Albayalde: Court right forum to explain
The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) on Thursday asked the Court of Appeals (CA) to declare the profiling of its members by the Philippine National Police unconstitutional for violating their freedom of assembly and expression and privacy rights.
In a petition for prohibition, the 180,000-strong national teachers’ union sought a temporary restraining order against the police operation, which was exposed in leaked PNP memorandums directing intelligence officers to collect personal information on ACT members, including their political beliefs.
“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,” the petition said.
The group said the profiling of teachers by the PNP also violated Republic Act No. 10173, or the Data Privacy Act.
‘Let them prove it’
PNP Director General Oscar Albayalde, one of the respondents, on Thursday welcomed the ACT petition, “so we can answer it in the proper forum.”
“If the allegations against them are false, let them prove it also,” Albayalde told reporters after appearing in a forum by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines in Makati City.
“We cannot discount the fact, the possibility or probability that some of their members are directly or indirectly supporting the rebellion,” he added.
The other respondents in the petition are Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, PNP intelligence group chief Director Gregorio Pimentel and 10 regional police directors.
Vulnerable to harm
The PNP chief said the premise of the intelligence-gathering operation was the alleged disclosure by Communist Party of the Philippines founding chair Jose Maria Sison that rebel “front organizations” included the ACT, Gabriela and their allies.
“Isn’t it that every time there is a rally by leftists, they are joined by ACT members? This is what we are looking into. This is not meant to harass or hurt or in any way threaten them,” he explained.
ACT national chair Joselyn Martinez said the profiling had a “nationwide character” and “laid ACT members vulnerable to further harm by Red-tagging our organization.”
In its petition, the group said its advocacies and “militant orientation and affinity with progressive groups do not constitute acts contrary to law.”
The ACT and many nationalist organizations have been “falsely and maliciously tagged as ‘communist fronts’ or ‘terrorists’ on account of their political beliefs and dissension to the current administration,” it said.
The police “inventory” of ACT members included their full names, schools, municipalities, birthdays and addresses. In one Navotas City school, the police also demanded a photograph of the union’s chapter head, the petition said.
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