In Bullying Around the World

Bullying in the Philippines

Bullying has been recognized as a major threat to the younger generation in almost every country in the world. Despite the beauty and charm of this developing country, the Philippines has struggled with bullying issues for years. School bullying, workplace bullying, sibling bullying and cyberbullying all plague Filipino society.

In the 2013-14 school year alone, the Department of Education (DepEd) in Manila documented over 1,700 bullying and child abuse cases, even after passing anti-bullying legislation. Fortunately, 60% of these cases are currently resolved.

According to Secretary of Education Armin Luistro, bullying in Philippines can take on a number of forms to include peer bullying, gender discrimination, physical violence, public ridicule, sexual harassment and psychological abuse. When it comes to tackling bullying issues, Luistro feels that “Bullying and other forms of violence in schools should be viewed not just as a school problem but as a societal problem as well.”

Role of Anti-Bullying Legislation in Filipino Schools

Anti-bullying legislation has helped promote bullying awareness among Filipino society. This is a major step in putting a stop to bullying and protecting young people in the country. The Anti-bullying Act of 2013 also helped to promote the development of Child Protection Committees in schools, a vital part of the DepEd’s Child Protection Policy (CPP) to keep young students safe in their learning environment.

School CPCs are comprised of six members to include the school’s principal who acts as chairperson, a guidance counselor, a teacher representative as chosen from the school’s faculty club, a student representative selected by the school’s Supreme Student Council and a representative from the local community, preferably a barangay (district) council member.

Under the Anti-Bullying Act, all schools in the Philippines, both public and private, are required to put no-bullying policies in place to handle issues with this abusive behavior on school grounds. No-bullying policies serve various purposes. First, they provide teachers and staff with a means of identifying and dealing with bullying behavior in school. Bullies know their abusive actions will not be tolerated and that there will be consequences for their behavior. Next, bullying policies encourage students to report bullying behavior knowing that they can count on teachers and staff to provide the help and support they need.

According to Luistro, “… 93 school divisions in seven regions have their respective pool of trainers, who are expected to roll out and to capacitate school personnel in handling child abuse and bullying cases.”

In addition to peer bullying, some students suffer from bullying at the hands of teachers who embarrass or demean them in front of their class. Students who perform poorly, for example, may be chastened or insulted before their peers. No-bullying policies include not tolerating bullying from teachers in Filipino schools. Teachers who humiliate students in public or private face the risk of administrative sanctions by their school as per the DepEd’s Child Protection Policy.

Part of the responsibility of the DepEd is to educate school principals, teachers and staff about child protective policies by conducting special forums, seminars and consultations. Parents, teachers and other adults in the community are encouraged to report school bullying incidences to a school’s CPC so they can instigate an investigation and act on victims’ behalf.

The Philippines’ Anti-Bullying Law of 2013 makes schools responsible for reporting criminal bullying behavior to local police for prosecution. If schools believe perpetrators should be charged for criminal activity under the country’s Revised Penal Code, they are obligated to notify police and the bully’s parents/guardians so disciplinary action can be taken.

Bullying in the Filipino News

Tragic news reports of school bullying cases help to draw public attention to the problem with bullying in Filipino schools. Stories in newspapers, TV and online depict examples of bullying from the primary school level all the way through university.

In October of 2013, 9 year old Fred Aston Mendoza of Tanong Elementary School in the district of Malabon was so brutally beaten by classmates that he had to be hospitalized. The assault caused internal bleeding in the boy’s liver resulting in the need for surgery. A month later the young boy died of his bullying injuries. Ironically enough, this incident of primary bullying occurred a month after Filipino President Benigno Aquino III initiated the Anti-Bullying Act.

In the bullying case of 14 year old Derrick, a high school student, bullying centered on his choice of sexual orientation. Classmates would insult him online or slam him via texts due to him being gay. Because texts came from phone numbers Derrick didn’t recognize, he wasn’t sure who his attackers were. This caused him a great deal of anxiety and fear. At one time, the abuse escalated to such a point that Derrick skipped school for several days. Sadly enough, Derrick had to cope with this ordeal pretty much alone as he didn’t feel confident telling his parents he was a victim of high school bullying.

