Palace orders Ateneo bullying probe

DAVAO CITY, Philippines — Malacañang wants the bullying incident at the Ateneo de Manila University (ADMU) junior high school investigated.

“I think we should investigate this. The school should look into the incident and do something about it. You cannot allow bullying inside the classroom and school. Besides, there is a law against that,” presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said.

A video of the incident showing a student challenging his schoolmate to a fight in the toilet went viral online.

“I watched that. I was bothered by what I saw. I think they should investigate why there was such a one-sided fight, given the fact that the one was much smaller,” Panelo said at a press briefing at Malacañang.

He added that something could have triggered the fight, as some said “the child should undergo psychiatric test.”

Enforce anti-bullying policies

The Department of Education (DepEd) reminded private schools to enforce anti-bullying policies following the incident at the Ateneo.

The DepEd cited existing policies and guidelines, including Republic Act 10627 or the Anti-Bullying Act of 2013 and its Child Protection Policy institutionalizing zero tolerance against any form of violence against children.

“The law underscores that bullying prevention program in schools should be comprehensive and multifaceted and should involve all education stakeholders and personnel,” the DepEd said.

“Schools must develop intervention strategies such as counseling, life skills training, education and other activities that will enhance the psychological, emotional and psychosocial well-being of the victims, bullies and other parties who may be affected by the bullying incident,” it added.

The DepEd said private schools that fail to comply with the law may face penalties.

It also urged learners who experience or witness bullying, abuse, or retaliation to speak up and report these incidents to their peers, parents, teachers, and the authorities for proper intervention.

“Any information relating to the identity and personal circumstances of the bullies, victims or witnesses should be treated with utmost confidentiality by the child protection policy and the school personnel,” the DepEd said.

Expulsion

In a statement released on Thursday night, ADMU president Jose Ramon Villarin assured the public that they were not treating the matter lightly.

“Let me be clear: the school does not condone such behavior. We have our codified standards of conduct and all students are made aware of these and their rights and responsibilities,” Villarin said.

“The school is not silent on its stand on violence and it will not hesitate to impose the penalty of dismissal or even expulsion in cases of grave misconduct,” he added.

Ateneo junior high school principal Jose Salvador said they have initiated an investigation after the video of the incident went viral online.

Ateneo officials called on the public not to share the video.

Respect for others

The Philippine Taekwondo Association (PTA) also condemned the bullying incident, which involved a taekwondo practitioner.

“Modesty is one of the five tenets of taekwondo that is being taught to all taekwondo practitioners from the first day of training,” said PTA vice president Danilo Mojica.

“Our association reiterates its objective to teach all taekwondo practitioners self-respect and respect for others,” he added.

Senators condemn bullying

Senators lamented the bullying incident at the Ateneo as they called for greater public action against similar incidents in the future.

Senator Nancy Binay said the bullying must be condemned but stopping it must not follow its footsteps.

“We must condemn all forms of bullying. But what’s bothersome is the vicious cycle of bullying. Bullying does not end by bullying the bully. It only worsens the culture of hate,” Binay said.

Senators Risa Hontiveros and Paolo Benigno Aquino IV called on authorities of the Ateneo and other educational institutions to keep their campuses free of bullying.

Hontiveros lamented the incident happened in her alma mater, whose motto is “to be men and women for others.”

“I urge the Ateneo to discipline the offender and immediately see to the healing of the victim,” she said.

Aquino said school authorities, parents and youth leaders should take bullying seriously.

“It seems we are failing to provide the proper guidance to our children – on treating each other with respect, dignity and love,” he said.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said understanding should be extended not only to the victims of bullying but to the bullies themselves.