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Filipino lawmaker wants to punish people for ghosting

Ghosting — when someone cuts off all online communication with another without an explanation — is the subject of a proposed bill in the Philippines. (iStock)

MANILA — A Filipino lawmaker wants “ghosting” — the act of abruptly severing communication without explanation — to be declared an emotional offense.

Arnolfo Teves Jr., a member of the Nationalist People’s Coalition, which is allied with the ruling administration, says that “ghosting is a form of spite that develops feelings of rejection and neglect” and should be considered an abusive act.

The proposed bill, which was put forward last month but shared publicly this week, does not suggest any penalties, although it does say the act “should be punished.”

The proposal has sparked amusement on social media — but also criticism that it is a distraction as the country faces a cost of living crisis.

In the document entitled “An act declaring ghosting as an emotional offense,” Teves claims that ghosting is a form of cruelty prevalent in today’s world. He says that, thanks to technology, “the realm of dating has changed exponentially compared to previous years,” which means people are easily able to cut ties with one another — without considering the other person’s feelings.

“The ambiguity with ghosting,” the bill’s explanatory note declares, “is that there is no real closure between the parties concerned. The bill says “it can be likened to a form of emotional cruelty.”

Ghosting, Teves says, is an act that is “mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting” for victims. The bill also notes that ghosting can lead to “ridicule” and “humiliation,” and that victims are likely to suffer emotional turmoil as a result of being ghosted by another person.

Those who have been ghosted in their lifetime say the phenomenon is cruel and baffling. Experts say those who are guilty of ghosting do so for a number of reasons, including being scared of having difficult conversations, sensing the other person could react dangerously, and believing it is kinder than an outright rejection.

We asked for your ghosting stories. Here they are.

The bill, in its current form at least, is unlikely to pass. It is unclear whether the proposal will have any legal effects. For a bill to pass, it needs to pass three readings and garner support in the House of Representatives and the Senate. Many proposals languish or are forgotten, especially if they are not deemed a priority.

On social media, reaction to the proposed bill was mixed. While some found the proposal entertaining, others pointed out that government officials should be focusing on more pressing issues, such as inflation — which surged to its highest level in almost four years in the Philippines last month.

“House bill creating department of ghostbusters is next,” read one Facebook comment. Another pointed out there were “bigger problems in our country today.”

Arjan Aguirre, an instructor at Ateneo de Manila University’s political science department, was also among those noting that the bill may be an attempt to distract from wider issues facing the country, including the coronavirus pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis.

In a statement to The Washington Post on Tuesday, Aguirre accused Teves of using the bill “to get public attention and media mileage.”

“It is a calculative move to make him popular and be part of the public conversation,” Aguirre said, adding that Teves has a history of stirring public debate with controversial proposals.

Teves did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Earlier this month, Teves proposed renaming the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila after the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos, whose two-decade regime saw tens of thousands of human rights violations and plundered the country of up to $10 billion. Benigno Aquino Jr., the current namesake, was an opposition senator critical of Marcos who was assassinated in the airport when he returned from the United States.

The bill was widely criticized by survivors of martial law and interpreted as an attempt to curry favor with the newly instated president, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., who won in a landslide election in May.

Hassan reported from London.


A previous version of this article misstated Arnolfo Teves Jr.’s name. The article has been corrected.