COPS, UNDER FIRE FOR TEACHER-ALLIANCE HARASSMENT
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), a collective association of public and private school teachers, cries foul against the alleged actions of the Philippine National Police, “openly” profiling them in their own accord—all based in a supposed memorandum ordering police units to do so.
ACT protested thus, in front of the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame on Monday, condemning the actions taken against the will of their members.
“The singling out of ACT members in PNP’s profiling is enough cause for alarm, especially with the state’s track record of violent suppression of dissent. We cannot sit idly by as PNP sows terror in our schools and communities,” Raymond Basilio, ACT Philippines secretary general said in a statement.
PNP confirmed the reports that certain officers are in duty to profile members of ACT. PNP Director General Oscar Albayalde has relieved three intelligence police officers—not for the moves they did to the ACT members, but for the “scary,” or wrong method of gathering information.
Albayalde corrected the mistakes of his inferiors, citing that as an intelligence officers, there should be no leak of operations which might result to unnecessary panic. “You have to do a good job discreetly,” he said.
The relief of intelligence officials from Santa Cruz and Manila police stations; Batasan and Quezon City police stations; and another in Zambales province came after the complaints ACT voiced out the weekend against PNP’s openly profiling its members.
Visits to Harrass
Carrying a memorandum signed by Chief Insp. Rexson Layug, intelligence chief of the Santa Cruz police station in Manila, police officers, some reportedly in civilian clothes, had visited at least six public elementary and high schools—in Manila alone.
In other provinces, same intelligence gathering had also taken place: in Bulacan, Sorsogon, Camarines Sur and Agusan del Sur.
Basilio insisted that PNP was justifying surveillance, even though it is a threat against the teacher’s rights.
“We have the right to live freely and what they are doing does not fall under the ‘normal’,” he added.
ACT has been critical against the Duterte administration, noting the incompetence of the president to raise the wages of teachers while on the other hand, PNP has received financial and moral support to sustain the war on drugs.
The PNP has been criticized since the beginning of the administration’s crackdown on illegal drugs after it came up with “drug watch lists” considered a target list for extrajudicial killings.
The teachers-union drew support from human rights lawyers and other collective associations alike, denouncing PNP’s insensitive intelligence gathering.
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said that, the PNP violated the ACT members’ constitutional rights to privacy and association.
CHR spokesperson Jacqueline Ann de Guia said in a statement on Sunday that reports that the PNP was profiling public and private school teachers were “alarming.”
The National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) said coming up with the “inventory”—though deemed harmless by police officials—should be seen in the larger context of the crackdown on activists and opposition leaders.
“It’s invasive, discriminatory and amounts to harassment and persecution,” said NUPL national president Edre Olalia.
Karapatan secretary general Cristina Palabay expressed fear that the profiling would lead to prosecution, arrests and even killings, given the trend of “Red-tagging” under the Duterte administration.
“The recent Red-tagging [of] ACT Rep. France Castro and this recent incident come to more than mere coincidence,” Palabay said in a statement.
In November last year, Castro was arrested, along with former Bayan Muna Rep. Satur Ocampo and 16 others, at a checkpoint in Talaingod, Davao del Norte province, for alleged “lumad” (indigenous) child trafficking.
Alliance of Teachers
ACT is a legitimate union of teachers recognized by the Department of Education (DepEd) and other government agencies.
ACT Davao City president Elenito R. Escalante said that the union safeguards and promotes teachers’ right, stating that the alliance is not in any way, an union of criminal hoarders, neither their activities call for to do wrong. “Our championing of the rights and welfare of teachers is no crime,“ he said.
In a rally at the Camp Crame gates on Monday, ACT national chair Benjie Valbuena said the group first learned about the operations after police officers went to Cecilio Apostol Elementary School in Manila on Thursday.
The police officers asked school officials to fill out a “survey form”, intended to gather an “inventory” of ACT members on the faculty.
A teacher took a photo of the “form” and reproduced it for ACT.
The form was a memorandum from the intelligence chief of the Santa Cruz police station ordering the policemen to “conduct an inventory of all public and private school teachers who are members aligned with the ACT.”
The memo showed an example of the database format to be used and cited other memorandums purportedly coming from the Metro Manila regional intelligence division and the “midterm elections of 2019.”
Amid the uproar, the DepEd has ordered the recall of a letter addressed to school heads by the Schools Division Office in Manila that endorsed the PNP memo.