Binay wants anti-bullying law for public officials

MANILA, Philippines – If there is a law protecting students from bullying, Vice President Jejomar Binay believes there should also be an anti-bullying law for public officials like himself. 

The man facing multiple corruption scandals defended anew his refusal to face allegations against him in a Senate inquiry, calling the probe a “snake pit.” 

Minsan nga, naisip ko: kung merong batas na laban sa mga bully sa eskwelahan, dapat din ho sana magkaroon ng batas na 'yung mga bullying public officials ano. Meron sigurong code of conduct naman,” Binay said in an interview over radio DYSM Catarman in Northern Samar on Sunday, April 12. 

(Sometimes, I wonder: if there is a law against bullying in schools, there should also be a law against bullying public officials, or a code of conduct at least.) 

Binay was referring to the Anti-Bullying Act of 2013, which mandates that schools adopt policies addressing bullying inside schools, and that they conduct rehabilitation programs for victims of bullying.  

While running for president in 2016, Binay rejects calls for him to face his accusers at the Senate, and even backed out of a debate with his bitter critic, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, last year. Binay drew flak for the move as he was even the one who challenged Trillanes to the debate. 

The Vice President became a magnet of criticism since a wide range of corruption allegations involving his family came out last year. 

Binay said that the Senate hearings were a form of “bullying,” and demean his post as the country's second highest official. 

Eh ang hitsura eh, parang nahaharap kayo sa husgado o sa piskalya. Pinagsisigawan ka doon, binu-bully ka,” he said. (It seems as if you are facing a judge or a fiscal. They shout at you, they bully you.) 

The Vice President described the Senate probe as “hell.”  

“'Yung iba ho naaatake sa puso. Ewan ko, siguro natutuwa sila sa ganoong ginagawa eh. Pero magtanong-tanong kayo, lalo na ‘yung mga nakapunta na doon, naku, para raw silang napunta sila sa impiyerno. Ang bastusan, grabe.” 

(Some of the witnesses suffer heart attacks. I don't know, perhaps the senators enjoy what they are doing. But if you ask those who go there, oh, it's like they went to hell. It's so disrespectful.) 

Binay maintained that he already responded to the corruption allegations against him through press briefings, speeches, and media interviews. A lawyer, he reiterated that the courts are the proper forum to address the charges. 

Critics though believe that Binay should be open to scrutiny and criticism as he vies to become president. Binay remains the frontrunner in surveys on the 2016 presidential race. 

Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, who leads the Senate blue ribbon sub-committee probe, had a simple response to Binay's proposal. 

“Okay, once such an [anti-bullying law for public officials] is passed, then we all should follow it," Pimentel told Rappler. 

The author of the anti-bullying law for students, Senator Juan Edgardo Angara, said: "The difference is public officials can defend themselves, unlike the children who are bullied in school who are often defenseless." 

Some netizens reacted strongly to Binay's proposal: 

@mindanaoan if they can't stand the heat, then they can look for another career. @philippinebeat @ayeemacaraig @M_i_c_h_a_e_l — Pinoymommy (@pinoymommy) April 14, 2015 

@philippinebeat @ayeemacaraig @M_i_c_h_a_e_l Politics is not for the onion skinned. — Irene Mindanaoan.com (@mindanaoan) April 14, 2015 

@philippinebeat @ayeemacaraig It would help if they gave their definition of bullying. Criticism and bullying are not the same thing. — M i c h a e l (@M_i_c_h_a_e_l) April 14, 2015 

'2016 is about competence' 

The Vice President painted his presidential campaign as one that values competence. 

Binay repeatedly harps on his experience as mayor of Makati, the country's financial district, for 21 years to present himself as a skilled leader. 

Ang pagiging pangulo po ay napakaiksi lamang na panahon, anim na taon lang po iyan, hindi po dapat na ang pangulo saka pa lang mag-aaral, matututo kung paano ang krisis. Ang kasabihan nga po sa Tagalog ay, pagka-walang karanasan, hindi sanay, baka mahimatay sa problema o kaya magkulong at hindi haharap sa tao, diba?” 

(Being president is such a short stint, only 6 years. A president should not study the position and learn about crisis when he is already on the job. The saying goes: if the person has no experience, or is not used to a job, he or she might just faint when there is a problem or lock himself or herself, and refuse to face people, right?) 

The leader of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance said competence is crucial, relating this to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) integration this year. 

“Education is so important because the ASEAN integration is already starting. We need to rely on a leader who is competent and skilled, and can create many jobs,” he said. 

He said local leaders make the best presidents. 

“Local government is the best training. Even in America, look at their national officials, those who were successful were former governors so local officials [are the best]. The job is the same. Even if the presidency has a wider scope because you are serving the whole country, the departments are the same. You handle people, and not just staff in the office,” he said. 

Even while the official campaign period is still months away, Binay is already talking about forming his own Cabinet. 

“The Cabinet members should be those who were successful Cabinet members, who even if they left government, continued working,” he said.  – Rappler.com 

What do you think about Binay's proposed law, and thoughts on the ideal president? Let us know in the comments section below.