“(The) ACT will be taking legal action. It’s clear that the teachers’ basic rights were violated, including the right to privacy,” ACT Rep. Antonio Tinio said yesterday.
ACT mulls charges vs spying cops
(The Philippine Star) - January 9, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), a party-list group representing public school teachers, is mulling the filing of criminal charges against police officers spying on their ranks.

“(The) ACT will be taking legal action. It’s clear that the teachers’ basic rights were violated, including the right to privacy,” ACT Rep. Antonio Tinio said yesterday.

Officials of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Department of the Interior and Local Government, which is supervising the police organization, would be included in the complaint, according to Tinio.

Among the charges are violations of the Data Privacy Act and the Election Code, since the memos issued by three police intelligence officers on the “inventory” of ACT members referred to the elections in May, he said.

Tinio added that the listing was made “in the context of the midterm elections.”

He expressed suspicion that the police action was intended to prevent the victory of the ACT in the party-list race.

Currently, ACT has two lawmakers in the House of Representatives.

“We are not criminals. We do not violate the law. The Constitution protects the formation of the ACT and our membership in it. It also protects our freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of organization and trade union rights,” Tinio said.

No problem

PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde sees no problem if the ACT will file charges against them, but warned that they can also lodge counter-charges against the left-leaning group.

“It’s their right, isn’t it? I think it’s up to anybody,” Albayalde told reporters in mixed English and Filipino yesterday.

The PNP chief, however, reminded the group that they are also free to file cases against them.

“That’s how it is here, but then again, you have to make sure because we can always go back on them. For what? Perjury,” he said.

Albayalde insisted there is nothing wrong in what their operatives have been doing, which he described as just intelligence gathering.

“There is noting written in the law that intelligence-gathering is illegal. Remember, the state has the mandate or responsibility to protect its citizens from the enemies of the state,” he said.

For Albayalde, their intelligence officers were just doing their jobs after the admission of Communist Party of the Philippines founder Jose Maria Sison that the ACT is among their legal front organizations. The order came from the PNP Directorate for Intelligence.

Albayalde added that the subjects of profiling and intelligence-gathering are not automatically considered as guilty of any crime.

“We want to separate people here. Not all members of the ACT are supporting the left,” he said.

According to Albayalde, they are not discounting the possibility that some teachers from ACT are recruiting students to join the New People’s Army. He cited an encounter in 2017 in Batangas where a college student was among the rebels killed.

“The burden is now upon members of the ACT to dissociate themselves from this terrorist organization and denounce its infiltration, manipulation and use of the ranks of Filipino educators,” he said.

Probe sought

As this developed, the Makabayan bloc of seven leftist party-list lawmakers yesterday asked the House of Representatives to investigate the reported spying by the police on activist public school teachers.

In a resolution, the group cited memos issued by at least three police intelligence officers in Manila, Quezon City and Zambales asking school officials for a list of ACT members.

ACT is one of five party-list organizations grouped under Makabayan.

The leftist lawmakers said the memos “have crossed the line in profiling and engaging in partisan politics by targeting individuals, organizations and candidates on the basis of mere allegations.”

“These could be used to attack individuals, organizations and candidates by state forces, and to campaign against parties and candidates arbitrarily being linked to the communist movement,” they said.

President Duterte has accused some leftist groups of being fronts of the local communist movement.

Albayalde has implicitly confirmed the listing of activist teachers by relieving his intelligence officers in one police station in Manila, another in Quezon City and in Zambales for the “leakage” of their memos.

ACT members protested in front of Camp Crame yesterday to denounce police spying on their ranks.

“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 the PNP sows terror in our schools and communities,” the group said.

“The PNP has clearly been caught red-handed. After initially denying that such a memorandum exists, they have now turned to making outlandish claims about how this is part of their mandate and regular operations. This is an alarming attempt to normalize their illegal activities, going so far as to claim that anyone might be subjected to such operations,” it said.

The group urged the government “to do its mandate to protect the people and hold those who violate our rights accountable.”

Other leftist party-list organizations said police spying on teachers is part of the Duterte administration’s alleged penchant for violating human rights.

‘Hands off our teachers’

Meanwhile, militant youth groups have condemned the PNP for profiling ACT members, telling law enforcers: “Hands off our teachers!”

The National Union of Students of the Philippines (NUSP) yesterday said the activity, which was discovered after supposed memos of the profiling were leaked to the public, is an expression of the government’s desperation to quell any form of resistance.

“Our teachers have successfully championed campaigns for higher salary and students’ rights, and are still continuing to impart patriotism and critical thinking to students,” the NUSP said.

“The profiling serves as the government’s reaction to scare away nationalism and sense of justice from the students’ and teachers’ minds. It also serves as a pretext to offenses against our educators and their right to unionize,” it added.

The NUSP recalled how the government tagged schools as alleged breeding grounds of communists in a supposed attempt to stop protests against Duterte’s policies.

“The union is firm in its belief that academic institutions should be zones of peace and academic freedom,” the group said.

“The state’s infiltration of its crackdown in schools poses threats to students and teachers, but we will not waver in our fight to defend our schools and to end fascism that exists inside and outside our campuses,” it added.

Meanwhile, Kabataan party-list called on the youth to stand with their teachers in light of the attacks.

“This is a crackdown against progressive teachers who have called for free education, salary increase, better working conditions and championing teachers’ welfare,” the party-list group said.

“It only incites fear among teachers and normalizes the mentality of blind obedience in teaching, instead of the role of our teachers to inculcate critical thinking and nationalism in the minds and hearts of the youth,” it added.

Endorsement recalled

In a related development, the Department of Education (DepEd) said its division in Manila, which earlier endorsed the inventory of ACT members, has been directed to recall its letter sent to school heads in the city.

It said no official request for information has been received by the central office, saying any inter-agency request for personal information of individuals shall be evaluated based on existing laws and regulations, including the Data Privacy Act.

“A letter addressed to school heads was issued by one school division office through an acting division superintendent, forwarding a purported memorandum from a PNP unit.  In consultation with the concerned regional office, the recall of this forwarding letter has been directed,” the DepEd said.

“Initial feedback from the field shows there is no other similar forwarding letter which has been issued by any other DepEd local unit,” it added.

Various groups, including the ACT, have criticized the DepEd division in Manila for endorsing the letter.

The Teachers’ Dignity Coalition (TDC) has called on the DepEd to uphold the confidentiality and privacy of records of its employees and protect them from harm and danger.

“The right and freedom to organize and non-discrimination are enshrined in the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers, a law which the DepEd has a mandate to implement,” TDC Metro Manila president Nono Esguerra said.

For its part, the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) said the reported profiling of teachers is alarming as it violates rights to privacy and association, which are guaranteed freedoms, among others, in the Constitution. – With Jess Diaz, Emmanuel Tupas, Janvic Mateo, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Jose Rodel Clapano, Mayen Jaymalin, Artemio Dumlao

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