Hands off our teachers, ACT tells PNP
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) has called on the Philippine National Police to keep its hands off its members, after it received reports that police officers were going around schools in Metro Manila and some provinces to gather information about teachers who were members of the union.
Raymond Basilio, ACT secretary general, likened the actions of the PNP to “tokhang in schools,” referring to the government’s antidrug campaign that had become synonymous with a deadly crackdown against poor and small-time drug dealers.
Documents circulating online showed at least two memoranda from the Philippine National Police, calling for an inventory of all public and private school teachers “who are members of or aligned with” ACT.
The documents referred to the midterm elections in May 2019 and previously issued memos from the various PNP intelligence departments as the bases for the order.
Basilio said they had received reports of school visits by police officers in cities in the National Capital Region — including Manila, Las Piñas and Malabon — and the provinces, such as Zambales, Rizal, Mindoro, Sorsogon, Camarines Sur, Bulacan and Agusan del Sur.
“This has a chilling effect on our members, as if it is wrong to be a member of ACT,” Basilio said in an interview on Sunday.
ACT serves as the sole and exclusive negotiating agent for public school teachers in Metro Manila and various regions. It has been at the forefront of various demands, including higher budget for public education and increased wages for public school teachers.
The group called the police move as a “grossly illegal” and an “unconstitutional attack” on their right to free expression, self-organization and privacy.
“It also violates the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers,” the group said. “The PNP has no business meddling in the affairs of teachers’ organizations. Their dastardly act of profiling ACT members is maliciously casting unnecessary doubt on the legitimacy of ACT as an organization.”
Solita Daz, president of the ACT-Manila Public School Teachers Association (MPSTA), said they have received reports of plainclothes police officers visiting at least six public elementary and high schools in Manila, all located in Tondo and Santa Cruz.
The MPSTA has received a copy of a memo signed by Chief Insp. Rexson Layug of the Santa Cruz station of the Manila Police District, which called for the inventory.
Daz also slammed the endorsement of the PNP memo by the Division of City Schools of Manila, signed by Assistant Schools Division Supt. Sheryll Gayola, officer-in-charge of the division.
“This has really caused alarm among our members because the police can now step in and out of our schools,” she said. “Our calls are legitimate problems of school teachers. We should be protected instead.”
Sought for confirmation on the order, Senior Supt. Vicente Danao Jr., director of the Manila Police District, told the Inquirer that the orders did not come from him and that the said memorandum did not pass through his office.
Director Guillermo Eleazar, chief of the National Capital Region Police Office, also denied that he had given such directive.
He said that the memos were “intelligence matters” and for internal consumption, and should not have been leaked to the public. But he stressed that there was “nothing illegal” about monitoring, which he said were part of police work.
“We are not singling out teachers. As part of the police’s intelligence work, we also monitor other sectors, including fellow policemen, for peace and order,” he said in an interview. “But rest assured that these are just for information and there is no reason for them to be alarmed.”
Meanwhile, ACT called on the Department of Education (DepEd) to take a stand against the action and order the withholding of any information that might be used by the PNP to intimidate and harass teacher-unionists.
“Teachers have political rights, too, that must be recognized and protected by the DepEd,” Basilio said. “The department must protect its teachers from all attacks… If something happens to our teachers and members, we will hold the Duterte administration and Education Secretary Leonor Briones liable.”
Undersecretary Annalyn Sevilla, DepEd spokesperson, said her department was already looking at the matter at the level of the Office of the Secretary and will be taken up with the executive committee.
Sevilla also noted that DepEd-NCR Regional Director Wilfredo Cabral had already conferred with the Schools Division Office of Manila for the recall of its endorsement. /atm