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House panel OKs anti-bullying bill

The House committee on basic education and culture unanimously approved on Monday a bill requiring elementary and secondary schools in the country to adopt policies against bullying. The committee passed House Bill (HB) 5248 directing schools to have clear guidelines on how to report, investigate and sanction bullying acts on campus grounds and nearby areas such as bus stops. "From the reports we are getting, bullying is getting serious… This bill should be implemented because we want to give our students good experience when they are in school," Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara, one of the bill’s authors, said in an interview on Monday. Other authors of the bill include Sorsogon Rep. Salvador Escudero III, Caloocan Rep. Mary Mitzi Cajayon, and AKO BICOL party-list Representatives Christopher Co, Rodel Batocabe, and Alfredo Garbin Jr. The measure defines bullying 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 causing or placing the latter in reasonable fear of physical or emotional harm."

Forms of bullying The proposed legislation specifically identified punching, pushing, shoving, kicking, slapping, tickling, headlocks, school pranks, teasing, fighting and use of weapons as forms of bullying. The bill also includes cyber-bullying or bullying through the use of technology or electronic devices owned, leased or used by the school. Under HB 5248, the Department of Education (DepEd) is tasked to compile all data on bullying and provide administrative sanctions to school officials who fail to comply with the requirements of the measure. Batocabe, for his part, vowed to push for the passage of the measure before the year ends. "It is a very vital legislation which should be passed, if only to minimize if not totally eradicate bullying in our school system," he said in a separate text message. Plenary deliberations The panel now needs to prepare a report on the measure's approval that will be submitted to the House committees on rules for it to be calendared for plenary deliberations. The measure will then be presented in the plenary, where lawmakers will discuss and vote on the approval of the measure on the floor. After the chamber approves the measure, it will submit the bill to the Senate for consideration. The Senate can either pass its own version of the bill or adopt the bill passed by the House. There are two bills against bullying authored by Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Antonio Trillanes IV currently pending at the Senate. After this, the bicameral conference committee will be convened to reconcile the respective versions of the House and Senate. Once the bicameral committee approves the bill, it will be returned to the House and Senate for ratification. It will then be submitted to Malacañang for the signature of the President. — RSJ, GMA News