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Look who’s talking: Santiago files bill vs cyber bullies

By Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 04:42:00 04/09/2011

Filed Under: Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Internet, Crime, Legislation, Schools

MANILA, Philippines?How to deal with a juvenile offense that becomes a criminal matter but which involves minors on both sides?

No incident of cyber-bullying?or the use of the new digital technologies by a child or a teen to torment, threaten, harass or otherwise target another child or teen?has yet been reported in the Philippines.

But Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago isn?t taking any chances. She has filed a bill requiring schools to come up with concrete policies to address bullying, including incidents committed through the use of the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones.

New form of bullying

?A new form of bullying is fast emerging with the advancements of technology,? Santiago wrote in the explanatory note to her Senate Bill No. 2677, or the proposed Anti-Bullying School Policy Act.

The Santiago bill defines cyber-bullying as an offense committed ?through electronic devices such as, but not limited to, texting, instant messaging, chatting, Internet and social networking websites.?

In other countries, children have killed each other and committed suicide after having been involved in a cyber-bullying incident.

In the United States, a 13-year-old girl hanged herself after getting harassing e-mails, while a male student killed himself after a schoolmate posted online a footage of his liaison with another man.

Power imbalance

What Santiago wants is for schools to get involved by addressing cyber-bullying and disciplining the student for cyber-bullying actions.

?Cyber-bullying happens in a realm where state power is weak and where very few laws are passed for regulation,? the senator said.

?When there is institutional recognition of this power imbalance among students, there will be more and better venues to address incidents of bullying,? she added.

?A direct correlation with the reduction of bullying incidents is the increase in awareness and concern among school administrators of these incidents, and the positive action of providing venues for parents, faculty and school officials to report such incidents to authorities,? Santiago said.

The proposed measure requires the creation of school policies that would provide a ?process for addressing incidents of bullying,? allow ?anonymous reporting? and parents and guardians to file written complaints, and teachers and other school employees to report cases to the school administration.

Keep a record

The bill would also want schools to keep a record of ?relevant information and statistics on acts of bullying? so long as the names of bullies would be made available only to school administrators, teachers and parents or guardians of victims.

Within six months after the enactment of the proposal, schools will be required to submit their proposed policies to the Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education or the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority.

These three agencies will impose sanctions on schools that fail to comply with the anticyber-bullying measure.

?The quest for equality among persons and the advancement of human rights start from basic education, where children learn the values of cura personalis [the Jesuit principle of caring for the whole person] and being men and women for others from their teachers and apply what they?ve learned to their classmates and friends,? Santiago said.

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