A committee in the House of the Representatives has begun discussing the bills seeking to strengthen the Anti-Bullying Act of 2013 (Republic Act No. 10627) and address the continued prevalence of bullying inside and outside of schools.
House Bills Nos. 2321 and 2697 will be consolidated in a single bill as directed by House Revision of Laws committee chairperson and Zambales Representative Cheryl Deloso-Montalla after a hearing on Thursday, July 29.
HB 2321, filed by Leyte Representative Lucy Torres-Gomez, proposes to expand the coverage of the RA 10627 and include acts of bullying against children outside schools.
The current law, Torres-Gomez said, fails to remedy non-school related acts of bullying in the wider community”.
“Experience reveals that there have been many instances of bullying committed in out-of-school contexts,” she pointed out.
In her proposal, the protection against bullying would apply to persons below 18 years old or “those over but are incapable or unable to fully take care of themselves.”
It assigns the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to implement and oversee anti-bullying policies outside schools. Barangay officials shall immediately report any instance of bullying to the local welfare officers.
Meanwhile, HB 2697 authored by Camarines Norte Rep. Marisol Panotes seeks to include teachers, as well as non-teaching personnel, who are being bullied.
“Our teachers may have fallen victims to bullying, ironically, by students,” Panotes said in her bill, citing “disruptive” classroom behavior, vandalism, theft and verbal abuse.
“While teacher bullying of students may pass for school discipline, teachers being bullied by students have no proper avenue to turn to,” she noted.
Aside from students, teachers and non-teaching school personnel may report the act of bullying anonymously.
Representatives of government agencies, academic institutions, and non-government organizations welcomed the proposals, but stressed that any amendment to the Anti-Bullying Act must be in accordance with other existing laws and policies, especially in dealing with reported bullies.
Under the law, bullying is defined as “any severe or repeated use by one or more students of a written, verbal, or electronic expression, or a physical act or gesture…directed at another student that has the effect of actually causing or placing reasonable fear of physical or emotional harm or damage to property.”