to adopt policies to address the existence of bullying in their respective institutions.”  Such policies shall be regularly updated and must include certain provisions as a minimum. One such provision is a prohibition on bullying in both school premises and in non school-related locations, if the act/s in question create a “hostile environment” at school for the victim, infringe on his rights or disrupt the educational process. A provision prohibiting retaliation against those who report bullying and through a system of anonymously reporting bullying acts is also required.

Schools covered are mandated by the law to “identify the range of disciplinary administrative actions that may be taken” against a bully which should be commensurate to the gravity of his offense. Clear procedures are also mandatory for: (1) Reporting acts of bullying or retaliation; (2) Responding promptly to and investigating reports of bullying or retaliation; (3) Restoring a sense of safety for a victim and assessing the student’s need for protection; (4) Protecting from bullying or retaliation of a person who reports acts of bullying and (5) Providing counseling or referral to appropriate services for perpetrators, victims and appropriate family members these students.

Notably the law is confined to acts of bullying between students. Department of Education Order No. 40, or the DepEd Child Protection Policy, however, places administrative sanctions on teachers and school officials who humiliate, and in a sense, bully their students. Public school teachers who fail to perform a duty under the law will be imposed administrative sanctions, while those in private schools will be sanctioned in accordance with their own procedures. The permits to operate of non compliant private schools will likewise be suspended. The Department of Education is currently in the process of drafting the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the law.

For a country known for its antiquated laws still in force, and a legislature infamous for (among other things) passing reactive laws only after a problem’s devastating effects are made public, the Anti-Bullying Act is a refreshingly progressive piece of legislation finally up to date with current global trends. In the United States, for instance, advocates of Anti-Bullying Legislation have sought to establish the detrimental effects that bullying has on a national scale. Bullying is not a simple issue that only the child and his family have to face; it can grow into an economic and even health care dilemma for government. As U.S. Associate Attorney General Tony West simply puts it, “when students are bullied, the entire nation pays the price”.

The argument’s logic is clear. A child bullied in school will exhibit long-lasting psychological defects well into adulthood.  A new study published in Psychological Science, the flagship Journal of the prestigious Association for Psychological Science, shows that serious illness, struggling to retain a regular job, and poor social relationships are just a few of the adverse manifestations in adulthood faced by those exposed to bullying as a child. The study observed that these adults were more than twice as likely to have difficulty in either keeping a job or saving their income compared to those not exposed to bullying.  Consequently, there was a higher likelihood of their being impoverished in young adulthood. Contrary to early misconceptions, therefore, bullying is not just harmless child’s play. It has the potential of becoming a serious generational problem of national proportions, which fortunately is precisely what the Anti-Bullying Act of 2013 addressed.

(The author is an Associate of the Litigation and Dispute Resolution Department of the Angara Abello Concepcion Regala & Cruz Law Offices. He may be contacted through email at <njmarasigan@accralaw.com> or Tel. No. [632]830-8000. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author. This article is for general informational and educational purposes only and not offered as and does not constitute legal advice or legal opinion).