Issue of January 13, 2019
Mt. Province

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Two sides of a coin

I saw the viral video shown on the Internet about the alleged teenage bully from Ateneo de Manila University Junior High School who beat up his schoolmate inside a toilet within their campus. It surprised me that the aggressor is much smaller and leaner than the one allegedly bullied. It surprised me more that the victim simply gave up on the fight without putting up a solid defense against the assault.

Well, what was pretty much obvious was that the alleged bully was versed in martial arts whereas the other was not. That probably explains why the fight was so one-sided and why the bullied student saw the futility of retaliating and instead, allowed himself to be mauled. This was the version seen on YouTube.

Reports have it that after an in-house investigation by the management of the Ateneo de Manila University, the bully was expelled from the school and was barred from ever enrolling with any other educational institutions that is affiliated with it. One incident and one wrong move, therefore, ruined his life. His parents tried to plead for mercy and reconsideration, citing that their son was only trying to vindicate his dignity, but to no avail. The school was under public pressure to impose the supreme penalty of expulsion which, eventually, it did without compunction.

In the bar of public opinion, the bully deserved to be expelled. He nor his parents deserve no compassion, it is the only way to deal with bullies. To let them know that their aggression has no place in a society that always sides with the underdog. If there is one who deserves sympathy, it is the victim who was not only beaten “black and blue,” but more so publicly humiliated by the incident that transpired between him and his schoolmate.

I agree with the sentiment of the public. I am disturbed, though, by the thought that it was only the side of the alleged victim that was heard. The side of the bully was not aired, neither was he interviewed by the media. Of course, the sensitivity of the issue demands that the victim must be vindicated. However, there are always two versions of a story. Ironically, the side of the aggressor is not known by those who judged him.

The incident reminds me of the country song entitled “Coward of the County” that was popularized by Kenny Rogers in the early 1980s. Parts of the refrain sing that “sometimes you have to fight to be a man.”

What if the alleged Ateneo bully was the victim and he had to use his martial arts skills to burst out his years of pent-up emotions? What if he was the bullied and he only retaliated to release his frustration? This was the angle explained by a witness in an exclusive interview via the news program 24 Oras last Tuesday.

I am not trying to justify the acts of a bully. We have laws against it and, should it be found out that, indeed, there is bullying, by all means, let him suffer the consequences. Yet we, too, have laws on due process. Antecedent thereto is the law on the presumption of innocence.

It is so easy to convict a bully in the bar of public opinion. After all, the incident was caught directly on camera. If only based on this, he deserves public condemnation. Still, there are things that precede the film and there are things that must be heard before judgment is passed. Yes, it is so easy to waylay the rule on due process and presumption of innocence because of emotional disquisitions.

Nonetheless, imagine, what if you or your son is in the position of the bully? Would you not want fairness? Would you not cry for justice? In the end, we must not rush judgment because it might ruin the lives of other people. Remember, there are always two sides of a coin.

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