DepEd begins identifying teachers part of ACT

Cristina Chi - Philstar.com
DepEd begins identifying teachers part of ACT
In this November 14 photo, members of ACT-Teachers call for an increase in the salary of teachers.
ACT-Teachers party-list / Facebook

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Education has issued an internal memorandum directing all regional and division offices to name all public school teachers part of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers — a teachers group that has complained to an international body about being red-tagged by the education secretary.

According to a memorandum issued by Undersecretary for Operation Revsee Escobedo on June 14, all regional directors and school division superintendents were required to submit a list of ACT-affiliated teachers that are part of the department's Automatic Payroll Deduction System.

DepEd set a deadline of June 21 for all submissions. 

"All submissions must be consolidated at the regional level, verified and signed by the Regional Director," the memorandum stated.

A copy of the submission template obtained by Philstar.com shows that the DepEd offices are required to provide the division, school, name and position of the teachers deemed to be "ACT Union-affiliated.”

ACT is the country’s largest organization for teachers and serves as the sole negotiating union for several public school teachers in Metro Manila and other regions. It also regularly conducts surveys among teachers to gather feedback and build consensus on pressing education issues, the most recent being a survey on the stifling heat felt inside classrooms during the dry season.

DepEd under former Secretary Leonor Briones moved to protect teachers from a similar profiling act conducted by the Philippine National Police in 2019. It asked one of its division offices to recall a letter directing the inventory of ACT-affiliated teachers, with former DepEd chief Leonor Briones citing DepEd’s compliance with the Data Privacy Act.

Philstar.com has reached out to the Department of Education for comment.

Duterte’s criticisms, red-tagging of ACT 

Vice President and DepEd Secretary Sara Duterte previously accused the teacher's group of supporting the Communist Party of the Philippines when the group expressed its support for the week-long transport strike in March.

This and Duterte's other statements red-tagging ACT pushed the group to elevate it to the International Labor Organization in April, urging the United Nations body to intervene amid the perceived dangers posed by Duterte’s remarks.

Duterte has also been named co-chairperson of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflct, whose members have repeatedly red-tagged human rights defenders, journalists, activists and legitimate non-government organizations engaged in human rights work.

While DepEd spokesperson Michael Poa has said that the department will not ban teachers from joining ACT or other organizations, the statement came with the caveat that teachers should steer clear of breaking the law.

RELATED: DepEd acknowledges ACT membership legal, won't bar teachers from joining 

Poa maintained in the same press conference that the department continues to respect teachers' freedom to form or join groups, a freedom guaranteed by the 1987 Constitution.

In a statement about her new role at the NTF-ELCAC, Duterte said that the role of education secretary has made her realize "how deeply ingrained the problem of insurgency in our country is."

ACT expressed its concern with Duterte's new post, saying that her appointment would worsen the red-tagging of teachers and undermine their freedom of association and human rights.

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