Teacher’s group asks court to stop PNP profiling
MANILA, Philippines – Party-list group Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) has sought the court’s help to stop the Philippine National Police (PNP) from profiling its members.
In its petition, ACT, through the National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers (NUPL) urged the Court of Appeals to issue a restraining order against the PNP from profiling and trying to obtain lists of its members.
The same petition also called on the appeals court to declare as unconstitutional the memoranda directing PNP officers to gather data on members of ACT. The subject of the memorandum is about the inventory of all public and private school teachers who are members of ACT.
“Underscoring the surreptitious conduct of the profiling and massive illegal personal information gathering, ACT members now fear for their safety and privacy– all the more with reports of harassment and threats being inflicted upon their officers,” said NUPL led by its President Atty. Edre U. Olalia and its Secretary General Atty. Ephraim B. Cortez.
ACT is the largest organization of teachers in the country with 180,000 members in all regions. It has suborganizations–ACT Private Schools, ACT, State Universities and Colleges and ACT Education Students. It spearheaded the unionism of public school teachers. In 2012, ACT-NCR was accredited by the Civil Service Commission as the sole and exclusive negotiating agent of its NCR members.
In their petition, while the profiling by the PNP started early January this year, since November 2018, its members from Negros, Baguio, Cebu, Davao have reported that the military are gathering information about ACT members.
Petitioners said profiling has violated their constitutional right to association, right to assembly and to petition the government for redress of grievances, right to privacy, freedom of expression and right to protection to labor.
They pointed out that the law enforcers’ action against them cannot be justified because they are not involved in any criminal activity.
“Petitioners’ militant orientation and affinity with progressive groups do not constitute acts contrary to law. Neither do its salutary advocacies warrant any state infringement and curtailment of their right to freely associate,” the group explained.
“All that petitioners have done 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,” they added.
They also pointed out that they are 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 in a manner taken out of the page of McCarthy’s book. Petitioners, like many other organizations of similar nationalist leanings, have been falsely and maliciously tagged as “communist fronts” or ‘terrorists’ on account of their political beliefs and dissension to the current administration,” they lamented.
They believed that profiling their members can also be a “politically motivated act” that “will force or dissuade both current and prospective members of the latter to withdraw membership or join 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 to their members.
“In some chapters of Petitioner ACT, not a few members have already expressed their fears of being publicly known as ACT members and as such expressing their critical views of the current regime… 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 operations, which also employ listing of individuals and profiling as initial stages,” read the petition.
Petitioners added that in profiling its members, the law enforcers themselves are violating Republic Act 10173 (Data Privacy Act), which safeguards right to privacy of every individual.
“The act of public Respondents demanding a list of names of members of Petitioner ACT from different schools nationwide, including their names and other pertinent personal information without any prior consent from any of the said subjects and without any clear lawful and legal purpose constitutes a clear violation of the Data Privacy Act.”
“In this case, considering that the information being demanded by the assailed Memoranda pertain to both personal and sensitive information (to the extent that membership in an organization, in varying degrees, reflects the political beliefs and stand or individuals), the requirements of consent and legitimacy of the purpose are obviously not complied with,” they added.
Among the respondents named in the petition were PNP chief Director General Oscar Albayalde and Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Año.
Also included as petitioners are ACT National Capital Region Union, Manila Public School Teachers Association (MPSTA) and ACT Region III Union./cbb
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