Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian on Thursday sought stricter enforcement of anti-cyber bullying measures to protect students from increased exposure to harassment and threats.
Noting how students are now leaning more towards online activities due to quarantine restrictions brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, Gatchalian said the government should strictly implement Republic Act No. 10627 or the Anti-Bullying Act of 2013 which requires all elementary and secondary schools to adopt policies against any forms of bullying.
Gatchalian noted that Filipino students are already hounded by cyber bullying issues but the risk increases as they are now forced to spend more time with their gadgets during this quarantine period.
“Bahagi ng ligtas na pagpapatuloy ng edukasyon sa gitna ng pandemya ang pagsugpo sa bullying (Part of our efforts to continue education even in the middle of a pandemic is preventing incidence of bullying),” said Gatchalian, chair of the Senate Committee on Basic Education, Arts, and Culture.
“Kahit na nananatili ang ating mga mag-aaral sa kanilang mga bahay, patuloy dapat ang ating mga hakbang upang protektahan ang ating mga mag-aaral dahil hindi nawawala ang posibilidad na makaranas sila ng bullying at iba pang anyo ng pang-aabuso at karahasan (Even if our students are inside their homes, we should continue efforts to protect them because there is always a possibility they will experience bullying and other forms of abuse and violence),” the senator stressed.
Under the anti-bullying law, schools are required to have clear strategies and procedures for responding to and reporting acts of bullying, protecting people who report bullying incidents from retaliation, providing counseling, and referring appropriate services for victims, their families, and perpetrators.
The law also mandates the Department of Education (DepEd) to have training programs, courses, or activities to increase knowledge and skills against bullying.
Citing latest report from the National Baseline Study on Violence Against Children, the senator noted that about 43.8 percent of Filipino children aged 13 to 17 have experienced cyber violence. One-third of these were in the form of verbal abuse over the Internet or mobile phones while one-fourth were in the form of sexual messages.
Recalling the results of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) 2018 study, Gatchalian said that out of 79 countries, the incidence of bullying is highest in the Philippines with 65 percent of Filipino high school students experiencing bullying “at least a few times a month.”
The figures, the senator lamented, is way beyond the 23 percent average in other countries that participated in the global survey.
The 2018 PISA study also showed the adverse effects of bullying on both the aggressor and the victim, including poorer academic performance and an increased tendency to skip classes and drop out.
Gatchalian said there is a need to mobilize Child Protection Committees (CPC) to counter all forms of child violence and abuse.
The creation of CPCs is mandated by DepEd Department Order No. 40, Series 2012, the senator said.