MANILA -- Seventeen-year-old "Arwin" (not his real name) has always seen himself as an alpha male.
At age 10, he began throwing his weight around and bullying those younger than him. When people around him called him names, such as "Toyo" or "Suka", he defended himself, albeit in a different way.
"Tinatawag akong ‘Toyo’, ‘Suka’, kaya kinokotongan ko sila, sinusuntok, dahil hindi ako mang-aano kung hindi nila ako inaano (They call me soy sauce, vinegar, so I slightly hit them on the head. I punch them. I don’t do anything to anyone who does not do anything to me)," said Arwin.
The moniker "Toyo" eventually stuck. In Filipino slang, a person is called "toyo", a staple cooking ingredient in Asia, when he is difficult to deal with -- which held true for Arwin.
"Parang ako ang siga dito. Kung may ibang bata na nagpapasaway tapos ayaw magpapigil, binu-bully ko. Medyo pakiramdam ko dapat nila akong sundin (I'm like superior here. I bully kids who are unruly and could not be managed. I somehow feel that they should obey me)," he said.
When asked why he bullies other young people, "Toyo" said he wanted to defend himself and "be known as an untouchable."
"Kapag nakakapanakit ako, hindi ako mapakali. Gusto ko pa dagdagan. Hindi ako kontento na umiyak lang 'yung na-bully ko (When I hurt someone, I feel uneasy. I feel like I want to inflict more pain. I'm not contented that my victim simply cries)," he said.
"Toyo" began with verbal bullying, which worsened into physical bullying when his tweener neighbors called him names.
It went on for years but stopped five years ago when he was imprisoned for stabbing another tweener during a riot inside a church on Christmas Eve.
"Simbang gabi sinaksak ko ng ice pick yung tatlo sa loob ng simbahan. Tumakbo kami sa Talayan Village. 'Yung tito na pulis ng sinaksak ko pinagbabaril ako. Tapos sumigaw siya ng ‘Snatcher!’ Kaya yung mga tao hinabol ako at pinagsusuntok ako (It was dawn Mass. I stabbed the three with an ice pick inside the church. Then my friends and I ran toward Talayan Village. One of those I stabbed has a policeman for an uncle. He fired his gun at me then shouted ‘Snatcher!’ The people chased me and ganged up on me)," he related.
"Toyo" was arrested and turned over to the Molave Youth Home, a center for young people charged with crimes.
At the Home, he became a "big brother", who facilitates the daily routine of more than 80 youths who, like him, are looking forward to having a renewed life.
He was released from the center in November last year when the judge handling his case found no solid evidence that he committed the crime.
The case of "Toyo" is just one of the many bullying incidents in communities and schools.
Bullying has become prevalent in recent years, especially on social media, prompting the passage of Republic Act No. 10627 or the Anti-Bullying Act of 2013.
Latest data on child protection from the Department of Education showed that as of December 2017, the incidence of bullying had decreased nationwide from 29,723 for school year 2015-2016 to 19,672 for school year 2016-2017.
The highest incidence of bullying for 2016-2017 was recorded in the National Capital Region with 3,595 while the lowest was in Region 9 (Zamboanga Peninsula) with 113.
In an earlier interview, Education Undersecretary Anne Sevilla said the decrease in the number of bullying incidents is a result of the department's continuous campaign against bullying, including capacitating teachers and non-teaching personnel on how to handle bullying.
Celebrity psychologist-psychiatrist Randy Misael Dellosa told the Philippine News Agency (PNA) that bullying could be caused by behavioral problems, mental disorders, personality disorders, and family background and issues.
Bullying is the use of one's influence and strength to intimidate others and force them to do what the bully wants, either verbally, physically or socially.
Dellosa noted that most bullies have personality disorders, for instance, a narcissistic or an anti-social personality disorder.
"Those who have a narcissistic personality are arrogant. They think highly of themselves. It’s like they own the world and they own people. So naturally, they look down on everyone else, except those whom they think belong to their level," he explained.
"Those who have an anti-social personality are criminal-minded, rule breakers. Your classmates who steal, who lie, who deceive their parents and teachers and engage in a different level of copying or cheating -- they are the anti-social," he added.
Dellosa said a person can have a combination of both personality disorders, which could result in a very destructive behavior.
He pointed out that to mask their low self-esteem, some youths resort to bullying because of reaction formation, which is considered a psychological factor.
"It’s the opposite of what you feel inside. Because they have low self-esteem, they have to mask it by going the other way. He/she can be weak, insecure inside but aggressive on the outside," he said.
Dellosa added that bullies can also be from families with very authoritative parents or parents who are punitive towards their children.
"The young people would copy authoritarian and aggression from their parents. But it is also possible that they are abused in the family and they have to release their anger, like catharsis since they don’t have someone to talk to. They’ll lash it out physically on their classmates," he said.
While counseling could help in correcting bullies' behavior or disorder, Dellosa said imposing penalties is the best way to teach them a lesson.
"Counseling is sometimes not enough. They revert to what they were. It is important that you talk to the bully and penalize him by ordering him to do something that he dislikes so that he will remember the consequences of bullying and not do it again. For example, let him clean the comfort room if he hates it," he said. (With reports from Lyda Gail Suyu, OJT/PNA)