Many young people cope with school or cyberbullying alone, especially when so called friends are instigating or joining bullying attacks. Student victims often lack confidence in parents or teachers to intervene on their behalf. Studies show that kids who are bullied don’t do well keeping these abuses to themselves. Many wind up committing self-harm acts or resorting to suicide to escape from their troubles.

The widespread use of the Internet and social media make Filipino youth easy targets for cyberattacks. Facebook is such a popular medium in the Philippines that virtually everyone with Internet access uses Facebook to connect with friends. Like millions of fellow Pinoys, 27 year old Raymond Malinay, a university student in Manila, confessed to being a Facebook fanatic. Little did he know that his passion for connecting on Facebook would one day lead to a vicious cyberbullying prank that would malign his character and ruin his reputation.

In July of 2012, Malinay discovered someone had stolen a picture from one of his Facebook albums, altered the photo and made it appear as if he had HIV. The picture was then recirculated online, going viral on Facebook almost instantly. The bully even posted a false statement claiming Malinay was being sought by the AIDS Society of the Philippines for knowingly spreading the disease. In 2 days, the photo had gotten 4,000 shares and was being viewed in countries as far as the U.S.

Public response was quick and vicious with netizens condemning Malinay without even knowing all the facts. The young university student was bombarded with such hateful comments as “You will burn in hell” and “I hope you die; your body will burn in hell.” Malinay responded, “I really don’t know where the issue came from, I don’t have enemies… I’m not gay.”

Shortly after the photo was displayed, Malinay went to a hospital affiliated with the AIDS Society to get tested for HIV in an effort to refute the allegations against him. The test results came out negative, proving the entire episode was a lie. Nevertheless, the damage to his character and reputation had been done.

By sharing these stories with the public, reporters help create greater awareness of bullying problems in the country.

A Realistic Look at Bullying in Philippines

In addition to bullying incidents highlighted in the news, bullying surveys and studies by schools, private organizations and government agencies help paint a realistic picture of the abusive behavior students endure by bullies in school and online. The following bullying statistics are from studies from various sources across the country conducted over several years.

  • According to a recent DepEd report, approximately 31 bullying incidents are reported daily in Filipino schools.
  • “A total of 6,363 cases of bullying in public as well as private elementary and high schools were recorded in 2014,” said Cebu Representative Gerald Gullas, Jr., “up nearly 21 percent versus the 5,236 documented in 2013.”
  • As this figure was based on reported bullying incidences, it could actually be higher, seeing as many students don’t report their abuse due to fear of retaliation.
  • Approximately 228 accounts of “child abuse” were reported in schools in 2014.
  • In its 2012-13 survey, the DepEd reported that 80% of “child abuse” cases pertained to bullying (1,165 incidences out of 1,456)
  • Of primary bullying and high school bullying incidences reported in 2009, cursing, ridiculing and humiliating acts were most prominent
  • A Cyberbullying Research Center survey reported that approximately 20% of Filipino students ages 11-18 were bullied online in 2014.

How to Deal with Bullying

Although CPC’s, no bullying policies and laws against bullying are good measures to prevent bullying in Filipino schools, bullying experts feel more can be done to protect Filipino youth from bullying abuse. Schools need long-term solutions to their bullying problems, i.e. a program that outlines how to stop bullying before it ever starts.

When discussing ways to eliminate bullying behavior, experts felt that education could be the key. Parents and teachers need to teach children moral values that depict acceptable and unacceptable behavior both at home and in the school environment.

At home, parents can discuss how bullying affects their family through such activities as teasing, gossiping, hitting, ridiculing, etc. In school, teachers can incorporate bullying into their school lessons and curriculum, outlining characteristics of bullying behavior such as aggression, imbalance of power, verbal and physical abuse and social exclusion. Rather than look the other way when bullying occurs, schools can put a spotlight on the problem and tackle it head on.

Anti-bullying policies help to establish procedures for handling bullying behavior in school and that’s good.  Schools, however, can go one step further by teaching kids that bullying is unacceptable conduct, not just in school, but anywhere in Filipino society. By building a case against bullying and getting teachers, parents and students behind their no-bullying stance, schools can be a force for good in creating a safe and productive learning environment.

