“This is just a first step of a host of legal actions that we will undertake against the illegal profiling, intimidation and harassment that the PNP (Philippine National Police) carries out against us teachers,” ACT chairperson Joselyn Martinez, one of the petitioners, said.
Photo from @ACT_Teachers @repfrancecastro
Court of Appeals asked to stop police profiling of ACT members
Edu Punay, Jess Diaz (The Philippine Star) - January 18, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT), which represents public school teachers, yesterday petitioned the Court of Appeals to stop police from spying on their ranks through a writ of preliminary injunction or temporary restraining order.

“This is just a first step of a host of legal actions that we will undertake against the illegal profiling, intimidation and harassment that the PNP (Philippine National Police) carries out against us teachers,” ACT chairperson Joselyn Martinez, one of the petitioners, said.

“The profiling operations are evidently illegal as they violate our constitutionally guaranteed rights to free expression, association and privacy, as well as pertinent laws,” she said.

Named respondents in the 42-page petition were PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde, his regional directors in Metro Manila, Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, Bicol, Central Visayas and the Agusan-Surigao provinces, and Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año, who has supervision over the PNP.

The case stemmed from memoranda issued by certain police officials asking their intelligence officers to do an “inventory” of public school teachers who are ACT members.

Some school officials in Metro Manila have cooperated with the police effort.

Albayalde has relieved intelligence officers in one police station in Manila, another in Quezon City and a third in Zambales for the leakage of their memos.

“The expanse of the reports we received regarding the profiling reveals its nationwide character, which shows that the top officials of the PNP and the DILG should be held liable,” Martinez said.

“We are determined to frustrate these vile acts of the state forces against teachers through our solid unity and hold the perpetrators accountable, be it through the parliament of the street, lobbying or legal battle as our fight is not just for the sector but a fight to uphold democracy, against tyrannical forces,” she said.

ACT has two members in the House of Representatives. They are Antonio Tinio and France Castro.

“ACT is taking legal action because it’s clear that the teachers’ basic rights were violated, including the right to privacy,” Tinio said.

ACT cited Republic Act 10173 (Data Privacy Act), which safeguards right to privacy of every individual, as the names of their members, personal and sensitive information were being asked without prior consent.

Tinio said the supposed inventory is being made “in the context of the midterm elections (in May).”

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

ACT has also vowed to file criminal charges against police officers spying on them.

Not a threat

ACT stressed that their actions “are in furtherance of the rights and interests of teachers who have long been a marginalized and oppressed sector in the Philippines.”

“Teachers, as we know, receive the lowest salaries among the ranks of professionals. They are exploited by their employers, whether in the public or private sectors, through long working hours and oversized classes, and are often deprived of benefits, even those that are mandated by law,” ACT pointed out.

The group further argued that it has in fact a party-list group that participated in the last three elections and has sponsored a number of House measures espousing the right to an education that inculcates love of country, develops scientific thinking and is responsive to the cause of the marginalized and underrepresented majority of the people.

“Instead of being recognized for their civic contributions, petitioners’ members have been subjected to red-baiting… falsely and maliciously tagged as ‘communist fronts’ or ‘terrorists’ on account of their political beliefs and dissension to the current administration,” they lamented.

ACT also believed that the profiling of their members is a “politically motivated act” that “will force or dissuade both current and prospective members” to withdraw or refrain from becoming members for fear of “breaches not only of right to be let alone in their political beliefs, but also of their very right to live.”

It told the CA that there has already been a “chilling effect” of the police profiling on their members.

“Police officers descending in schools have cast a shadow of fear upon law-abiding teachers, principals, other school personnel, even children, especially in light of communities’ bad experience with PNP’s Tokhang (anti-drug) operations, which also employ listing of individuals and profiling as initial stages,” the petition read. – With Romina Cabrera

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