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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, January 4, 2019
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Come To Think Of It
with Carlos Antonio L. Leonardia

Bully Boy


I normally list down topics to discuss every time they make me come to think of it and based on the number of controversies in the past few days, over the holiday break for people with deadlines, it would seem that 2018 went out with a big bang.

Over the last two weeks of the old year and the first few days of the new year, the following topics have become more or less viral: the Ateneo high school bully, the litterbugs of Rizal Park, the case of the missing President on Rizal Day, how the people of Negros were spared by Typhoon Usman but other parts of the country weren’t so lucky, and that tasteless and disgusting “joke” of President Duterte of how he attempted to finger his sleeping helper in his teenage years.

I’m not sure if I’m turning into a pessimist but none of these issues that caught my attention at the tail end of 2018 are making me feel good about the humanity of Filipinos and the quality of the leadership in this country. It would be nice if a new year can automatically bring renewal to the land, that attitudes can change and lost values can be found as easily asswapping calendars. However, we must be realistic and admit that will happen only if those who see and feel strongly that something is wrong take the time and effort to point out the disturbing behaviors in the hope that those who find it normal and ordinary come to their senses before it’s too late.

The bully issue naturally caught my attention because of the age of the kid and the school he came from. The bully who went viral because of videos of his antics is about the age of my son and he is a student of The Ateneo. This is The Ateneo my friends, a school so prestigious that probably it probably deserves insisting on including a “The” before its name.The newest bully issue highlighted how these kind of people can flourish in even the most decent and supposedly upright institutions of our land.

If a bully can lord over his peers in Ateneo, one of the premiere educational institutions in the country, bullying must be a reality for many other young children in schools all over the country. This particular bully got caught because he and his friends had the audacity to take videos and were stupid enough to allow those trophy videos to be unleashed on the internet.

It is interesting to note that while Filipinos can stomach the antics of a bully septuagenarian President, most people who saw the bullying videos were outraged and it wasn’t long before the young bully learned of the awesome power of karma, social media style.

The backlash was exponential and immediate. The bully was bashed thoroughly on social media, with many going overboard. It was painful to watch a kid get so much hate but his videos were also painful to watch so he didn’t get any sympathy from me. I did draw the line when bashers dragged his family members into the mess, including his younger sister and older brother who are also minors. But what can you expect from your countrymen who are routinely exposed to the rude behavior and bullying tactics of its leaders? Monkey see, monkey do. It is no coincidence that the kid and his haters thought bullying was cool when they see their dear leader get away with similarly disgusting antics.

Ateneo caved to the public pressure and kicked the bully out. That kid is now somebody else’s problem and I hope that his parents have it in them to use this experience to make him a better person. But if you come to think of it, getting kicked out of Ateneo isn’t the end of the world because a certain Rodrigo Duterte was also a failed product of the same school system and look where he is now. If Filipinos don’t learn, that bully kid who is disgraced today could be president one day. All he needs is the audacity to make promises he can’t keep, act even tougher than he is, and probably get a law degree and work a better campaign slogan than “Bugbog o Dignidad?”

The bully boy and our collective reaction to him, including the automatic response of either bullying him back or the display of indifference towards everyone involved in the bully-fest gives us a glimpse of the kind of people we have become. We don’t like bullies but we act like bullies. We don’t like being bullied but when it’s not us being bullied, it’s not our problem. When a bully that is caught red-handed starts appealing for forgiveness, some of us are quick to give them another chance without even demanding remorse and accountability. We say we hate bullies but we allow bullying of all forms to flourish in this country. Heck, some of us even continue clapping and hooting when our pambansang bully launches an irrational tirade against one of the people he doesn’t like or finds a new target to “joke” about.

Well I’m still stuck on the bullying issue and I’ve already run out of space. I guess I’ll save my comments on the other topics for later.

In the meantime, Happy New Year everybody.

I hope we all change for the better this 2019. Even just a little bit.*  

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