Importance of Modeling Good Behavior

Positive peer pressure can do much to improve a school’s culture and raise students’ moral standards. Even schools that have had a long history of bullying can be changed by students being good role models. Schools should encourage and recognize students who exude good behavior in class, such as being respectful to teachers, being considerate to classmates, volunteering with school projects and tutoring younger students.

Adults should also make an effort to model good behavior. Teachers should treat students with dignity and respect rather than laugh or insult them for their lacks. Parents shouldn’t get into shouting matches with teachers during conferences or make idle threats – all of which occurs in Filipino schools.

Moral values that promote loving, respectful behavior begins at home. Parents can start by being good examples to their children. Studies reveal that bullying is a “learnt” behavior, and many times it’s learned in the home environment. Kids who are verbally or physically abused at home will more than likely take this example with them into the school environment.

Filipino parents who cannot or will not take responsibility for raising their kids (absentee parenting) are contributing to a generation of bullies. In like manner, parents who are extremely lenient and don’t set limits or discipline their kids produce the same results. In contrast, kids raised in a disciplined environment where they are respected and loved rarely resort to bullying; if bullied, they’re more capable of handling the problem.

Working Together to Eradicate Bullying Behavior

In most Filipino schools, student surveys reveal that bullying is often more prevalent than teachers or parents think. Students who fail to report bullying incidents are, in essence, covering up the situation in their schools. By speaking up and reporting bullying activities, victims and bystanders empower school officials to act. Schools should also not hesitate to share the findings of bullying surveys with their teachers, students and parents so everyone can work together to remedy the problem.

Some schools fear that exposing their bullying problem will cause them embarrassment and shame. They don’t want to risk “stirring the pot” of public sentiment against them. Both of these reactions only aggravate the problem. By disclosing bullying information, schools can rally the help and support of local communities on their behalf.

Negative bullying facts speak for themselves. Parents and community leaders who want to see an improvement in their local schools will be open about bullying in their midst so solutions can be found. Students count on the help and support of responsible adults to protect their welfare and preserve the standard of their education.

School teachers and staff can also benefit from training that sheds light on why people bully, what causes bullying, how to recognize bullying signs and how to handle bullying acts. Bullies often have favored hot spots where they corner their victims such as cafeteria, bathrooms, playgrounds and on school buses. School officials should be on the lookout for bullying in these areas and be quick to intervene once bullying starts.

Parents also need to be more in the know about bullying in their kids’ schools. By organizing seminars and programs about bullying for parents, schools can draw them in to help resolve bullying problems. To eradicate bullying from schools, all sectors of society need to be involved. Students should have various resources at their disposal when they need help with bullying issues.

Modern Abuse: Internet Bullying in Philippines

In addition to traditional bullying, modern technology has given rise to a more dangerous means of abuse – that which is conducted online. In an international cyberbullying survey conducted by Reuters in 2012 in which 18,000 people in 24 countries were polled, 80% of participants reported that Internet bullying was a major threat in their home country.

Drs. Sameer Hinduja and Justin Patchin, members of the Cyberbullying Research Center and authors of the book Bullying Beyond the Schoolyard: Preventing and Responding to Cyberbullying, define online bullying as “willful and repeated harm inflicted through the use of computers, cell phones, and other electronic devices.” Victims of Internet bullying can be targeted through mobile phone text messages, chat sites, social media, emails and blogs.

In a country like the Philippines where a large majority of the population enjoys the perks of modern technology, it’s no surprise that online bullying is a problem. Several years ago, the country was dubbed the “Texting Capital of the World” due to the billions of text messages Filipinos sent annually. Today, the country is known as one of the most social nations on the planet, according to Opera’s 2015 State of the Mobile Web report reveals that more Filipinos use their mobile Internet connections for social networking than any other reason.

Web statistics from showed the Philippines ranking in 8th place on a worldwide scale (2012) for Facebook users, with over 27 million Filipinos using the social site. Filipino youth between the ages of 13 and 17 comprise 20% of the country’s Facebook population.

Despite the improvements modern technology has brought to a developing country such as the Philippines, it also has its drawbacks. Over the years, social sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and others have proven to be a ‘virtual playground’ for cyberattacks. Through social media, cyber bullies have been able to expand their reach in spreading hurtful and hateful messages. As Facebook is one of the most popular social sites among Filipino students, it’s no surprise that Facebook bullying has taken its toll in the lives of young people around the country.

