DepEd defends memo listing unionist teachers
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Education (DepEd) on Saturday denied that it was profiling members of the Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) which Vice President Sara Duterte, who is also the education secretary, had claimed was a front of communist insurgents.
DepEd spokesperson Michael Poa was responding to ACT’s allegations regarding an internal memorandum that “requests” its various regional offices to make a “complete list of teachers” affiliated with ACT, which was passed on to school division chiefs.
Memorandum OUOPS 2023-01-5591 dated June 14 and issued by the DepEd’s operations office was asking for the names of ACT members who were availing of the department’s Automatic Payroll Deduction System (APDS).
Poa explained that the APDS was being used for recording salary deductions for public school teachers’ statutory contributions, their loan remittances, and membership dues payments of members of unions and other organizations that are being collected through this facility.
He said the memo was not intended for profiling, saying that such an allegation was “patently absurd, distorted and followed no logic.”
“The sole purpose of consolidating the list of APDS availees, from various organizations in the regions, is to centralize, connect, update and improve the department’s human resource systems, including the APDS,” Poa said in a statement.
This was relevant amid “regular complaints” from DepEd employees about the “inaccurate, questionable, and unwarranted salary deductions” for payments of loans and membership dues, he said.
Poa said the memo was “publicly available,” but it was not on the DepEd’s main website (www.deped.gov.ph) when the Inquirer checked on Saturday. It was on the DepEd Calabarzon’s web page.
He also pointed out that there were separate memorandums issued by the department also seeking lists of teachers who were members of other groups, such as the Teachers Dignity Coalition and the DepEd Teachers’ Union.
Poa showed reporters the copies of those memorandums, which also were not available on the DepEd website.
He said that the DepEd’s current human resources systems nationwide “are not connected” and that the request for the names of ACT members was “in relation” to the APDS.
“If you read the memo, the memo does not simply ask for a list of all ACT Union members as is being projected,” Poa told reporters. “It is requesting for a list of ACT Union members that are availing of the APDS. Meaning, it’s already in our records.”
ACT, which has around 180,000 members, is accredited to represent teachers in five regions. It is seeking accreditation in all other regions.
Uproar at House
In a resolution it filed on Wednesday last week, the Makabayan bloc in the House of Representatives slammed the DepEd for its alleged “profiling operations.”
“The DepEd must immediately cease its unlawful profiling, be called to account and made to explain its directives, and ensure that all its actions concerning the personal information and sensitive personal information of public school teachers and all its employees are safeguarded in compliance with the 1987 Constitution and other laws,” the resolution stated.
“Such profiling operations are illegal as they violate constitutionally guaranteed rights to free expression, association and privacy of public school teachers,” the Makabayan lawmakers said.
They said the DepEd violated Republic Act No. 10173, or the Data Privacy Act, as the memorandum “required the collection, disclosure and further processing of the names of teachers as well as their philosophical and political affiliations.”
The opposition lawmakers said Duterte, who cochairs the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict, “made no secret of her baseless view” that ACT and ACT Teachers party-list were “communist fronts.”
She had accused the teacher’s group of supporting communist rebels when it backed the weeklong transport strike last March.
Raymond Basilio, ACT’s secretary general, said the memorandum was an “encroachment” on the teachers’ freedom of association, which is protected by the Constitution and the International Labor Organization Convention No. 87.
Basilio questioned the need for the DepEd memorandum considering that the agency already had data on its members and their monthly payroll records in the regional and division offices.
“So, the data is already with them,” Basilio told the Inquirer. “What’s the need for such memoranda?”