ACT raises alleged red-tagging before ILO
MANILA, Philippines — The Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) has lodged another complaint before the International Labor Organization (ILO) over the alleged red-tagging and profiling of the group by the Department of Education (DepEd).
In a letter addressed to ILO director general Gilbert Houngbo, ACT said it was deeply concerned that DepEd’s move would only result in further attacks that would “destabilize” the unions and hinder them from genuinely representing their members.
“We ask you to call on the Philippine government through its instrumentalities to stop the attacks and prosecute those who are behind the anti-union activities, programs and policies,” the letter signed by ACT Secretary-General Raymond Basilio read.
The teachers’ group cited cases of continuing attacks, threats and Red-tagging by government officials, and pinpointed Vice President Sara Duterte, who also serves as the DepEd chief and as vice chair of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict.
“The blatant attacks against ACT Philippines are systematic and recurring under the ongoing anti-insurgency efforts of the states’ military agency,” ACT said.
“With this, we seek…ILO’s intervention and help us protect the independence of unions and its members—that our rights to freely organize and bargain/negotiate are guaranteed free from any fear or intervention from the government of the Philippines,” the group added.
In a June 14 memorandum, Education Undersecretary Revsee Escobedo told regional directors and schools division superintendents to submit a complete list of teachers affiliated with ACT who are availing themselves of the DepEd’s automatic payroll deduction system (APDS).
In separate memorandums, DepEd also sought a listing of those affiliated with the Teachers’ Dignity Coalition and DepEd Teachers’ Union.
The said memorandums, which ACT suspected as “profiling operations,” did not explain the purpose of the department’s request.
On June 17, DepEd issued a clarification denying that it was profiling or targeting members of these groups.
“The sole purpose of consolidating the list of [those availing themselves of] APDS from various organizations in the regions is to centralize, connect, update and improve the department’s Human Resource Systems, including the APDS,” the DepEd said in a statement.
In a press briefing on Monday, Basilio said public school teachers on the ground panicked upon receiving instructions from their school heads to list down their names.
“One particular scenario is that the principal called on the faculty club president and told them to list down the names [of those affiliated with ACT],” Basilio said.
The faculty club president asked the school head what the list was for—to which the principal replied that the school had a deadline to submit a report to the division office.
“So the immediate reaction of the teachers was ‘Why will they be listed again?’ There was no explanation given,” Basilio said.
He maintained that his group had been subjected to illegal profiling, the first time in 2018 when an internal memorandum by the Philippine National Police ordered the profiling of ACT members from both private and public schools.
Basilio also said members of the group had experienced harassment and intimidation, so when the DepEd memo came out, the teachers were immediately worried.
“Is it going to happen again? Will we need to hide and fear for our security again?” Basilio said, quoting the teachers.
Ruby Bernardo, president of ACT’s National Capital Region union, said it was “traumatic” that they were expecting protection from their agency, “but it looks like it is our own agency that will endanger us.”
With the filing of a complaint before the ILO, Basilio said the international body may impose economic sanctions on the Philippines if the government is found violating trade union rights.
“There was an international conference on June 4 and there they saw the continuing violation of union rights in the Philippines. From there, the Philippines was included again in the shortlist of violators,” Basilio said.
Earlier in April, ACT said it asked the ILO to intervene when Duterte associated the group with communist rebels after it asked DepEd to suspend classes in areas that would be affected by a nationwide transport strike.
ACT had also appealed to the Commission on Human Rights to cite Duterte for Red-tagging the group and to investigate attacks against its regional unions.