Role of the Internet in Cyber Attacks

Internet access is what makes cyberbullying possible. Countries with high connectivity rates such as the U.S., Canada, Australia and the Philippines are more susceptible to cyberbullying than those with low Internet availability. Currently, one third of the world’s populace has online access on a regular basis, according to a report from the International Business Times. As this figure rises, chances are cyberbullying attacks will rise with it.

Online bullying encompasses a wide range of harmful activities ranging from ridicule to cyber stalking and identity theft. By reviewing a basic Internet Safety course, young people can become more familiar with the different types of online bullying they can fall prey to if they’re not careful. These include:

  • Gossip
  • Slander
  • Exclusion
  • Impersonation/Identity theft
  • Harassment
  • Cyberstalking
  • Flaming (Online fights)
  • Trickery (deceiving someone to reveal secrets and exposing these online)
  • Cyberthreats

Cyberbullying Statistics Tell the Tale

Cyberbullying statistics tell the tale of where the Philippines stands in its fight against Internet bullying.  A 2012 online survey conducted by ASK, a group of professional advocates, strategists and keynote speakers who dedicate their services to Filipino society, revealed the following facts about cyberbullying in day to day living.

  • Of adults 18 years and over, 53% said they had been bullied; 47% of minor children (17 and under) confessed to being bullied
  • More female participants were bullied than males (57% vs 43%), regardless of their age
  • The types of bullying most often experienced by victims were attacks on their reputation, appearance and personal opinions. The most common attacks were posting doctored images, circulating private videos and spreading lies.
  • The platforms most often used for bullying activities were Facebook, mobile phone and blogs
  • Of victims who reported the abuse, most confided in friends. Parents and siblings were distant second and third choices.
  • 79% of victims said they were bullied by a single person; 21% were victims of groups of bullies

It was interesting to note that photo-shopped images were a popular means of online bullying in the Philippines as it illustrates how creative bullies are becoming. Identity theft is also a common cyberbullying tactic. Young people are notorious for posting personal information online, especially on social sites. Cyberbullies use this information to cause all kinds of problems.

As Facebook is the #1 social network in the country, it’s not surprising that it was named as the platform used most often for cyberbullying. Cell phone bullying is also quite popular, as bullies can send malicious texts day or night. The fact that Filipino victims were more open with friends about bullying problems shows they trust their friends more than their immediate families.

Outcome of Cyberbullying

According to the Nemours Foundation, the outcome of cyberbullying is always bad. The negative effects can be felt both in the present and future of a young person’s life. It’s not unusual for cyberbullying victims to be susceptible to fear, anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicidal thoughts. The younger the victim, the more vulnerable he or she can be to cyberattacks.

Students who have been bullied often lose their ability to focus on studies, become fearful of attending school and isolate themselves from family and friends. Parents who notice a change in their kids’ behavior should investigate to see if bullying is the cause.

As so many Filipino kids and teens socialize online, parents should have some awareness of what they’re kids are doing and with whom. An open line of communication could save a tween or teen’s life. The link between Internet bullying and behavior problems at home and school is quite strong. Cyberbullying can play on a young child’s mind, causing him or her to feel ‘all is lost.’ The psychological effects of cyberbullying have led many young people to take their lives.

A study conducted by Kimberly J. Mitchell and Michele L. Ybarra, experts in the long term effects of cyberbullying victims, showed that teens who wouldn’t normally act in an aggressive manner in a traditional bullying setting may feel less inhibited online. These experts say, “The anonymity associated with online interactions may strip away many aspects of socially accepted roles, leading the Internet to act as a potential equaliser for aggressive acts.” The fact that online bullying can be so difficult to trace makes it easy for bullies to be as obnoxious or hurtful as they like.

Who Can Be Targeted for Cyberbullying?

Digital technology has made it possible for people to communicate 24/7 via their laptops, tablets or mobile phones. In fact, most people find it difficult to separate themselves from their mobile devices.  Observations from Hinduja and Patchin conclude that today’s young people are virtually addicted to their mobile phones and computers, making them that much more susceptible to cyberattacks.

Young people, however, are not the only ones that suffer from cyber bullies. Even Filipino celebrities such as Sarah Geronimo and Kim Chiu have been in on the act. It’s not uncommon for a celebrity to be the target of online identity theft. People use their personal info and photos to create bogus accounts to bully others. There are even bullies among the stars as well.

The Filipino clique Ampalaya Anonymous composed of such famous personalities as Angel Locsin, Bianca King, Cristine Reyes and Bubbles Paraiso gained notoriety in 2010 for ganging up on actress Pauleen Luna on Twitter. Since then the group has undergone various name changes although many of its members remain the same. Chinese Filipino actress-model Kim Chiu also hit the news for allegedly partaking of cyberbullying activities with some friends.

According to Dr. Virgilio Binghay, a professor of Sociology at the University of the Philippines Diliman, cyberbullying and identity theft is a type of “crab mentality” – a term used in the Philippines to describe individuals who try to pull others down for being more popular or successful than them. Cyberbullies fall into this category of degrading others to fulfill their personal agenda.

Workplace Bullying in the Philippines

In some cases, bullying doesn’t end when students graduate from school. Many Filipinos face bullying problems at work. Although workplace bullying is not a popular topic of conversation, it’s quite prevalent in countries all over the world. In the Philippines, examples of office bullying can be found in a wide range of settings. By learning to recognize the signs of workplace bullying, Filipinos can take action against harassment and intimidating acts.

The distinction between “strong management techniques” and bullying can often be difficult to detect. Sometimes supervisors make comments that appear critical but are actually intended as constructive feedback. If employees are treated unreasonably, however, that’s another story. Unreasonable treatment that’s intent on causing workers mental or physical harm should be reported as bullying.

Such treatment may include:

  • Being subjected to shouting, insults or curses
  • Being the topic of ugly rumors or lies
  • Being ostracized or ridiculed for mistakes repeatedly
  • Having work sabotaged by colleagues or boss
  • Getting disciplined or penalized without cause
  • Being robbed of credit for work done
  • Being refused advancement or promotion when warranted
  • Physical or sexual abuse on the job

Impact of Workplace Bullying

Workplace bullying affects everyone – victim, colleagues, supervisors and the company itself. Bullying on the job is rarely a secretive act. Fellow workers often witness bullying behavior and wonder if they may be next.

Office bullying can cause victims to experience health problems they never had before. The stress and pressure of being bullied can cause high blood pressure, heart problems, insomnia, migraine headaches, ulcers and more. Bullying can also lower the morale and work performance of those who witness the bullying behavior. Hostile environments are rarely good for business.

Resolving Bullying Issues at Work

Victims shouldn’t take workplace bullying lying down. They have recourses they can follow to remedy the problem. If talking to the bully(ies) doesn’t work, victims can report bullying behavior to their supervisor or HR department. It helps for victims to keep a record of bullying incidents to prove their case, in the event supervisors ask for evidence.

Many corporations today recognize the dangers of allowing bullying to continue in their environment. In addition to lowering morale, bullying incidents can lead to worker discontent, absenteeism and even loss of good personnel. Companies that want to retain good workers and keep their reputation intact will take bullying matters seriously when reported. Serious bullying acts could even be a violation of a company’s code of conduct, giving victims better footing in getting issues resolved.

In some companies, bullying may be associated with office politics. Supervisors may use bullying tactics to intimidate employees in an effort to get them to work harder. Supervisors who use fear and intimidation as their motivation to increase work production seldom get the results they want. Such actions only produce discontent and dissatisfaction among workers and loss of employee trust and loyalty. Although office bullying is an occupational hazard that many Filipinos face in their job, it shouldn’t be considered part of the normal business culture.

Elements of Office Bullying and Harassment

Like traditional bullying, office bullying can be detected by specific characteristics and aspects. These include:

Use of power – Supervisors may use their position and power to bully subordinates into doing what they want. In like manner, a tenured employee may use his or her influence to bully those new to the company. In using power, bullies strive to exercise control over other workers to fulfill their personal or business agenda.

Personal animosity – Sometimes personality clashes can lead to bullying due to people not getting along. People with strong personalities often clash with others due to wanting to be in control. Personal dislike may have little to do with a person’s job skills or performance. People can perform well and still be disliked and bullied.

Discrimination – When people are bullied due to their age, gender, race, religion personal appearance or disability, bullying becomes a form of discrimination, which, in many countries, is against the law.

Anti-Office Bullying Act of 2014

In 2014, two law makers, Reps. Rodel Batocabe and  Christopher Co of the party group Ako Bicol made an effort to bring workplace bullying legislation into the Philippines by filing the Anti-Office Bullying Act of 2014.

“While a law has been passed preventing and addressing acts of bullying in educational institutions,” they said, “there still prevails bullying and other similar acts in the workplace. These kinds of acts hamper peace and tranquility in a professional environment and disrupt the delivery of services to the public.”

According to the Batocabe and Co, workplace bullying was overlooked more often than not by employers. They felt legislation would help restore dignity in the workplace and enforce the rights of employees. The proposed law would cover government and private businesses, forcing them to adopt anti-bullying policies that combat intimidation and harassment in the workplace.

The bill defined bullying as “any severe or repeated use by one or more employees of a written, verbal or electronic expression or a physical act or gesture, or both, directed at any person that has the effect of placing the victim in fear of physical or emotional harm or damage to his property.”

Such acts as cursing, name calling, Internet harassment, spreading lies and rumors, negative comments or insults concerning personal appearance and physical violence would all be considered bullying behavior.

Anti-Bullying Act of 2013 (Republic Act)

The Anti-Bullying Act of 2013 was designed to protect children and teens from bullying in Filipino schools. School bullying in the Philippines had risen to such levels that children were in danger of physical and mental harm. Despite measures to keep their children safe at home, parents worried about child safety on school grounds.

Some parents considered home schooling as an alternative to sending their kids to school, especially after seeing the effects of primary and middle school bullying in public schools in their area. The ever-growing threat of bullying behavior against Filipino children what prompted the Philippine government to step in with this legislation.

What Constitutes School Bullying?

The Anti-Bullying Act is quite specific in identifying bullying behavior. This  eliminates possible “loopholes” that bullies can use to escape punishment for their errant conduct. According to the Act, bullying behavior in school – whether physical, verbal or online – is that which results in students experiencing the following:

  • Fear of physical/emotional harm or damage to personal property
  • A negative viewpoint of their school as being an unsafe, hostile environment
  • Violation of their rights
  • Disruption of their studies
  • Breakdown of order and security on school grounds

Under the Republic Act, the definition of bullying extends beyond physical actions such as hitting, kicking, shoving, etc. Bullying also includes behavior that causes emotional or mental turmoil to young people or behavior that taints their character and reputation. Internet bullying has also been addressed in the Act as so much damage has been caused through cyberattacks. As most Filipino students have access to digital technology, they’re quite susceptible to cyberattack. As such, it only makes sense to include cyber offenses in this law.

Children’s Rights under the Republic Act

Children have the right to study within a safe and secure learning environment. Under the Anti-Bullying Act, Filipino schools are liable to keep their students safe on school grounds. The Act also protects students who are attending school programs or functions off school premises. School buses and cars owned by the school are also covered as are school owned electronic devices. A child or teen who uses a school computer for academic purposes is protected from internet bullying under this legislation.

The Republic Act encourages students to report abusive behavior that threatens their personal safety or lowers the standard of their education to school officials. Both victims and witnesses to bullying behavior are protected by the Anti-Bullying Act. This should give bystanders greater confidence to intervene when bullies attack or report them to school officials or local police authorities if the offense warrants criminal investigation.

Schools’ Responsibility Towards Students

Filipino schools have the responsibility to provide a quality education to their students. At the same time, they’re responsible for preserving the safety of those in their care. Children shouldn’t fear going to school due to the threat of bullying from teachers or their peers. The Act makes it clear that bullying will not be tolerated in Filipino schools. By everyone doing their part to prevent bullying behavior, kids can enjoy a safer school environment.

The Philippines has much to look forward to as a newly industrialized Southeast Asian country. The country ranked 97th out of a total of 169 countries in the United Nations annual Human Development Program which measured a country’s quality of life. The assessment was based on the health, education and income of a country’s population.

Taking into consideration the country’s economic growth and technological advances, it’s only natural that the Philippines would take interest in improving its educational system. The passing of the Anti-Bullying Act was the first step toward enhancing the educational standard in Filipino schools. By curtailing bullying in its schools, the Philippines can protect younger generations from this abusive behavior and ensure they receive the quality education they deserve.

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